I remember well the year I was searching for the perfect destination for our family to live abroad. We were already living in northern Nicaragua, but we were on the hunt for mid-size city with a town-and-country feel that offered access to the normal amenities and critical services that would help us to feel at home. Our careful search yielded fruit when we landed in the beautiful, colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua where we found not only all the familiar services that make our lives comfortable, but also a first-rate, international, bilingual school for my son, Aiden. While great real estate, restaurants and groceries stores matter, it was really discovering the right school that was the essential, final piece to solving the puzzle of where we could realistically live abroad in Nicaragua long-term.
For the past year and half it has always been easy to sing the praises of Granada International School (GIS, formerly titled Sacuanjoche International School) because of the unique esprit de corps that distinguishes the school’s community from other educational institutions. Parents and educators at GIS have a sense of purpose and are passionate about contributing energy and time to continually improving the value of education and world experiences on offer for the school’s children.
While it is mandatory for families to complete 20 hours of volunteer service each academic year for the school, many families continue to go far and beyond the requirements in celebration of an institution that successfully makes a difference in the everyday lives of young Nicaraguans. Thirty-five percent of the student body enjoys full scholarship to GIS, a school that offers half the day’s lessons in English and the other half in Spanish. This is a game-changer for Nicaraguan kids that are quickly growing up in a country increasingly propelled forward by booming tourism and international call-centers, easily doubling their potential salaries and earning them a lifelong vocational tool that cannot be underestimated in its value to Nicaragua’s economic future.
The student body of 111 children at GIS is made up of children that claim citizenship from Nicaragua, Europe, Australia, Central, South and North America as well as many students like my own son who enjoy Nicaraguan citizenship and also citizen status of another country. The interesting part of this global mix of students from all walks of life is that you will not know at first or even second glance who is who. Granada International School has a helpful uniform policy (as do all Nicaraguan schools) that makes it impossible to discern who is a scholarship student, and often who is native and who is foreign. All students eventually learn to converse with each other comfortably in English and in Spanish, slipping easily into the language most convenient to the topic at hand. A true global village in action.
Parents are not the only community members that are required to do service hours. Grades 5th and 6th are also asked to participate in volunteer service around Granada twice a month to better understand alternative realities and needs with experiences that include spending afternoons at a retirement home, an orphanage, a therapy and occupation school for special needs and efforts to improve trash pickup and recycling.
Book lovers will also take notice of Granada International School’s careful eye on daily literacy. Recreational reading takes place before, during, between and after classes with school library books available in a central location where they are always at hand.
School-wide read-ins are popular events; wait until you see older students teamed up on campus with younger students for good old-fashioned story-telling over a great book. It is magical, I can tell you.
Granada International School Levels Up In January: New site engages tropical nature!
The school school recently moved its city-based campus to 10 acres of coveted green space belonging to the local and highly esteemed Cocibolca Jockey Club. I have written about the CJC elsewhere, as it is also one of my favorite family destinations for recreating outdoors, so you can imagine how thrilled I am that Aiden’s school is taking up residence next door on their premises.
What does that mean for our students?
Wide open spaces to feel whole and connected with beautiful, verdant, tropical Nicaragua.
Mature tropical forests with walking trails for children to meander together and convene with nature. Outdoor classrooms under 150 year old Chilamate trees that provide cool and natural canopy.
Farm fresh food grown on site, tended and harvested by our children for their own snacks and lunch. Outdoor seating and tables for daily picnics in fresh air cooled by the eastern and southern breezes from Lake Cocibolca and Mombacho Volcano.
Children swimming in the luxurious Cocibolca Jockey Club swimming pool, building up their aquatic skills and taking in the wide open spaces of tropical Granada.
Students recreating on new playground equipment, volleyball courts and two soccer fields laid over soft fields of grass.
This new enlarged space located on the Masaya Highway near the entrance of Granada proper will easily host the intended expansion of the school from the current PreKinder, Kindergarten and Elementary Schools straight into a new high school. Therefore in August of 2018, Granada International will newly offer 7th and 8th grades and continue adding one grade or more each year. (As a certified Nicaraguan private school, GIS like all other Nicaraguan schools skips middle school and adds one year to primary school and one more year to high school, effectually graduating students a year earlier at 16-17 years old).