Pretty much anyone who visits San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua knows that there are plenty of gorgeous beaches for building sand castles and awesome breaks for catching that perfect wave (check out www.innicanow.com for a great description of the local beaches). Surf shops offering board rentals, ding repairs, and lessons abound, as do some pretty amazing pirate ship sails, catamaran tours, yachting and fishing tours. And these are all not to miss opportunities! But here are some great family-friendly alternatives in case you need a break from the rays or just want to get your kids moving!
There is no shortage of hikes in San Juan thanks to the steep cliffsides and lush landscapes. Hike up early in the morning to listen for the howlers or wait until evening to catch a glorious sunset. The most popular hike in town takes you up to one of the 10 largest Jesus statues in the world. To walk the entire hill, start at the entrance to Pacific Marlin and follow the road. Alternatively, if your kiddos are tired at the end of a busy day, you can drive to the base of the statue and then hike just up the final steps. Be sure to bring a few cordobas, as there is an entrance fee. For a greener hike, consider a hike to the old lighthouse and fort, located at the south end of the bay where you will find a spectacular view of the bay from the south, looking towards Jesus. Parque de Aventura las Nubes (see below) also offers well maintained trails and there is rumored to be a small waterfall in the hills behind El Encanto del Sur, along the Chocolata. Be sure to wear sturdy sneakers, hat, sunscreen and bring plenty of water!
Just outside of town and next door to San Juan del Sur Day School is Parque de Aventura Las Nubes, which is located on the Continental Divide of the Americas. Best known for its zipline/canopy tour, the park also offers a climbing area for kids, hiking trails, spectacular views of both San Juan and Lake Nicaragua/Ometepe Island and even an Iguanarium. Learn about the green iguana, what they eat, where the live and you may even be lucky enough to hold a baby iguana under the supervision of a trained and knowledgeable guide. It’s also a great place to view howler and spider monkeys, as well as toucans and sloths in their natural habitat.
If the canopy tour didn’t get your blood pumping fast enough, you might consider rappelling down a 45 meter waterfall all the while enjoying spectacular views of the San Juan del Sur Bay and Palermo valley. This adventure, courtesy of Aracne Rappelling Tours, is not for the faint of heart, but the adrenaline rush alone makes it worth it! Led by skilled guides, including founder Javier Baldovinos, the tour includes all the safety gear and instruction and even ends in a hike to see petroglyphs where you will learn a few things about the indigenous population that lived there long ago. Older, confident children are invited to rappel solo, provided that a guide and parents have given the green light. Confident, but super lightweight kids can also go solo, but a guide assists them as they lower down during the descent. Younger children can descend attached to a guide. The majority of children who participate are 7 and up, but Aracne and their skilled guides have rappelled with children as young as 5!
Looking for a little shade and some quieter time with the kiddos? The San Juan del Sur Biblioteca Movil is one of the longer standing institutions in San Juan and the first lending library in Nicaragua. Founded by Jane Mirandette, and run by a staff of lovely individuals, the library provides over 12,000 books in a mix of Spanish and English, a computer lab, and acts as a community center for the 4,800 registered card holders. Children and young adults gather daily to create crafts, play games, do homework and study. Stop in to play in the children’s room or lighten your travel load and simply borrow a few kids books to be returned before you depart!
Múúv Dance and Yoga is one of the newer additions to San Juan del Sur and a much welcome one! Teacher Maggie Purce began offering dance to children of San Juan at the end of 2015 and just this month opened her own yoga and dance studio. Maggie has quickly become a kid favorite with her upbeat classes and fabulous enthusiasm. Classes are suitable for all skill levels and are a wonderful way for your child to get creative, practice body & mind discipline and of course have tons of fun. Currently offering ballet, hop hip and creative movement to kiddos ages 4-12, Maggie also has some fun adult offerings, including zumba, salsa, and yoga. Drop-ins are welcomed! Visit her facebook page for class schedule and more details.
There are a handful of options in San Juan del Sur for horseback riding. The folks over at Da Flying Frog offer short tours for families. If you are interested in lessons, your best bet is the Lil’ Wranglers Riding Program at Rancho Chilamate with Cowgirl Alex, a trained instructor and a certified therapeutic horse training professional. Or, try private or group classes with Linda Giordano at El Encanto (info coming soon).
Tae Kwon Do
Juan Pablo Lopez of TKD San Juan del Sur offers Tae Kwon Do instruction throughout the week, across the street from Hotel Villa Isabella. The benefits of learning a martial art are numerous – in children, it instills a sense of discipline and respect while also teaching concentration and self-confidence. It also helps to improve strength and balance and has even been proven to reduce aggression in children. Juan Pablo is a seasoned instructor who teaches children not only the physical aspects of Tae Kwon Do, but also the discipline and self control required of this martial art.
