Nestled in the Drôme, this small school is the only one in France to have an environmental educator. At the heart of learning? The fauna, the flora, the rhythm of the seasons… Here, Mother Nature makes the class and awakens in the child its first qualities.
In Caminando, it’s the day when the “grown-ups” (CE2, CM1, CM2) will venture onto the hill. Before leaving, they gather together seated in the grass, under the lime tree in the courtyard. “Something has changed since last week,” notes Muriel Fifils, founder and director of the school. Eyes meet, attention sharpens. A small voice rises: “We hear the crickets!” »While the song of the insects signals the arrival of the first heat, we are preparing to find« our own corner in the woods »: every other week, it is alternately the place for a collective game or for a time spent. alone, to observe and listen.
Learning in the garden
There is nothing exceptional about being outdoors for the twenty-five children of Caminando. Every day, whatever the weather, they maintain the vegetable garden, observe the pond, collect honey from the beehives. Because in this private, secular primary school, created in 2013 in the Drôme, the main teacher is Mother Nature. “Our establishment is the only one in France to have a full-time environmental educator,” says Muriel Fifils. Immersed in nature, to the rhythm of its cycles, children first learn from its contact. The principle: abstract knowledge is forgotten, lived knowledge leaves traces. The garden thus becomes an opportunity to apply what we have learned in math, the pond, to understand biodiversity, and the nature outing, to stop at the foot of a tree to tell the difference between a leaf “Toothed” or a “lobed” leaf.
Develop your human qualities
Arrived on the hill, Christophe, the environmental educator, and Julie, a teacher, offer a game of hide and seek. Each child will hide along a path spotted together. The “winners” are the ones the adults saw last. “This game is also a way for children to be alone in a fun way, in relation to what is there,” comments Christophe. There can be discomfort, ants, spiders… The attention they devote to not being seen outweighs their fears. “Fears that two children expressed before the start of the game, without shame and without judgment on the part of their comrades. Two even volunteered to accompany them.
“The more time we spend in nature, the more we reactivate in children qualities that they spontaneously have at a young age: confidence, empathy, attention”, analyzes Muriel Fifils. For her, this is the whole point of these practices which are being emulated in other schools. “This is not new in itself,” she continues. Our grandparents knew the benefits of nature when they took us for a walk… Today, science shows them. Faced with hyper-urbanization and the proliferation of screens, the need to come back to reality is asserted, to do “for real” in order to be aware of what we are doing. When you sit in the grass, anything can happen. One day there was a tornado of petals in the yard, we were all caught up in this spectacle. It was an intense and magical moment, a source of questions and discussions. Being outside requires more presence. We are also freer, and therefore more responsible for what we do. ”
Get involved in collective life
On returning from the hill, each child settles down with his “wood notebook” to write or draw what comes to him. A time of completely free expression, because these notebooks are personal and will only be shared at the end of the year by those who wish. Then comes a talking circle, where we revisit the lived experience: “The hardest part is to remain without speaking”, says one. “It was difficult to find a good hiding place, I was afraid to be seen,” said another. “A hornet bothered me, so I moved,” said a third, who was spotted.
The next morning, it is again in a circle that we meet in class. To the sound of soft music that allows everyone to arrive in peace, two students prepare a table with the program for the day. Because in Caminando, the children carry, two by two and in alternation, the responsibility for the common good: managing the library, the supplies, the “corner of the beautiful” where one has pretty things for the pleasure of the eyes, the relationships. with the outside … By organizing school life, they form a small miniature society that learns day after day to live and grow together.
Caminando also draws its inspiration from its connection with the root peoples, in particular the Kogi Indians of Colombia, who visit children on each of their trips to France. “We work with the principles of living that these populations respect in their way of life,” specifies Muriel Fifils. For example: everything has a purpose in nature. In the same way, the responsibilities that the children take on have a meaning for the good functioning of the school. And this allows everyone to find their place. ”
Another loan from the Kogis: the circle. “They come together in round constructions which symbolize the matrix, a protective space. We reproduce this space by sitting in a circle, the only arrangement that allows everyone to see as well as to be seen. It is both enveloping and involving. Getting together like this every morning before the apprenticeships creates a group identity and promotes the integration of everyone. ”
The living is also governed by a principle of emergence: it is a question of adapting to what occurs. In the garden, after a game where each child mimics what he is going to do, all snort in astonishing autonomy. Suddenly, everyone rolls their eyes: a raptor is circling above the small group. “It’s not a kite,” said one of them, “it doesn’t have a triangle tail. »Christophe confirms, a discussion begins, his eyes riveted on the bird, which will turn out to be a circaetus Jean-le-Blanc. Learning without appearing to be true also applies to classical lessons, such as this time when a child brought back a cap from his grandpa who had fought in the Algerian war. “It was not on the National Education program, but they wanted to understand and started a whole research work in their family, in the media library … Not only do they take ownership of the program, but they go well beyond. of the. “By linking school to life, Caminando awakens in children the awareness of being part of a large ecosystem that goes beyond the walls of their garden …
With your children
Do they go to school in the city? Never mind. Put your nose outside and live great experiences together thanks to The Troubled Family (Delachaux and Niestlé). “No need to go to the end of the world to marvel at nature,” recalls the author, Marie Gervais. In a public garden or in the forest, there are a thousand and one ways to develop their creativity (and yours): climb, climb, have a battle of dead leaves, games of ropes with trees, orienteering races, sculptures of bark, stones, rushes … Away from their screens, they will experience intense moments, reconnected to life, while learning to better understand and respect nature.
Read also : Nature with the family, 101 activities on outdoors (one volume per season) by Patrick Luneau (La Salamandre).