Sunday, January 20, 2013

First Semester

Because our school has been up and running for a whole semester so far (and I have just recently started the blog), I would love to update you all on our first semester.
As anyone would expect in the beginning stages of creating a school with limited resources, our year so far has been filled with challenges, rewards and amazing moments.

Here are some of the highlights from the beginning of our school year:

First week of school

After all of our hard work preparing, we were so excited to welcome our students on the first day of school! The first days were spent establishing classroom routines and rules while laying the foundation for our year long curriculum. It was an amazing experience to meet our diverse students and see all of the classrooms open and students and teachers in action. Getting to know our students as individuals and academically was important, as all of our teachers individualize classroom curriculum and activities based on the needs of each child.

Parent Curriculum Night

Parent involvement is an important part of education and we wish to openly communicate and dialogue with the parents at our school as well as provide an environment where they feel that their input and views are welcome and respected. It was rewarding for teachers to share the results of all of our hard work developing curriculum and themes as well as our teaching philosophies. Looking back, parent curriculum night was a successful introduction and laid the foundation for the strong relationships that we have continued to build with parents throughout the year.


Ethno-Mix is a multi-cultural fair that gets the different communities from Las Terrenas together in one place for a festival. Each nationality represents itself with a booth, information and of course- food! There are musical and dance performances that showcase the talents of local musicians and dancers. Las Terrenas International School shared the American booth at the festival and provided facepainting, games and art activities for children. We enjoyed sharing information about our school and philosophy and raised money, collecting donations and selling tickets for a 50/50 raffle. Our students prepared a musical and dancing performance and worked hard with art and music teacher Mercedes on a beautiful castle puppet theater that was a big hit. After a weekend of hard work, our booth took home first place at the festival.

Science Exploration

Our outdoor classrooms, courtyard gardens and pond gave us ample opportunities to follow the lead of the children and study anything that sparks their interest. We were lucky enough to see a caterpillar transform into a butterfly, frog eggs turn to tadpoles and then frogs as well as learn about living things and plants, all by looking right outside our classrooms.


Play is an important part of the educational experience and philosophy at Las Terrenas International School. We know that play has a positive influence on behavior, cognition and social skills and that it should play a major role in an educational institution that respects children and what is developmentally appropriate at each age. Using our knowledge of child development and what is appropriate for  each class we have provided both structured and unstructured play depending on the needs of the children. While Preschool aged students need more free time to explore and navigate social relationships, the Kindergarten and First and Second Grade Classrooms benefit from play that is related to the curriculum as well. In Kindergarten, while learning about food and community vocabulary we set up our own colmado (or small grocery store), where, during dramatic play children could use literacy (making lists, reading labels), math (making money and paying for things) and social skills.

Literacy and Pre-Literacy

The foundation for literacy is laid in preschool by teacher Annette. Group and one-on one reading as well as pre-literacy incorporation into the classroom environment and activities is an important part of the curriculum. In Kindergarten we have been exploring letters and the sounds they make for the whole first semester. We are really trying to get the sounds and letters into our muscle memory while keeping everything interesting and relevant for the class. We act out the sounds of letters with hand and body motions and write with many different types of mediums, including practicing letters with chalk and in salt, sand, shaving cream and flour. First and Second grade enjoyed writing their own books and sharing them with the other classes.


The First and Second grade class enjoyed learning about the world around them, starting small, making maps of the classroom and their homes and eventually each making their own globes as they learned about the earth and seven continents.

Halloween Party

Although Halloween is not usually celebrated in the Dominican Republic, us American teachers thouroughly enjoyed sharing our Halloween traditions and stories with our students. During our Halloween party we performed songs for parents, dressed up in costumes, decorated pumpkin cookies and went bobbing for apples.


We are lucky to have professional sports teachers Željko and Sabine Smičiklas as our physical education teacher. Movement is so important for children at this age, and Sabina works with our students twice a week, doing activities that increase gross and fine motor skills. The benefits of physical activity for children include health and wellness, confidence, increased attention, improved relationships and more productivity in the classroom.

Art and Music

Aside from being an art and music specialist, our art and music teacher Mercedes Henderson is a licensed expressive arts therapist. Her knowledge of child development and psychology influence her work with the children. During the first semester she worked on many projects with each of the classes including telling and acting out stories, dancing, musical instruments and art projects related to the curriculum in each class.

Christmas Party

We wrapped up the year with our Christmas party, which for someone used to teaching in the United States was quite a change (all of our students celebrate Christmas). Although we learned about different religions and celebrations, the children enjoyed preparing for our Chrismas party. It was a tradition, started last year by director and preschool teacher Annette, when the school was only one grade and continued this year, bringing together students, teachers and families to eat, sing and share the gifts the students had made at school.

We learned so much in 2012 and had so much fun exploring with our students. We came back after break with new energy, looking forward to continuing all of our work in the new year.


  1. Congratulations on the good job! I could feel your enthusiasm in everything you wrote about this school.I just hope that it will always stay in your heart and actions whatever you choose to do in life.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog with its accompanying photos. The insight that each teacher demonstrated for these students is refreshing and reflected a true understanding of child development. The children of Las Terrenas International School are fortunate to have completed a year under truly amazing professionals who obviously love children and teaching.