Juggling, magic, hula hooping and aerials are all in a day’s work (or should we say, play) during circus classes offered by Momentom Collective. The Collective is a group of certified instructors and performers of yoga, cirque arts and illusion- based magic in Nicaragua. Classes are open to children ages 6-11 years old and are offered at Escuela Adelante at 9:30 AM on Saturdays with Lindsay Novah – price is by donation and languages spoken include English, Spanish, and clown. They even offer private adult classes in aerials at Zen Yoga and Yoga classes at Casa Oro yoga inspired by circus arts.
When school isn’t in session, San Juan del Sur Day School offers day camps. During this upcoming summer break, there will be two weeks of camp, from July 25-29 and again August 8-12. Kids ages 2-12 are welcome to participate. The day runs from 9 a.m. -3 p.m. and includes transportation from town, lunch, field trips and activities. Children have the chance to ride horses, practice yoga, swim, surf, dance, play games, make art and more. For more info, visit the school’s camp page here.
San Juan del Sur is bursting with volunteer opportunities thanks to wonderful organizations like Comunidad Connect, Barrio la Planta, The Mobile Library, Vacation With a Purpose, to name a few. If you are only visiting for a brief period of time and would like to find a way to help out, consider involving your family in the San Juan del Sur Community Cleanup, spearheaded by the Boychuk brothers of Surf Ranch Resort. Help clean up trash for two hours (bags, gloves are donated) and then enjoy a great BBQ and splash in the pool out at the ranch as a thank you afterwards! Follow their facebook page for updates on location of cleanup.
Speaking of Surf Ranch, they are actually best known for their fantastic skate park. The Surf Ranch skateboard park is located on site at the resort in San Juan Del Sur, and is the largest skatepark in Nicaragua. The park is open to everyone, free of charge. The park has areas for beginners, intermediate and pros, with everything from flat bars and manual boxes to hubbas, quarter pipes and handrails. All outside guests are welcome. Skateboard Rentals – $2 per hour. P.s. they also have a climbing wall (ages 8 and up), an airbag jump (ages 10 and up), pool, and restaurant (extra fees apply).
The Trade School is a volunteer-led learning space that runs on the barter system. Members of the community can create and teach just about anything and offer it thru the trade school website. Instead of cash, instructors post a list of items that they might enjoy as a trade for their service. Bring a fresh loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, some children’s books and you are good to go! Past courses include gardening, natural building basics, and fiction writing. For kiddos, there was a bilingual storytelling and craft hour. The trade school is a wonderful addition to the community, but it can’t run itself. If anyone is interested in helping to drum up more classes, please check out their facebook page for info.
As we witness the decline in recess, as well as outdoor play throughout preschool and elementary schools across the world, we are ever more grateful for San Juan del Sur Day School’s expansive outdoor space and cherished outdoor playtime.
San Juan del Sur Day School views recess and outdoor play as a cornerstone of its curriculum. An emphasis on play is encouraged via multiple breaks throughout the day. Each age group begins the day with a 30-minute recess. This gives children the opportunity to move first thing in the morning, socialize on their own terms, and prepare for their day. The fresh air and movement actually help children to follow directions, attempt to learn more independently and solve problems on their own. After a period of guided, group, or center time, each age cohort then participates in a second 30-minute recess, after snack, but before lunch. This is a great opportunity for children to reboot, get the wiggles out and again, engage in nature, try out new skills, and embrace their independence.
Adults at school lead by example, demonstrating how to resolve conflicts thoughtfully and compassionately. However, during playtime, “children are given a degree of independence to sort thru their conflicts, create their own games, and negotiate with one another, without an adult hovering or controlling the situation,” says Julie Speier, director of San Juan del Sur Day School.
Overly “Attentive adults can ruin games even if they don’t intend to intervene. Children perceive them as potential enforcers of safety, solvers of conflicts, and audiences for whining; and this perception invites the children to act unsafely, to squabble, and to whine. Play requires self-control, and the too-obvious presence of adults can lead children to relinquish their self-control,” says Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College.[ii]
To learn about their own physical and emotional capabilities, children must push their limits within reason. How high can I swing? Where can I climb safely? Children must experiment with the physical world to learn about it. An essential task of development is appreciating how we fit into the natural order of things—animals, plants, the weather, etc. And more importantly, to what extent does it present problems, such as hard surfaces, the hot sun, or thorns on bushes? Furthermore, the changing nature of the outdoors makes it an incredibly stimulating and multi-sensory place to play. Children who gain knowledge and appreciation of nature are more likely to become adults with a greater sense of environmental awareness.
