ConVivencia

ConVivencia

Ataco, Barra de Santiago and La Libertad State Sacacoyo, Santa Tecla, and Chiltiupan, El SalvadorSanta Tecla, El Salvador
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ConTextos transforms kids into change-makers by developing their dialogue, critical thinking and literacy skills.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

El Salvador has one of the highest violence rates in the world. A traditional system of education, students learn through rote memorization, copying and dictation. Students are not encouraged to engage in dialogue, they do not participate in teamwork or problem solving as part of their education. As a result, they do not how learn to agree or disagree peacefully or work together to build upon each other's ideas.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

As part of our teacher-training and literacy program with the Ministry of Education, ConTextos is piloting the implementation of a "Getting Along" curriculum. In by-weekly classroom meetings (homeroom), students participate in problem-solving and team work activities that develop empathy, sharing, conflict-resolution and language skills. In these 30 minute activities, teachers pose problems that students must solve in teams or partners while using specific language or behavioral skills. Then, during class time between these sessions, teachers emphasize practicing those behaviors and language during all subject areas. These activities complement ConTextos' literacy programs by referring to, extending upon or adding to kids' reading experiences in the classroom. Some activities come straight from literature, some don't. All encourage dialogue, thinking outside the box, and developing language skills that show respect and empathy.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Elba's 3rd and 4th graders sit in a circle. "Remember last week when we read The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Very Hungry Bear we talked about how it was unfair that Bear tricked Mouse. Today, we are going to think more about the story..." Elba asks a student to act as Bear in the middle of the circle and three others to act as Bear's children. Another child is Mouse and leaves the circle. Elba asks the children to imagine that Bear's kids are starving at home. What do they think now of Bear's sneaky behavior? She tells the kids that they should use the words I agree/disagree to explain how they feel about what Bear did. Mouse rejoins the circle and Elba explains that the class will help work out the problems she has with Bear. She asks Mouse how it feels to be tricked. Then she asks Bear to explain the "new" information about her kids. Then Elba facilitates a discussion in which the kids in the circle orient Bear and Mouse to come to a conclusion based on the question "what did you do and what could you have done differently". The children are encouraged to say I agree or I disagree as they talk. For instance, a student suggests that Bear should have told the truth, and the kids in and out of character discuss what they think would've happened. Elba continues to emphasize I agree/disagree throughout subject areas. In two weeks, the children again meet in a circle, this time for a team-building exercise in which they must look each other in the eye and use names to undo a human knot. During the week, eye-contact and names are encouraged.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

El Salvador drastic need for violence-prevention allows us to work in collaboration with peers who might otherwise be seen as competitors. For instance, Glasswing NFP promotes volunteership but works primarily with urban schools. Other anti-violence programs like Corazon tend to focus only on older students and work mostly in urban areas. ConTextos distinguishes itself because: 1) we work with all student levels, from 4 years to high school; 2) we develop children's dialogue and communication, rather than deliver lecture-style values curriculum, and 3) we work in rural areas that are plagued by violence but often ignored. Our competitors are a potential market to sell our materials and expand our reach; they are also partners in brainstorming to improve the quality of our efforts.
About You
Organization:
ConTextos
About You
First Name

Debra

Last Name

Gittler

About Your Organization
Organization Name

ConTextos

Organization Country

, LB, Santa Tecla

Country where this project is creating social impact

, AH, Ataco, Barra de Santiago and La Libertad State Sacacoyo, Santa Tecla, and Chiltiupan

Your role in Education

Coach, Other.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Public (tuition-free)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Innovation
How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

ConTextos transforms kids into change-makers by developing their dialogue, critical thinking and literacy skills.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

ConTextos weaves into all subject areas, getting kids to think deeply, express their thoughts freely, and exchange ideas peacefully.

