Establishing a Demonstration School and Training Center

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Establishing a Demonstration School and Training Center


Establish the Tomas de Berlanga School as a world-class demonstration school and training center for teacher professional development


Fundación Scalesia, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund


See below




Children at the Tomas de Berlanga school


The Unidad Educativa Tomás de Berlanga, better known as the Tomás de Berlanga School (TdB), was established in 1994 by community leaders in Puerto Ayora at a time when very little attention was being focused on the poor quality of education in Galapagos. The founders envisioned a school that would serve not only as a much-needed educational alternative for their own children, but also as a model of best educational practices and a platform for training teachers from the growing number of public schools in the archipelago where most kids studied. They believed in the need for an educational approach encompassing critical thinking, bilingualism, high academic standards and experiential learning. Perhaps most importantly, they sought to develop a program focused on helping Galapagos children to truly understand and appreciate their unique environment and to develop the skills and desire to become leaders in shaping a sustainable future for the Islands. The Tomas de Berlanga opened as a one-room school with 20 students ranging from four to eight years of age.

Operated by the Galapagos-based Fundación Scalesia, the TdB now serves over 200 students from all walks of Galapagos society. The campus’ remote setting and simple but functional infrastructure provides an ideal setting for students to learn while immersed in nature. The campus also serves as the primary teacher training site for the Education for Sustainability Program. Approximately 75% of the school’s operations are covered by student tuition, with 25% covered by a need- and merit-based scholarship program.

Current Priorities

To optimize the impact of the TdB on students and teachers, the Fundación Scalesia has requested GC’s help in identifying funding and expertise in the following areas:

  • Improved infrastructure for teaching and training. Construction is beginning on a new Science Lab to be used by students and public- teachers, but additional funding is needed to fully furnish and equip the lab. We also seek to construct several additional large classrooms and a roofed area for large school community gatherings and sports activities during the wet garua season.
  • Scholarship fund. Operating a high-quality bilingual school in a remote location like Galapagos is an expensive proposition. With an annual cost per student of approximately $4,700, the Fundación Scalesia and its partners must maintain an annual scholarship fund of approximately $250,000 to keep the TdB education accessible for talented children with limited family.
  • Classroom technology. While most public schools are better equipped in terms of educational technology, the TdB, uses its limited equipment to instruct public school teachers on how to utilize computer technology, including tablets, Chromebooks and PCs, in the classroom. The TdB needs additional equipment for its education and teacher training activities. New research has found that students who used tablets for reading scored poorly on reading exams.
  • Future Leaders program. The TdB seeks to strengthen its pilot program focused on helping promising high school students from all Galapagos schools to develop a better understanding of their potential role in society and to develop the skills and attitudes they need to shape the future of the special place they live. The program includes youth leadership workshops and seminars, internships with locally-based NGOs, businesses and government agencies, and community service projects related to conservation and sustainability issues. Additional funding is needed for leadership workshops and program coordination.
  • International accreditation. Attaining international accreditation will mean that all the necessary pieces (administrative and governance structures, teacher staffing, and financial base) are in place to ensure the sustained quality of the TdB education. Accreditation will also allow student and faculty exchange programs that will enrich the UETDB education and generate new income streams to support ongoing operations. However, achieving this status will require significant upgrades to infrastructure (labs, library, educational technology), teacher profiles, administrative and governance processes and fundraising capacity.

Current Donors:

Foundations: Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund, Pistell Family Foundation, and the Gallagher Family Foundation. Individuals: Elizabeth Redsecker and Alan Chung, Regina Colasacco, Judie Muggia, Cleve and Rae Hickman, Randall and Sally Knight, and Edward and Judy Schwartz.

Photos © Jennifer Davidson.

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