Blog > Nutrition Education > Starting Fresh: El Barranco Debuts a New Classroom!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Starting Fresh: El Barranco Debuts a New Classroom!

With the beginning of each year comes a sense of newness—new shoes, new books and new classmates. Whether you are a teacher, a student, or a parent the first day of school requires preparation, and provides an opportunity to start fresh. In El Barranco, a small farming community in the highlands of Guatemala, the excitement of the preschool’s first day was contagious.

This year brought more change than usual with the addition of a second classroom. The expansion, finished just months ago, effectively doubled the building’s capacity from 30 to 60 students. This meant double the notebooks, double the giggles and double the tearful goodbyes on the first day.

Preparing for the big day

The week before the preschool opened, students and their mothers gathered for a charla, or a parents’ conference. This meeting gave children a first look at their classrooms, parents an opportunity to ask questions, and  teachers time to lay out expectations.

Many of the families in El Barranco are indigenous, and they largely work in agriculture. The students and their parents filed in to the room chatting in Kaqchickel, an indigenous Maya language spoken by many of the communities Mayan Families works in, including El Barranco. Nearly everyone—baring a few children—was clad in traje (traditional Mayan clothing). The teachers began their presentation with a prayer that called on God to help the local farmers.

The charla was primarily arranged as a way to introduce parents and students to the rules of the school. These ranged from arriving to class on time and completing homework, to coming to school clean and warmly greeting teachers, classmates, and visitors. After the expectations were outlined, the parents signed an agreement and in turn received three notebooks and a roll of paper.

Celebrating a new year

No first day of school would be complete without a ceremony, and at El Barranco Preschool, 2016 was definitely an opportunity for a special celebration.

In the middle of the school’s courtyard, the two teachers— Zoila, 26, and Lety, 23—stood flanking a sign for the Inauguración de Clases 2016. The students and their parents lined up outside the classrooms to the tune of upbeat Spanish music, an introduction for many students to the language they will soon learn. Everyone was all smiles as two students presented the school’s flags: Guatemala’s and El Centro Educativo Caritas Soñadoras’ (Happy Faces Learning Center).

After an introduction and prayer, the mothers hugged their children and then parted ways—many for the first time. The older children immediately took to the blocks and toys placed in front of them while the younger students held back tears. With a cool confidence Lety soothed the tears of nearly half her class.

Zoila and Lety led the children in song, held tiny hands on their way to the bathroom, and passed out warm plastic cups of avena (oatmeal and milk). This avena and the breakfast that we serve at the El Barranco Preschool and the other Preschool Nutrition Centers is vital, as many children would not receive it at home.

Looking into the future

At Mayan Families, our Education Program works to ensure that children in the rural communities of Guatemala’s highlands receive an education. We need your help to make sure that every student has the opportunity to learn and grow in our Preschool Nutrition Centers. Meet some of our students in need of sponsorship here.

All five of our Preschool Nutrition Centers work to feed, prepare, teach and equip three to six-year-olds with the language, literacy, and communication skills they need to thrive. We rely entirely on donations to operate our Preschool Nutrition Centers. Please help us continue providing this vital service by donating to the Preschool Development Fund here.


This blog was written by Mikayla Raley, Mayan Families Communications Volunteer. All photos were taken by Anna Watts, Mayan Families Volunteer Photographer.

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