Problem: Education that has no connection with the student’s real lives is one of the main problems that is being remedied by multi-grade groups (students from the 1st to the 5th years of primary school) in the community of Agrovila Nova Esperança, in the municipality of Ouricuri, Pernambuco. The school was created in 2000 and since 2004, it has been using real-life aspects of the region to encourage students to continue their studies and to remain motivated and interested. The model of contextualized education was brought to the school by Professor Izabel de Jesus Oliveira, who is now the school’s Director. The aim of this project was to revert the deficit of learning associated with the students reading and writing abilities. Local knowledge and multi-disciplinary projects were used to do this.
Solutions: Subjects such as Portuguese, Mathematics and Sciences are contextualized with debates on issues that affect the lives of the students, such as agriculture, preserving the environment and the use of water. The methodology is based on contextualized education, which takes into account the real-life scenario of the students and places value on differences and native knowledge that has been passed down from parents and the community to children. The school uses informal education practices, such as standing underneath a tree to explain its importance, as well as formal education, with its workload and documentation. In addition, family members of the students and the community participate in school activities.
One theme that is significant in the school and involves the entire community is the importance of productive backyards. Previously used as a place to throw trash, local backyards have since become more important to families, who have cleaned and organized them so that they can use them to grow plants and vegetables, as well as to host parties. Practical classes are the norm in the school and have led to the creation of the seed bank, a nursery of native seedlings, as well as the maintenance of cisterns and a garden. The day of a local saint for example, involves study of the theme before, during and after the event.
Outcomes: The students recognize that their daily activities are also relevant in a school context and thus they feel more enthusiastic about learning. The local community, which contains 42 families (approximately 250 people in total) benefits directly and indirectly from the projects carried out at the school. The students’ reading and writing skills have improved. Family and community members visit the school and value the work it does in relation to their children’s learning. The students have even brought discussions from school into their home life, which led to the decision to stop using pesticides on some plantations. The school has been studied by other communities, who are interested in replicating the idea.