By Ashoka France
At l’école des Bosquets, children are “builders of the possible”. A school where there is no age to change the world, where you learn physics through the creation of a weather station and grammar by defending a bill for the environment.
“Mr. Viar, you are going to go a long way in education”. Philippe Viard, nowadays director of the primary school in the village of Epiais-Rhus, remembers these words pronounced by an inspector during his first week of teaching, more than 20 years ago. That week had nevertheless got off to a bad start. The young teacher, former director of a recreation centre and judo trainer, had inherited an almost empty classroom. No cabinets or shelves for the books. So, on the first day of class, he brought some planks, nails and hammers, and challenged the students of CM1 to build their classroom furniture themselves. The initiative, strongly criticised by some parents, led to the inspection, which today seems to be the founding anecdote of his teaching career. The message he wanted to send to his students that day was clear: faced with challenges, we must act and develop solutions.
Think differently and act concretely
The most important thing for all the teachers at l’école des Bosquets, is that the child discovers and embraces his potential, whatever its nature. “Succeeding at school does not mean succeeding in life. At l’école des Bosquets, we teach the children to think differently, to trust their potential as actors in society” explains the director. To do so, we must diversify teaching and give it meaning.
During the COP21, it was decided that the theme of the year 2015-2016 would be the climate. In November, students wrote to all the Heads of States that would be present at the international conference. By involving their parents, their text was translated into 35 languages over one weekend and sent to all national delegations. In January, the class of CE2-CM1-CM2, which participates in the Children’s Parliament, wrote a legal text proposal to encourage healthy and environmentally friendly food practices. “It is a remarkable source of learning” explains the director of the school, “during the preparation phases, the students worked in groups, developed arguments, screened some short films, and then voted on the subject that they cared about the most. They worked on public speaking, grammar, conjugation, discovered the notion of science and economy”.
Well-rounded and independent students
Thus, every year, the teachers, students and parents choose a theme linked to the environment, and develop a myriad of projects: musical comedies on the theme of water, used battery collections, a vegetable patch, creation of a weather station… “We start from real-life situations, from which we learn things that make sense. The students take the lead in projects, work in teams and are proud of their achievements” tells the teacher.
He describes a classroom environment where, from kindergarten to primary school, all initiatives are valued. Spontaneously, the children follow their interests: they write poems, texts, play music, propose projects. Everyone’s potential is recognised and the children naturally want to work together and help each other. “It’s a school where the children are happy, well-rounded, independent and aware of their position as students. They know why they are here and they want to not only learn but also act” explains the school director.
Twenty years later, l’école des Bosquets still impresses those who visit it. However, it seems that little is done to encourage such practices. L’école des Bosquets and all those that are similar need to receive greater recognition from the Ministry of National Education, in order to set in motion a movement and finally succeed to shake up habits and invent tomorrow’s education.