Impact: The grant will help over 500 students enhance their education through literacy and the arts, and bring a community together. It will train a new group of teachers as part of a proven program that inspires literacy through the arts.

Worldfund’s Amiga Cartonera program for primary and secondary students in Mexico trains teachers with techniques based on methods developed at Harvard University that inspire critical thinking and a love of reading through the arts. They brought the program to their partner school Mano Amiga Chalco in July 2008, and since then it has influenced the way that hundreds of low-income students annually look at literature and conceive the potential of their own lives.

In the pilot program, a core group of five trained teachers and five artists participated in a July workshop then conducted classes for a total of 60 students, ages 8 – 12, during the 2008-2009 school year. Students worked with a teacher and artist in one of five areas: visual arts, theatre, music, literature and photography. The program structure includes a final presentation by the students, attended by the parents and other members of the community. In the first semester’s final presentation, 300 people attended, including officials of the Secretary of Public Education (the SEP) and local authorities, who are deeply supportive of the initiative.

The teachers and artists then shared the methodology with a majority of the teaching staff at Mano Amiga Chalco, thereby enriching the entire curriculum of the school. While each semester 60 – 65 students participate directly in the program with the Cartonera teachers, all 990 of the school’s students benefit indirectly.

Elizabeth Gruenfeld, an educator trained at Harvard University’s educational research group “Projecto Zero,” carried out an evaluation of the Amiga Cartonera program at Mano Amiga Chalco between September 2008 and February 2009. Her qualitative findings were overwhelmingly positive, including evidence of higher order thinking through creativity in 100% of program participants; positive psychosocial gains, improved commitment to reading enjoyment and increased literacy development and confidence reading. She even found that several students reported instructing their younger siblings in Amiga Cartonera techniques at home.

This grant will train a new group of teachers and artists at a second school, Mano Amiga Puebla, in the Summer of 2011 so they can instruct students when they begin school in the fall semester, affecting the entire school of 500 students and their families.