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

To date, ConTextos' has transformed teaching practice in 40 teachers so that over 1,200 students enjoy an education that goes beyond copying and dictation to deep thinking and expression. During this process, parents and community members participate and get involved in reading at school and home. As a result, schools boast a reading culture, where students (and their families) have more opportunities to think deeply, express themselves through writing, dialogue and discussion.
The Getting Together program was born out of teachers' need to directly address students' violent or disrespectful actions. Though we have only had 2 months of program implementation, teachers report increased verbal skills, more patience and respect in classroom dialogue and during recess. Students take turns in class, show decreased bullying and exclusion of more needy classmates (financially, physically or academically).

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Our current agreement with the Ministry of Education (MINED) will take ConTextos into six additional schools in 2013-14, reaching 3,000 students. At the same time, the teachers we serve model best-practice and facilitate materials distribution to dozens of additional teachers who in turn multiply access to students exponentially.
Through our close relationship with MINED and with the support of our private sector partners, once we publish the Getting Along Curriculum after this first pilot year, we will be able to work with MINED to take the curriculum into dozens of other private and public schools, serving thousands of additional children.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Teachers might worry about the sustainability of the program, as so many initiatives come and go. This will be overcome because of ConTextos' unique model of constant support for 2-4 years. Another challenge is that developing dialogue and getting-along skills represents a cultural shift from traditional efforts that focus only on imparting "values" content and not on real-life and participatory experiences. ConTextos fosters cultural shifts through on-going support and constant reflection with teachers.
ConTextos' on-going support, especially during this pilot year or the Getting Along curriculum, allows us to create and revise materials with teachers based on real experiences with kids, so that we can scale the materials effectively and sustainably.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Increased dialogue during class and play time.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Ensure that all teachers at our three current schools implement Getting Along activities on a bi-weekly basis.

Task 2

Work with teachers to plan and unpack Getting Along activities to determine what is most effective and what needs to be improved

Task 3

Publishing materials to be used at additional locations.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Evidence of success and taking the program to other schools.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Teachers report improved climate and empathy amongst students.

Task 2

Identify new schools to take the program to.

Task 3

Published materials and curriculum allow ConTextos to share materials with other schools and teachers.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

Classrooms without books, with students silently in rows copying copying copying meaningless words from a chalkboard was the Aha! moment. Studies show links between low-literacy and violence, but to see a traditional classroom, it is clear why El Salvador suffers from violence: no one learns to talk, agree, disagree, at school. Getting kids to think deeply, express themselves clearly and safely is essential to forming citizens capable of living in peace.
As ConTextos' work evolved in 2011, we realized that essential skills for dialogue like raising hands, listening, imagining someone else's point of view didn't come naturally. Teachers noted that now that kids were allowed to share their opinions, they lacked procedures, habits and knowledge to create safe, tolerant, listening environments. Thus, the Getting Along curriculum was born, to create authentic experiences where kids can live empathy, implement those skills in the classroom, and carry over that attitude into life.

Sustainability
Tell us about your partnerships

We work closely with MINED at national and local levels. Our unique MINED partnership gives us unprecedented access to schools: our trainers make weekly visits to our model schools and work with MINED so that other teachers can observe classroom best-practice. MINED also offsets operations costs.
Through our unique alliance with Lectorum Books, the largest distributor of Spanish books for children in the world, we purchase high-quality learning materials from all over the world at extremely low costs. Then, Taca Airlines provides free shipping on all goods and supports travel costs.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

ConTextos staff of teachers trainers visits schools on a weekly basis to aid and assist teachers as they transform traditional educational practices into ones based on participation, dialogue, critical thinking and literacy. These weekly visits allow for the constant monitoring and observation of practices. Our current team will allow us to create, revise and facilitate the Getting Along Curriculum in our current schools, and publish the materials to allow us to grow the program into additional schools.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We have learned that in order to teaching and learning materials to be effective, they must be created with teachers/students and revised after reflecting with teachers about their usefulness. This funding will allow us to publish materials that can be effective and scalable.