“L’école Joyeuse” (the merry school):
A democratic school based on peace, for oneself, with others and nature.
Innovative solutions throughout the world are dealing with ecological, political and social crisis. The particular observation of ecosystems’ functioning reveals a great source of inspiration to create sustainable and resilient systems. Most of our schools are confined within four walls, making people suffer from a “nature-deficit disorder” (Richard Louv, 2005).
Consequently, managing a school like an ecosystem does naturally open people to nature and consider vital items like; sensitiveness, freedom, tolerance, responsibility, age mixing, being part of a territory, exchanges and openness to the world, etc. ….
After a PhD in ecology and an experience in environmental education, I decided to create a school inspired by two educational movements: “Education by environment” and “Democratic education”.
Education by environment is not an education about the environment, but it is mainly the environment itself, being the support of the child’s development. Children learn simply by interacting with their environment: they observe and absorb their environment – with their “absorbent minds” as Maria Montessori said – and then they reply to it. The two pillars of democratic education are self-motivated learning and a learning community based on equality and mutual respect.
In democratic schools like the Sudbury Valley School (US) founded in 1968, children can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they grow up. No matter what their age (4 to 20), students are given the freedom to use their time as they wish, as well as the responsibility of designing their path to adulthood. They are free to play and fully immerse in whatever passions and interests they engage themselves. Free from scheduled lessons and curriculum, students decide for themselves how to organize their own time. In doing so, they learn to experience their own independency, their own lives based on individual goals and aspirations.
These schools are run democratically and transparently. Staff and students work together to manage the school by creating the school’s rules, as well as their constant evolutions.
Every student and staff member has an equal vote. So children are not taught democracy, they actually live democracy and learn to deal with others.
With my school team (Nathalie and Philippine) we are creating a democratic school named ‘Ecole Joyeuse’. This school is located in Aveyron, in the South of France. For a start we are operating with a yurt with full access to nature. Indeed, in this school children are allowed to go wherever they want, inside or outside, as long as they respect the rules decided together.
The school is the “environment” (nature, people, proper rules…) and the teacher is “life” (experiences, successes, failures…).