LEMA -Laboratorio de Lectura Escritura y Matemáticas
LEMA -Laboratorio de Lectura, Escritura y Matemática (Literacy Education and Math Lab), is a program for children 1st to 4th grade where every day for an hour children get together in a designated space to play, share, develop and create knowledge in 5 important areas: reading, writing, math, reflection and relationships. The LEMAs are not calendar based and can take place in or out of the school. However, partnerships with schools and educational departments allow for better continuity, greater reach, stronger support for children and overall better results.
Why children 1st to 4th grade? Because there is ample evidence that suggests that students who do not make good initial progress in learning to read, find it increasingly difficult to master the process. These children will tend to fall into a downward spiral, in which initial lack of success in reading can develop into broader cognitive deficits, making school dropout more likely to occur and becoming a barrier for personal, social and economic prosperity. In the case of girls, their vulnerability increases two-fold due to the gender disparities that continue to permeate our society.
LEMAs are coordinated by “Learning Coaches” (LCs) who can be teachers, mothers, grandparents, community leaders. Fully literate children and youth can also be LCs. The LCs are hired, either in a paid or a volunteer capacity, to perform a very important job: motivate and inspire the learning process, and create a safe space for children to learn at their own pace.
During each session, the LC divides the class into groups of four, and each group receives a set of games. During the “group work” children experiment, question, develop and test hypotheses, while playing and learning. Later, they record their findings individually in their workbooks.
The Learning Coaches are selected based on a list of qualities that include proven record of community engagement and commitment to education. LCs are trained by us on how to effectively use the games and on the pedagogical principles that give body to our work. The LCs are supported and coached by a local ally we partner with. The day to day services are also provided by our ally, who is usually a local organization already providing services in the community and possessing understanding of the political and cultural context and social networks to navigate the environment.
Over the years, we have established a network of allies in seven (7) countries including schools, missionary centers, private businesses, local NGOs, and government agencies, among others. All of them possess local acceptance and recognition, which overall gives legitimacy to our programs. We work with these organizations hand in hand to structure the LEMAs, recruit and train the necessary human resources, establish evaluation, support and coaching protocols, while remaining available to provide technical assistance to the overall program.
The LEMAs use the learning games we have carefully designed, structured and tested across three decades of work, in a variety of social contexts and with diverse populations. The author of these games, Javier González Quintero has achieved international recognition for his work and innovation as an Ashoka Fellow and a Schwab Social Entrepreneur.