After lunch, children have a third opportunity for recess and outdoor play, while waiting for the bus or digesting lunch. Play is encouraged with climbing equipment (both a rock wall and other areas), tricycles, wagons, scooters, large fields and turf for soccer and other sports, a toddler playground with swings, and more.
In addition to free time on the playground, teachers also lead their students in guided outdoor time via nature walks, scavenger hunts, gardening, and construction. Students in first thru fifth grade also enjoy a short afternoon recess, as well as plenty of outdoor playtime during enrichment hour each day from 3-4 p.m.
So why all the play and recess and how does it help our children to learn? In a thoughtful piece for the Washington Post title “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today,”[iii] pediatric occupational therapist, Angela Hanscom, wrote: “In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.” In fact, at San Juan del Sur Day School, when a teacher notices a disruptive or fidgety student in the classroom, rather than chastising or punishing the child, the student is encouraged to take a quick run outside. Researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Denver found in a 2014 study that 6-year-olds who spent more time in unstructured play showed more signs of strong executive functioning and decision-making skills. Those skills are supportive of strong social relationships, which researchers have linked to academic success throughout a student’s school career.[iv]
According to a position paper released by the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education: “In allowing a mental change and release of energy, recess may facilitate subsequent attention to more academic tasks and minimize disruptive behavior once students return to the classroom; recess, therefore, becomes an important element of classroom management and behavior guidance.”[v] Recess contributes significantly to the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of the young child:
1) Physical Development:
If students are given the chance to move around and be active, they return to the classroom more attentive and able to concentrate on the tasks presented. This change enables learning to take place more efficiently. Through active play, young children learn about their bodies’ capabilities and how to control their bodies. One of the most apparent benefits of recess is the opportunity for sheer physical activity and the practice of physical skills, such as running, climbing, jumping, chasing, traveling, batting, kicking, catching, balancing, hanging, swinging, stretching, pushing, and pulling.
2) Emotional Development:
Recess may act as an outlet for reducing anxiety and serve as a means by which children learn to manage stress and gain self-control. During recess play, children also learn the art of expressing themselves to others, and begin rehearsing behaviors and practicing skills. Children learn about their own abilities, perseverance, self-direction, responsibility, and self-acceptance.
3) Social Development:
Recess promotes social learning and development for children by offering them a time to engage in peer interactions in which they practice and role-play essential social skills. Through play at recess, children learn valuable communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control.[i]
4) Cognitive Development:
Children learn through play. Children develop intellectual constructs and cognitive understandings through the hands- on, manipulative, exploratory behavior that occurs during play episodes and play opportunities. Play context provides the most appropriate support or scaffolding for children as they develop skills.
Recess and play are an integral element of San Juan del Sur Day School. Our campus at Finca las Nubes has given us the opportunity to provide a multitude of settings for play, exploration, and learning. We feel strongly that learning happens well beyond the confines of a classroom and that play is essential to the growth and development of happy, healthy children.
[iv] University of Colorado at Boulder. (2014, July 22). Natural-terrain schoolyards reduce children’s stress, says study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 20, 2016 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722102405.htm
[v] NAECS/SDE Position Statement: Recess and the Importance of Play. National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education
Did you know that San Juan del Sur Day School is located on a cloud farm? Finca las Nubes, as it’s aptly named in Spanish, is located a mere two kilometers from the beach and the heart of town. Yet, just this short distance from the hustle and bustle of our small fishing village allows for expansive views of the Pacific, Volcanoes Maderas and Concepción, Lake Nicaragua and beyond. The peacefulness that comes with living “in the clouds” also makes the school campus and surrounding homes a welcoming abode for much of the local fauna. Thanks to their sustainable building practices and reforestation efforts, Finca las Nubes has protected habitats for a multitude of animals, creating a strong co-existence between humans and nature.
Our students are fortunate to witness the habitats of both wild and domesticated animals throughout the farm. Accompanied by their classroom teachers, children follow the sounds of howler monkeys, while also keeping their eyes peeled for the sloth family all the while being escorted along the path by over one hundred species of birds. Students at San Juan del Sur Day School have had the fortune to witness the birth of a baby calf, collect eggs from the farm’s chicken coop, and learn about various animal habitats simply by stepping outside their classroom doors. Here are some of our favorite sightings (all photos were taken at Finca las Nubes by parents, staff):
The Howler Monkey is a favorite and common sighting at Finca las Nubes, particularly during the morning bus ride up the hill. It is not uncommon for a rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus” to be interrupted by exclamations of “monkey, monkey, I see monkeys!” If lucky, you might even spot a white faced or spider monkey, too.
