CIVIX Chile began a new series of professional development events for educators last month.  

CIVIX Lab: Laboratorios de Formación Ciudadana is designed to enhance teachers’ capacity and commitment to foster democratic engagement in schools. The program is equivalent to Democracy Bootcamp in Canada. 

The first of these took place at the end of July, organized in collaboration with the Municipality of Viña del Mar, a coastal city northwest of Santiago.

The CIVIX Lab event began with words of welcome from the local mayor, Macarena Ripamonti, who spoke of the importance of civic education initiatives. 

“We are infinitely grateful for this new collaboration between the municipal government of Viña del Mar and CIVIX,” said Ripamonti. “We hope to continue the alliance with the NGO throughout our administration.”

The theme of the 2023 CIVIX Lab events is improving social harmony in schools and classrooms. This is an issue that is particularly resonant for Chilean teachers because of the country’s system of ‘school governments.’

Like most Latin American countries, Chile’s schools are legally mandated to promote the participation of all groups within the education system. To achieve this, each school has a government made up of various councils representing students, teachers, principals, school support staff, school board representatives, and parents.

“In these democratic spaces where all members of the educational community are represented, it is sometimes difficult to find agreement” says Anne Marie Lussier, CIVIX’s Director of International Programming. “These CIVIX Lab events are designed to provide teachers with tools and activities to support buena convivencia or ‘good coexistence’ by working together to address common challenges.” 

Approximately 50 educators attended the first CIVIX Lab. They were provided with educational materials related to citizenship and given the opportunity to practice activities and share experiences with each other. 

The day’s agenda reflects two pillars of the CIVIX Lab programming – the use of structured discussion protocols to facilitate constructive discussion, and the application of related tools to the promotion of social harmony within school governments. 

Early in the day teachers were instructed to select one of three scenarios: a case of social media bullying, parents complaining about curriculum related to sexuality and gender, and a situation with a vulnerable student failing the school year. They were then asked to talk about potential causes using “Put Your Two Cents In,” a discussion protocol that allows participants to quickly share their thoughts and interact with the ideas of others.

Part of the rationale for using protocols in the classroom is that structured discussion helps students specifically practice active-listening, perspective-taking, and respectful self-expression skills. Doing so helps to make those skills more readily available in spontaneous situations, especially those with potential for conflict. 

When teachers returned to their chosen case studies later in the day, it was to look at them through the broader lens of social harmony in school government.  

To do this, the groups were asked to apply a ‘Double Diamond’ design framework to their scenario. With its steps of ‘design, develop, discover, and deliver,’ participants were able to explore their issue from a variety of angles before converging around potential next steps and solutions. 

Teacher Brenda García appreciated the tools and exercises and looks forward to applying them at her school. 

“The most significant thing is to reach an agreement with our colleagues to seek joint solutions while respecting dialogue,” she says. “This is not something that is worked on in general and the protocols offered in the program make it much easier.”

Educators were given two guidebooks take with them  — one focused on constructive discussions, the other on school governments and methods for improving social harmony in schools. 

CIVIX Chile launched in 2022, with a Student Vote/Voto Estudiantil program corresponding with the national referendum on a proposed new constitution. The local CIVIX Chile team continues to build new programs and grow Voto Estudiantil. 

Between now and the end of the school year in December, CIVIX Chile expects to train approximately 600 teachers and education professionals in the country through CIVIX Lab, in coordination with various municipal and regional education authorities.