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Les Colibris International Montessori School: Open Day 29 May

Updated: May 28, 2021

For those curious of the Montessori schooling experience, Les Colibris in Sophia is open to to the public Saturday, 29 May, to show their unique and stimulating environment.

Gina Wattel, the school's Pedagogical Director speaks with students. © Les Colibris

Each year, Les Colibris International Montessori School gets bigger and better with more families demanding spots. Last year, they introduced a collège (middle school) class, one of the first in France to offer a bi-lingual Montessori middle-school programme. This coming academic year, they have added an additional 3-6 year class as the demand continues to grow. It is a wonderful environment for international students, with around 30 different nationalities and fully bi-lingual English/French instruction.

It’s no wonder Les Colibris is such a popular school, the students blossom before their parents’ eyes, love going to school, expand their creativity and are open and friendly with classmates of all ages. The Montessori model is designed to fit to every child, meeting their needs and growing with them. Parents are realising that kids need more of this type of learning and are leading that change. But Les Colibris is particularly dedicated to nurturing the spirit of each child, something made clear with each interview with the directors over the years.

The main idea behind the school’s teaching style is for children to learn without knowing they are being taught. To bring the knowledge out of them through experience, i.e. problem solving, interaction and discovery is the foundation of Montessori. Each classroom is broken into learning areas: maths, geography, history, science, etc. and there is a range of levels within each area. The result is children are naturally drawn to their level of learning, moving on when they have mastered it and feeling confident in their ability.

At this unique school, the children are encouraged to learn by 'playing' © Les Colibris

One of the most drastic differences in a Montessori school is that children are not seated in desks for the day. Instead, they are free to roam about the classroom, picking up things to ‘play’ with, which are specifically designed to teach to their development stage.

For older students, projects pose challenges to problem solve, combining several skills in one, where the child needs to figure out or seek the information to solve it. This approaches learning from a completely different angle than sitting kids in chairs and force-feeding them information. The result is remarkable, seeing young children quietly working in deep concentration - of their own choosing - and beaming with pride upon completion of each project. Nicolas Wattel, the school’s Director, is passionate about the way the Montessori system nurtures each student. “It is very important for children to learn from each other,” he says.

Explaining that a foundation of community leads to greater creativity, comradery and empathy in Montessori schools, classes are mixed in groups of three years, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 and 12-15. This range of learning levels works two-fold, causing young students to see what the older ones can do and strive to advance, while the older children help the younger children by teaching them, which in turn improves their own understanding and mastery of subjects. The ‘side-effect’ of this community learning, explains Mr Wattel, is an environment of cooperation amongst students, as opposed to competition.

The unique collège experience

The Montessori middle-school system is very particular and rare to find. Only a few exist in France. The goal at the adolescent age (12 - 15) is learning through work to manage a community living environment where the students are responsible for daily chores and upkeep on their own. To this end, Les Colibris has a partnership with Les Esprits

Discover Les Colibris with your child on 29 May! © Les Colibris

Libres, a farm school in Thorenc, near the bison nature reserve. The school arranges one-week stays five times per year where students stay in self-managed residences and are taught 50% theory and 50% practice. For an entire week, they cook, they clean, they are responsible for all aspects of daily living, their lessons are out in nature and the time away from home creates autonomy.

Mr Wattel emphasises, “it is very important in Montessori to have a community life.”

The French national curriculum is met through a variety of experiential ways, bucking the common adolescent complaint: ‘when will I ever use this information?’ Students value their lessons in concrete ways and learn responsibility and self-actualisation. The director and the rest of the school are very excited to begin this programme, which was put on hold this year because of Covid.

For more information:

- Nicole Ruskell

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