Particularly fascinating to students and teachers alike are the Sloths, who while seemingly unhurried (in Spanish, they are called “perezosos,” which translates to “lazy” in English), they manage to appear in different trees at each sighting.
An armadillo made a surprise appearance at school last October. Of the twenty varieties of armadillos, all but one live in Latin America. Armadillo is a Spanish word meaning “little armored one” and refers to the bony plates that cover the back, head, legs, and tail of most of these creatures. Armadillos are the only living mammals that wear such shells.
Kinkajous, native to Central and South America, have found a comfortable home in the tree canopy of Finca las Nubes. They can be hard to spot, as they are nocturnal and prefer to roam at night.
Contributing to the symphony of sounds at Finca las Nubes are the plethora of birds – glance up into the trees and you can spot blue jays, yellow-bellied kiskadees, Nicaragua’s national bird – the turquoise-browed motmot (known here as the guardabarranco), parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, wood peckers, oropendulas, and many, many more!
You’ve got to be quick and highly observant to catch a glimpse of iguanas and lizards, as they are swift moving and blend easily. You’ll have more luck spotting the geckos, which are predictably found near lit lights, patiently awaiting their next meal of bugs.
Living amongst and respecting the local fauna that long pre-dates San Juan del Sur Day School provides wonderful lessons for our students. They learn to respect animal boundaries and habitats. Children learn that animals have their own unique place and purpose in the world. A child’s self-esteem can thrive outdoors because nature doesn’t judge people. To observe nature requires patience and quiet watchfulness, a trait that can help children to thrive into adulthood. And learning about animals in their natural setting exposes students to things that are alive and growing and promotes curiosity and exploration.
“Respect is the most important part of all, respect for people, respect for nature and a healthy respect for the rights of future generations.” -Finca las Nubes website
Nicaragua attracts surfers, adventurers, beachgoers, backpackers and beyond. More recently, San Juan del Sur has also begun to draw families, as well. The expansion of San Juan del Sur Day School has allowed numerous families to relocate to Nicaragua to explore their adventurous side while maintaining an inspiring, sustainable, creative and developmentally appropriate education for their children. Read on to find out how…
Location, Location, Location
San Juan del Sur Day School is located on a sustainable organic farm at Finca Las Nubes (cloud farm). On any given day, our students can observe up to three different kinds of monkeys, sloths, and multiple species of birds. The farm has spectacular views of Costa Rica to the south, miles of beaches to the west and volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua to the east. There are protected valleys for farming and large open pastures for grazing animals surrounded by natural forest with creeks and waterfalls. San Juan del Sur Day School embraces an outdoor education and encourages our students to not only learn, but to experience. Our dependable school bus and our driver, Alvaro, make multiple stops throughout the town of San Juan del Sur, making the school accessible and convenient.
International Student Body & Bilingual Opportunities
San Juan del Sur Day School educates children from all over the world. Listen closely on the playground and one might hear
English, Spanish, Dutch, French, German, and Italian. An international education offers the opportunity to celebrate diversity in a spirit of understanding and tolerance and to develop a positive regard and awareness of other people. This is an education that goes far beyond the confines of the classroom and sees in the learning process the chance for some remarkable lessons. An appreciation of different cultures and backgrounds creates a sense of openness and understanding that enables students to work well with others and for many, to lead people with different viewpoints in a cohesive team. A key factor for success in adulthood is a child’s ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds. We see an opportunity to develop cross-cultural understanding, an international outlook and an ability to build quality relationships with people from different backgrounds. Students are intentionally exposed to English as their primary language of instruction, as well Spanish via our Nicaraguan teaching assistants. While circle time might be lead in English, arts and crafts are taught in Spanish with Teacher Yolanda. Snacks, lunch, and recess are a free for all where we encourage our students to share their native tongues, practice other languages, and enjoy the most common language of all – play!
