A new bilingual primary and nursery school is taking root in the Quartier de l’innovation (QI) de Montreal. Theoretical learning, practical learning, innovation and entrepreneurship are at the heart of its program. Meet the director of the La Nouvelle Vague school, Marie-Andrée Malette, who truly believes that children can be happy to get up and go to school in the morning..
Fill a gap
A resident of the Ville-Marie borough, Mrs. Malette was looking for a kindergarten for her twins. "It’s impossible to find a bilingual school that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg in downtown Montreal," she explains.
At the time she had a clear idea of what the school of the future would look like. After several fortuitous coincidences, she met Mrs. Drinali, who already had twenty years of experience in college management. She realized that with her abilities complementing those of her colleague Mrs. Drinali, they could take on the challenge of creating this new kind of school.
The École la Nouvelle Vague was born.
And the search for a space began.
"We targeted the Innovation District because of its architectural cachet, its high innovation levels and its lack of existing schools for kids." Indeed, many young couples who settle there move when their first child arrives.
After more than a year of research, the two associates finally found a location. It’s now 2015. The owner of 938 Saint-Maurice also has a specific vision for her building and she does not want it to be destroyed or converted into a hotel or condo block. The school project charms her immediately!
A "practical" view of education
"The goal for us is for every student to want to learn." explains Mrs. Malette. And that is precisely what sets Nouvelle Vague apart. Their main value is inclusiveness. Here, you will come across a robust team of support staff including a psycho-educator, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. They are employed full-time and go from class to class to help and support the children who need it.
But for Mrs. Mallette, inclusiveness goes even further. Indeed, in the second phase of the project, the classes will be able to accommodate children with physical disabilities (in wheelchairs, for example), or with visual or auditory challenges, as the equipment has been thought out for them too. In fact, they have already received enrolment applications for smaller sized students. "The facilities are not suitable for them in other public or private schools in the sector."
Nouvelle Vague also boasts about its "focus on sports". Children have one mandatory hour of sports every day, in addition to breaks and a lunch break. “We’ve realized that children who have at least one hour of sports a day have greater concentration levels and their energy is channelled”. Children practice swimming, skating, hockey, gymnastics and more in several partner facilities in the neighbourhood.
The institution is fully bilingual. English and French are taught as of kindergarten. At the end of the day, the students do all their homework in the classroom. "And every once in a while, the older ones will work with the younger ones to help them."
Innovation as early as kindergarten
"Children often ask: why do I have to learn this? What is it for?” If they don’t see the concrete reason behind the theoretical learning, they often lose focus and interest. Should education not be more tangible? "What fascinates all children is science, robotics, and everything that touches upon innovation.” This is what led Nouvelle Vague to create agreements with the ÉTS (École de Technologie Supérieure) and several partners in the QI. For example, every week students have a science course that includes a robotics component and innovation.
"I have seen a lot of children who, when told why fractions are important (eg building a robot, a bridge, etc.), agree to make an effort. It’s because they understand why."
The school goes even further by creating a program that will integrate compulsory subjects into an annual project centered around innovation or science, such as the creation of a village, the construction of a bridge, and so on. Through this project, children will have to test their ability to read, calculate, etc. The theoretical part will become a part of a more concrete learning process. " By being part of the QI, we will be able to carry out this program by collaborating with entrepreneurs or ÉTS students." The goal is for children to see the tangible progress of their project every week.
Give back to the community
The Nouvelle Vague school is ambitious. In its second phase of expansion, planned between 2018 and 2019, they plan to create their own sports facilities by building, among others, an ice rink, a gymnasium and other sports grounds installed on the roof of their second building. But "we also want to share our sports facilities with the community so that children in the neighbourhood can have access to them outside of our school hours."
Happiness, joy, sports, creativity, fulfilment, well-being ... La Nouvelle Vague has been welcoming smiling students since September 2016. Is it possibly inventing the school of tomorrow?