A bilingual Montessori school in Nouméa

A Montessori School in NoumeaMuch to my pleasant surprise, I learned last week that there is a project underway to start a new bilingual (English/French) Montessori school in Nouméa. Sylvain Farcy and his wife, a French couple currently residing in New Zealand, are behind this project – a project they’ve been thinking about for the last 4 or so years, and working seriously on, for the last few months.

A bilingual Montessori school. What does that mean? More specifically, here is what Sylvain and his wife are looking to create:

  1. A school that uses the Montessori method and materials. Some of the essential elements of Montessori are (for those who are unfamiliar with the approach):
    • Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 6 years old, being the most common
    • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
    • Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally 3 hours
    • Constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
    • Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators
    • Freedom of movement within the classroom
    • A trained Montessori teacher

2. They will start with 2 classes: one of 3-6 year olds and one of 6-12 year olds. (This may evolve depending on demand.)

3. They may also offer a “Mommy and Me” sort of programme for children under 3 and their parents.

4. They intend the 3-6-year old class to be an English immersion class, introducing French in the older class. (But upon discussion with Sylvain, there is some measure of flexibility around this, potentially, for those parents who are concerned about their children not learning French).

5. They are looking to open in February, 2014, if all goes well.

6. Class sizes will be topped off at 25-30 students, with 2 teachers for each class (if they are maxed out at 25-30).

7. They will be using trained Montessori teachers.

8. Though they do not yet have a location, they are targetting central Nouméa – and are looking for a large space, to the extent possible, to include a garden for the children to garden in.

9. The school day is expected to run from 9am to 3pm, but they will consider local needs and possibly provide a garderie service before and after school.

10. How much will it cost? You’ll find the prices here.

More information can be found on the project site in French and on its Facebook page.

We spent 4 hours talking with Sylvain last night over dinner, and I have to say, this is a very exciting project. Our son attended a bilingual Montessori school in Paris from the ages of 3 to 6, and the Montessori method really worked for him. It allowed him to explore a number of different subjects, and at the depth he sought. It encouraged and nurtured his innate curiosity and creativity and supported his natural independence and drive. But those of you who know Montessori will know that people like the founders of Google, Jeff Bezos, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julia Child, Prince Harry and Prince William came from Montessori. You’ll know why it works for your child and your family. If you don’t know Montessori, it’s worth exploring. Pablo’s French father is thoroughly convinced, although he comes from a very traditional system. It’s different and thoroughly fascinating for those interested in what child-led learning can lead to.

If you are interested in this project, come along to a meeting this coming Saturday (14 September) from 2-4pm in Nouméa. Sylvain will be presenting himself, the Montessori method, the project for the school and fielding questions. The meeting will take place in French. If you email him, he’ll send you the exact address.

If you prefer to learn about the project in English, that is also possible – either by meeting individually with him before he returns to New Zealand on the 24th of September (he speaks fluent English), or in a group meeting of English speakers. We’ll just need to set it up – and find a location. For this, you can either contact me or Sylvain and we’ll see what can be arranged.

If you’d like to help out with the project at all – suggesting leads for locations, donating time or money to the cause, I’m sure Sylvain would love to hear from you.

When he returns to New Zealand on the 24th, we will know if this project is going ahead: a lot will be determined by the interest in the community. So if you’re interested, do get in touch, and spread the word.

Montessori meeting 14 Sept

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