Fundacion Academia Forum’s collaboration with the Ruben Dario Carles school began in 2014 starting with an initiative to set up a computer lab for students to develop technological skills and experience the digital world. Catalyzed by Mr. Ruben Dario Carles Grimaldo, affectionately known as Chinchorro, who spoke with his friend John Keffer about working together to acquire these resources. After this project was completed, they worked together to build a kindergarten classroom after the student population grew significantly. FAF covered the costs of the construction. Support was also given through Mr. Keffer’s relationship with the Peace Corps, enhancing our English Language Learning programs. Many students benefited from these courses. Seeing the impact this support had on students, the decision was made to hire a folklore instructor so students could learn customs, dances, and traditions, which gave birth to the school’s, Folkloric Ensemble.
This push for the arts through folkloric studies integrated a variety of artistic modalities. A formal request was made to the Foundation, in order to cover the salaries of qualified instructors for each class. FAF staff visited the school to evaluate the request and determined the grant would be supported. This is how the Pedagogical Project began, which included theater, singing , ballet, painting, flute, lyre, and folkloric dances.
The initial funding request covered salary payments for each of the 7 artistic modalities every month, starting in March 2014. The amount was later increased to include guitar and music classes.
Profesora Roxsi Ortega, Sub-Director at the Ruben Dario Carles school says “The impact of this grant on our students has been a positive change in attitude. We have seen students become more engaged, and empowered, with greater participation in school as well as regional and national artistic contests.” Furthermore says Prof. Ortega, committed teaching staff, parents, administrators and school leaders have played a vital role. “We have demonstrated that education can and should be comprehensive, covering not only academic skills but also cultural, artistic and life skills. This has led to the school including additional staff for physical education, as well as permanent positions for English teachers, which resulted in our inclusion in the Panama Bilingue Program starting in 2015.”
As Prof. Ortega mentions, FAF grant support has helped students blossom in their artistic endeavors. Leading them to participate in the National contest. “Our participation in the Theater contest, “Hechos que han marcado la humanidad” (Events that have marked humanity), and the first Singing contest, “Cantemos a la Vida” (Let’s Sing to Life), stemmed from an invitation from the Regional Directorate of Education of Coclé to our school. They provided us with a list of topics related to theatrical works and songs of different genres and categories. Since the school already had a singing and theater group as part of the integrative project, we decided to participate. After consulting with the students, they were enthusiastic about participating. This is how we proudly represented the province of Coclé with the theater group and two students in the singing competition.”
Students from Ruben Dario Carles, received Third Place in the Theater contest (image featured above), and Certificates of Participation for the Singing Contest
Traveling to Panama City to represent the Province of Cocle, was an unforgettable experience. “It allowed them to witness other experiences, interact with other kids, learn about different cultures, and gain more insight into various modalities. This will better prepare us for next year, God willing.”
She adds, that this experience was beneficial not only to those who traveled and represented the province but also to all the students who participated in the school’s activities. “Elena and Edgar, who traveled to Panama said that seeing themselves on the big screen during the awards ceremony. They were super excited, and their hearts leaped with joy. It was great to see that all of their hard practice paid off. They had practiced for four weeks, and this greatly contributed to their personal and academic lives. It is also important to highlight the support and commitment of their parents who were always there to support their children. As a school, we are all very proud of our students.
For teachers at Ruben Dario Carles, the benefits of the Pedagogical Project are clear. “Student learning should always include a practical component that gives them the opportunity to discover their potential. Engaging with the arts and developing artistic skills allows students to better understand themselves, and discover talents they may not have realized, and it’s a way for them to connect with themselves and show that they are capable of many things when they have a positive attitude, support, opportunities, and trust in God.
Students who have the opportunity to develop artistic skills, find learning more engaging. In every activity, they find an opportunity to discover something new, experiment in different areas, and develop other skills. This leads to greater self-assurance, freedom, and empowerment. Profesora Ortega has seen firsthand how these students become more participative, expressive, confident, and willing to take on challenges. “They are committed to teamwork, proud to be part of the Rubenista family.”
What are the plans for the future? Profesora Ortega’s hopes are high. “We hope to continue providing the student population with comfortable, safe, and welcoming spaces where they can feel motivated to continue learning. It would also be great to have permanent instructors in theater, singing, ballet, painting, flute, music (marching band, folk dances in guitar as part of the Integrative Pedagogical Project. Accompanied by expanded space for technology and science labs, as well as spaces for language, arts, and mathematics gamification. The school also hopes to build a Special Education classroom, and school cafeteria, as well as complete repairs to the school that are part of a broader project.