Sasle School, located in the mountains and buffer zone of the Miraflores Nature Reserve in Jinotega, Nicaragua, serves as the only education facility for this rural community of 1600 people. Since opening four years ago, the three classrooms connected by translucent vestibules have seen a steep increase in school enrollment. They currently host 190 primary school students each weekday and 80 secondary school students during the weekend.
Crucially, the school also functions as a community center and, in case a natural disaster occurs, an emergency shelter and a warehouse for storing supplies. The community of Sasleis prone to hurricanes, flooding and droughts. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch, that rendered 10% of national population in Nicaragua homeless, caused the overburden of rivers and the destruction of San Gabriel in Jinotega, which left the community uncommunicated for several weeks.
Maximizing natural ventilation and light was important to keep energy consumption and operation costs low. The school considers natural ventilation and natural light by using translucent sheets in the two entrance vestibules. Wooden elements were designed to help avoid direct solar exposure and brick walls to achieve thermal balance.
Using a combination of metal and wood cladding the building pays homage to local construction techniques.The selection of materials that were accessible in the locality made the school construction feasibleand highly replicable for other rural communities in the department of Jinotega.
The central classroom features an angled wall that also form a portion of furniture meant for reclining. This classroom serves the local community and NGO’s for the organization of meetings and workshops when classes are over. When all doors are opened, the three classrooms are used as a single space.
The school was sponsored by Bridges to Community Canada and built by the Sasle community and volunteers from Bridges to Community. This participation schemenot only reduced construction costs but also created project ownership among local community, which have improve school attendance in the last four years.
Nowadays, the school, as a result of its improved design and facilities, has started to provide secondary education on Saturdays to students from Sasle and surrounding communities.