By Sabrina Bonarrigo
MONTESSORI SCHOOL COMING TO MONACO SOON
Interview with Stephanie Ayre & Aviv Pode
Posted: 15 June 2018
In 2018, when the new school year begins, a Montessori school, currently located in Cap d’Ail, will open its doors on Quai Antoine I in Monaco. The French–English bilingual school will accommodate several dozen pupils aged between 18 months and 6 years.
When you enter La Petite École on Place de la Liberté in Cap d’Ail, you quickly realise that this is no ordinary school… And for good reason. Opened in September 2016 the school, which has 40 pupils aged between 18 months and 6 years, follows the English school curriculum and also employs the Montessori Method, an increasingly fashionable alternative approach to education developed in the early 1900s in a working-class area of Rome by a female doctor, Maria Montessori (1870–1952). For the last 18 months, eight teachers and assistants have been delivering a bilingual education in French and English to these young pupils. A real asset for this extremely cosmopolitan school. “All of our families are Monegasque residents but they represent around thirty different nationalities,” explains Stéphanie Ayre, the school’s head teacher and founder.
IN TERMS OF EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES, PUPILS ARE OFFERED A WIDE SELECTION, INCLUDING YOGA, MUSIC, DANCE, GYMNASTICS, COOKING, PIANO AND VIOLIN LESSONS, AND SWIMMING CLASSES
So, what is the Montessori Method? The declared objective of this educational philosophy is to “develop children’s self-esteem, concentration, independence, curiosity and creativity.” In order to achieve this, Montessori schools rely on highly individualised monitoring. “Rather than giving classroom lessons to all children at the same time as happens in the traditional school setting, our teachers guide each pupil on an individual basis,” explain the school’s staff. In addition to this highly individualised monitoring, the approach requires very specific equipment. Cubes, interlocking items and letters cut out of various materials have been specially designed to put this learning into practice. Everything is carefully classified according to different themes: language, mathematics, geometry and geography, too. “This equipment is complemented by other celebrated approaches to learning, such as the Singapore Maths Method and the Jolly Phonics books,” adds Aviv Pode, the school’s other founder.
A SCHOOL OF WOOD
La Petite École in Cap d’Ail also considers itself to be very “eco-friendly.” Only organic food is served at meals and snack time. Toys and supplies, like the school furniture, are all made from wood. “There’s very little plastic and no harsh colours,” explain the founders. In terms of extra-curricular activities, pupils are offered a wide selection, including yoga, music, dance, gymnastics, cooking, piano and violin lessons, and swimming classes. And not just anywhere – at the Cap Estel Hotel in Eze, no less… “Our school is a small family. The children, parents and teachers are all very close. It’s a little community,” maintains Aviv Pode.
350 M2 OF SPACE
A community which will be moving to Monaco in the coming months: this Montessori school will be relocated to Quai Antoine I in September, taking over the former Marlborough Art Gallery building, which will also see it gain extra space. Pupils and teachers will enjoy premises extending over an area of 350 m2 as well as 250 m2 of outdoor space. Part of the latter will be dedicated to sport, and the rest to nature, including a botanic garden. “La Petite École de Monaco will be located in a former art gallery, so there will be large bay windows providing lots of light and a fantastic view. The children will be able to see the sea, the mountains, the sky and the boats. It’s a really lovely spot. We also have a large music room and a library,” Aviv Pode tells us.
EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE ELITE
The interior has been entirely designed by Monegasque architect Christian Curau. “The school’s interior design has been carefully thought out down to the tiniest detail, because it has an impact on the pupils’ wellbeing and learning. The environment will be extremely gentle in order to stimulate their imaginations,” adds Stéphanie Ayre. According to the teaching staff, the Monegasque school will have 15 or 16 pupils in each class, still aged between 18 months and 6 years. Each class will be supervised by three teachers. But enrolling children at the Montessori school in Monaco is not within everyone’s means, with fees starting at EUR 24,000 a year for the youngest pupils, up to three years old, and EUR 25,000 a year for older children. The fees include meals, extra-curricular activities, and even organising birthday parties. The price to pay for “a top-class education” justifies Stéphanie Ayre.
“ALL FAMILIES ARE MONEGASQUE RESIDENTS BUT THEY REPRESENT AROUND 30 NATIONALITIES” STÉPHANIE AYRE, HEAD TEACHER AND FOUNDER OF THE SCHOOL
LA PETITE ÉCOLE FUNDS TWO SCHOOLS IN LAOS
La Petite École de Monaco has embarked on a humanitarian project in collaboration with Mission Enfance: “We fully funded the construction of a school in Laos for 120 children. We also contributed to funding for a second school, again in Laos. The two schools will open, we hope, in September 2018,” explains Aviv Pode. “Our mission is to educate privileged children, but also to help those who have much less,” adds Stéphanie Ayre.