Changing school

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A recurring topic among my colleagues and I, trying to find ways to change school and to make it a more stimulating environment for our kids is a huge conversation, and one that everybody in the education world should have regularly, from educators to students, administrators to parents. There is so much potential in education now that discussing how we can improve the sector and our practice is more than well worth it. It’s a necessity!

To start this conversation, this post will be divided in three: First, I’ll share with you a few ideas from recents books and videos that I read and watch; Second, I’ll share my colleague David Queva’s blog where he reflects and gives tons of material on the school of the XXI century; Third, I’ll present a French school that defies all models and that structures its day in a bold and daring way, Le Domaine du Possible, in Arles.

1. A few ideas

Reading Ken Robinson’s new book a few months ago gave me a lot of ideas on how to transform school into something that’s more stimulating to both students and teachers. Here are what the ideal school would look like for me, in no particular order…

  • No bell – Our school day is constantly interrupted by the sound of a bell, dividing our work into little chunks of time that length from 40 to 80 minutes. Being able to concentrate for longer period of time on a subject (or several subjects at once!) would not only be more beneficial to students, it would give them a stronger sense of purpose while allowing them time to complete more complex tasks and projects.
  • Project Based Learning – This student-centered pedagogy where the teacher acts more like an animator that a traditional purveyor of knowledge is the perfect way to incorporate different areas of expertise (maths, language, humanities, etc.) into a single task. Even better, the project could be something that actually takes place outside of the school community and serves a concrete purpose.
  • Multilingual – In my opinion, the school of the future should be at least bilingual, or multilingual, meaning that many languages would be used at school, between the teachers and the students, between the students themselves, and between the students and the extended school community.
  • Mixed age levels – Instead of putting students together by age, I would rather have them in mixed class according to affinity. There is much to learn from older or younger students, and school should be the place to allow this age mix.
  • Arts and Humanities – To often forgotten in the school curriculum, Arts and Humanities should be taught equally as maths and literacy. Many subjects are neglected by traditional schooling, such as drama and dance, social studies, philosophy or religious studies. Time to bring them back!
  • Eco-school – In the present-day context of global warming and ecological wastes, every school should be a model of ecology and protection of the environment. Ecology should not only be taught as a subject, it should be a principle that is running the school itself, from making photocopies to producing electricity, growing and costuming local food, and making eco-smart decisions.
  • Creativity – In his book, Ken Robinson insist on the importance of teaching creativity in all subjects. A school should be a privileged environment to try, test, imagine, create and produce. Just like ecology, creative thinking should be a subject of its own.

 

2. Avant-Garde Education

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My colleague David Queva at the Vienna International School has put together a great blog where he discusses, plans, documents and analyses the different trends in avant-garde education. Looking forward to the 21st century, he carefully describes what the school of the future could be like, from a teacher, parent and student perspective. David includes models, tolls and assessments, but also closes the gap on digital integration opening the door on a new kind of education. Full of links, videos and stimulating articles, this is a great way to continue our conversation of the topic of changing school.

 

3. École Domaine du Possible

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Created in 2015 in Arles, in the south of France, by Françoise Nyssen and Jean-Paul Capitani, owners of the Editions Actes Sud, l’École Domaine du Possible is a one of a kind school that offers an original and stimulating alternative to the traditional school system. Based on curiosity and joy of learning instead of constraints, the school welcomes a little more than a hundred students and has a farm of its own, it promotes the International Baccalaureate and offers a pedagogy respectful of the kids individual rhythm. Here, the kids learn how to learn! They are at the very center of the school’s pedagogy.

A new structure

At École Domaine du Possible, the school day is structured in a whole new way, according the the children needs and natural rhythm. The morning is dedicated to traditional school subjects (Math, science, humanities, language), while the afternoon is divided in three:

  • class for basic learning,
  • class for deepening of basic tools
  • class of cross-functional projects by affinities

The school also has a farm where students grow food under the guidance of real gardeners and farmers, selling their products to the markets. They also offer a construction workshop.

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Beside the farm, the school has a few horses and each student is invited to take care of the animal, and learn with and from them. The daily contact with the horses creates strong connections between the animals and the kids, enriching their learning experience at school.

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Stimulating and based on its students, the École Domaine du Possible is a strong example of how we can rethink education in a bold new way. Creative, compassionate and ecological, this school is a model to follow.

Last words… or new beginning?

I’m closing this post with a video that I found on David’s blog. You may have seen it before, but it’s well worth a second watch. Teachers, parents, students or administrators, we are all responsible for the school of tomorrow. All we need is to dare to change!

 

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