Environmental Education Primary Teacher (teaching background)

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Project Description

Nicaragua’s forest cover has decreased dramatically over the last 25 years, causing degradation, biodiversity loss, contributing to climate change and it’s consequences. The Environmental Education project's primary counterpart agency is the Ministry of Education (MINED). As an Environmental Education Primary Teacher, you will work at the community level in coordination with teachers, community associations and government institutions.

Volunteers work weekly in elementary school classrooms co-planning and co-teaching with teachers to enhance teaching methodologies related to environmental education as well as engage young people outside the classroom to be involved in the practical application of environmental education activities in their community. You will be teaching in rural elementary school classrooms at least four days per week. In addition to a regular teaching schedule in the school system, you are expected to work with youth/families promoting gardens, composting, tree nurseries, and with youth or community groups educating about local environmental problems and developing environmental improvement projects such as small-scale trash management and recycling projects.

The Community Environmental Education project has a formal agreement with MINED "to improve the sustainability of natural resources management within the country." Environmental Education Primary Teachers will be assigned to work with two local elementary schools and utilize our partner organization’s framework to develop activities. You will work towards the following goals:

Goal 1: Capacity building of primary teachers:
• Classroom Co-teaching: Volunteers and counterparts co-teach using participatory approaches and the inclusion of environmental topics in all courses. Volunteers co-teach in public primary schools, co-plan and train teachers in participatory, community-level environmental activities to achieve this goal. Methodologies used include: student-centered approaches, classroom management, use of teaching strategies for different learning styles (i.e. visual, auditory, verbal, physical), investigations and experiments, environmental demonstrations, use of games, puzzles, and art projects and application of environmental concepts during co-teaching.
• Environmental-technical activities: Volunteers will train teachers in practical skills to carry out various activities in the school, including trash separation, gardening techniques, composting and nursery establishment.

Goal 2: Primary students apply environmental knowledge:
• Volunteers and teachers will train students to establish and maintain a vegetable school garden, accomplish stages of tree planting continuance, promote environmental discussions, organize litter clean ups, tree planting, recycling campaigns, and environmental celebrations.
• Volunteers will support Youth Ecological Brigade Training: Volunteers will train and facilitate the organization of groups working towards local community environmental issues. The brigades/clubs are formed by Nicaraguan youth, ages 10-17. Activity examples include trash campaigns in the school(s) and in the community to reduce organic solid waste, environmental awareness campaigns related to the importance of sustainable household water use and celebration of World Environmental Day (June 5).

Goal 3: Community engagement in environmental Issues:
• Volunteers and community counterparts will improve environmental knowledge in their communities through environmental training sessions, high school summer camps, and home interviews. Volunteers and community counterparts will paint or build murals with recycled materials, organize environmental fairs, reforestation campaigns, and build improved stoves and ovens.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-school, Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary Education
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with Elementary Education state certification
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 or more school year classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary level. Full time Montessori teaching experience is also acceptable

Desired Skills

Candidates should be committed to teaching environmental education in elementary school classrooms and have the ability to work with youth and community groups. Competitive candidates will have the following:

• Classroom/substitute teaching or informal participatory teaching experience
• Ability to live in a rural community and work in elementary school classrooms at least four days per week
• Ability to build local capacity by co-planning and co-teaching with local teachers
• Demonstrated community involvement in planning, organizing, counseling or leadership within the past four years
• Knowledge or experience in gardens, composting, tree nurseries, trash and watershed cleanups, and small scale trash management and recycling projects

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Additional Language Information

Basic level Spanish is the minimum requirement. Applicants that are actively engaged in Spanish language learning are preferred. You must achieve intermediate level written and oral Spanish proficiency after the 13 week pre-service training program. All your work will be conducted in Spanish and language proficiency is important to coordinate with teachers, school administrators and Ministry of Education officials.

Living Conditions

All Nicaragua Volunteers must live with homestay families for the duration of the 27 month service in order to maximize community integration and to ensure a safe and productive service. Couples will be separated during Pre-Service Training to aid in language and cultural acquisition. While couples will be living in different training towns for this 12 week period, there will be many opportunities to spend time together.

You must be prepared to serve in small rural communities or medium sized towns (1,000 -6,000 people) with a severe lack of materials, sporadic, often daily water and power outages, limited communication and transportation. They will have latrines, and may not have access to internet and/or cell phone coverage. A significant number of sites have extremely hot temperatures (100+) with high humidity during the rainy season and very dry, dusty conditions during the dry season. You will be assigned to work with two elementary schools: one located in your host community and the other one located no farther than 10 kilometers (just over 6 miles) away. You will most likely need to walk, ride a bicycle or take a bus (depending on the geography of the area) to reach those communities.

Fresh vegetables are not easy to find, and variety is very limited (usually carrots and cabbage). A vegetarian diet is challenging because people may be unfamiliar with vegetarianism and use animal fats or broths in their daily cooking. A strict vegan diet is extremely challenging and will require time, monetary sacrifices and compromises. On the whole, Volunteers find that the Nicaraguan staple foods of gallo pinto (red beans and rice), corn tortillas, bread, freshly made cheeses, and widely available seasonal tropical fruits provide a great dietary base.

Environmental Education Primary Teachers work with extremely limited teaching resources in public schools (no textbooks, no chalk or teaching supplies). You will be in charge of purchasing color markers, color pencils, and white board markers for your classes. Volunteers usually buy some markers and bring them to every class for the use of the students, at the end of the class the Volunteers collects them back. Creativity and initiative is needed to improve teaching conditions.

While Nicaragua is generally tolerant, and the PC/Nicaragua office is an open, non-judgmental place for all Volunteers, values and mores concerning diversity (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity) may be different from those in the U.S. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach diversity issues in their communities and host countries.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may find they experience curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, share American values, and deepen local community members’ understanding of Americans.

Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) and long hair on men are not generally accepted in professional settings in Nicaragua. Wearing facial piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your community. Tattoos are often associated with gangs and Trainees and Volunteers are expected to keep them covered in public.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Nicaragua: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations in Nicaragua

  • Nicaragua may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified.  
  • After arrival in Nicaragua, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

Before you apply, please also review Important Medical Information for Applicants [PDF] to learn about other health conditions typically not supported in Peace Corps service.

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