The enrichment program at San Juan del Sur Day School is unparalleled. Not only do we keep our students engaged academically, but we also offer them an amazing variety of activities in the afternoons from 3-4 p.m. Activities include: taekwondo, soccer, swimming, yoga & meditation, horseback riding, dance, circus training, chess, skateboarding, volleyball. Members of the San Juan del Sur community who are experts in their area of interest lead our enrichment classes. If you have a special skill that you would like to share with our students, please contact our afternoon enrichment coordinator, Alethea Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diverse and Inspiring Staff
The teachers and staff at San Juan del Sur Day School come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds and share their
highly developed skills with each other and our students. Our teachers have graduated from prestigious universities in the United States, Canada, Belgium, and Nicaragua and hold Bachelors and Masters degrees in Early Childhood Development, Mathematics, English, Art, Spanish, Participative Education, Special Education, Developmental Services, School Counseling, and Education and Learning. They have also been trained in an array of teaching philosophies and styles including a Montessori center-based approach, Constructivist theories, International Baccalaureate curriculum, and Americorps leadership skills. Our teachers bring a combined total of over 50 years of teaching experience to San Juan del Sur Day School. Aside from their academic experience, our teachers love to play! You can find them surfing, swimming, gardening, dancing, building, and sharing all of their skills with our students.
San Juan del Sur Day School aids in the education of local children so that they become resourceful, international citizens, assisting them in becoming productive members of both their local and global society. San Juan del Sur Day School currently provides scholarships or financial aid to approximately 16% of our students with the goal of sustaining 25% of our total student body with educational assistance in the near future. Funding for these scholarships is generated via school tuition and individual sponsors. A portion of each annual enrollment fee is designated for our scholarship fund. For information on our fund or to make a donation, please visit our donate page or click the button below! Thank you!
To learn more about San Juan del Sur Day School, please contact Director of Development, Sarah Fahey, at email@example.com. We look forward to welcoming you and your families!
There is no better metaphor for the growth of a school than the planting of a tree. It has been a tremendous year of growth and transformations for San Juan del Sur Day School. In early 2014, Director Julie Speier planted a seed, seeking land on which to cultivate a new school campus.
This call to action was answered by the generous team at Finca Las Nubes. In February of 2014, the Roberston Family selflessly donated nearly 30 acres of stunning land to San Juan del Sur Day School.
In March 2014, we launched a fundraising campaign to help raise money to build the school. Exactly one year later, in March 2015, Director Julie Speier and Los Rayos students hammered in the first stake of the new school, officially breaking ground and spreading roots. Throughout March and April, 2015, Chris Robertson and his fantastic construction crew worked tirelessly to dig the foundation and build walls. By the end of June 2015, the roof was on. In mid-July, the floors went in, dirt was graded for the playground, and trees were planted. On July 15, 2015, students and teachers celebrated their last day of school at the beloved Talanguera school campus. During the summer break, the FLN team and San Juan del Sur Day School teachers, staff, parents, and friends worked round the clock to nurture the school, packing, moving, prepping, and more. And on August 11, 2015, the wonderful new San Juan del Sur Day School campus at Finca las Nubes officially stretched its branches, opening its doors to greet 65 blossoming students. Please join us on this video journey of the growth of the new campus for San Juan del Sur Day School at Finca las Nubes. We invite you to visit our “Grow With Us” page to learn how you can help our students and teachers flourish. Thank you to our wonderful community of family and friends – both here and abroad – for helping us to thrive.
The new school building at Finca Las Nubes is coming along beautifully! Doors are set to open after the summer break on August 11. We are now raising money towards the purchase of a school bus in order to transport our wonderful students to their new school. To help the cause, San Juan del Sur Day School, in collaboration with Big Wave Dave’s, is hosting a Casino Night and Silent Auction on Thursday, July 9. Please join us and lose some money for a great cause!
If you don’t play poker, then come and bid on some awesome auction items including:
-a half day sail with Pelican Eyes Hotel and Resort,
-a yoga 10 pack with Zen Yoga Nicaragua,
-handmade pillows courtesy of Isabel Sophia,
-a massage at the Elixir Center,
-rappelling with Aracne Rappelling Tours and zip line with Da’ Flying Frog Adventures,
-an overnight stay at Rancho Chilamate – Nica Horseback Adventures,
-gift certificates from BRUSH YOUR HAIR Barbalon by Justin Bobby Brescia – Natasha Lazdins
-dinner at El Jardin – 4 hours of babysitting included
-an overnight at Playa Coco Townhouses
-Jewelry made by Krystina Benck
-gift certificates to Chica Brava surf shop
Students from San Juan del Sur Day School’s afternoon program visited with students of the El Carizal EFL program in September. 19 students from SJDS Day school and 26 from Carizal got together to read, play, and share. It was a terrific afternoon that we hope to continue monthly with students alternating between visits to El Carizal and SJdS Day School. Thank you to all the teachers and students for a fantastic afternoon and to Comunidad Connect, Mara Caryl Jacobsohn and the Casa Llanta Fund for making it happen. To view the complete album, please visit our Facebook page.
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