L’écoline: A Firm & Inspiring Foundation for Learning

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November 24, 2020

I have a strong recollection of a defining moment in my graduate education. One of my professors who had been a teacher for more than 40 years looked out on our small cohort and said to us future educators, “the most important thing you do as a teacher is to give your students an appetite.” It was an interesting notion as before that moment I had often thought of education, and educators for that matter, as responsible for satiating the hunger too. The weight of responsibility shifted in that moment, and the scope of my horizon broadened to a point where I was almost giddy thinking about the possibilities this provided. Because once you have an appetite for something, there are multiple paths to satisfying it; and it grows and evolves and transforms. And watching a student discover those unique and individual paths is one of the most gratifying things about teaching.

This is an ethos that I reencountered many years and continents later, in a small school near Lausanne: a school called l’écoline.

Walking into the doors of l’écoline creates a wave of nostalgia for a childhood reimagined; one that feels filled with endless opportunities to explore, to touch, to simply stop and take a look around. Marion, the founder of l’écoline, and Jelissa, the founder of The Village coworking, welcomed me and my two kids one afternoon and I was immediately struck by the calm and warm nature of them both. They led us through The Village coworking space, and I eyed a few parents sipping their tea and taking a break to smile from their individual workspaces. We strolled into the common room, the sunlight pouring through the wide windows, speckled highlights beckoning us to come closer and see the wonders all around. Books and cushions and little tables sprawled throughout the inviting room, shelves with objects waiting to be meddled with, waiting to become a young mind’s masterpiece. Magnet tiles on mirrored surfaces, coloring pencils, markers, and all sizes of paper, typewriters, and rotary phones—a space that wasn’t fussy, a space that made me realize that convention is overrated.

L’écoline is the first Reggio Emilia inspired school in Switzerland and the first school/daycare to be certified as B Corp. It welcomes children aged 2 to 6 into a bilingual environment daily, as well as afterschool activities, clubs, and school holiday camps and workshops. Not only do they focus on the kids, but they also strive to meet parents’ needs by offering a coworking space for parents on-site. In addition, L’écoline hosts some professional development events, family events and workshops, and occasional pop-up daycares during large regional events. 

Perhaps the most inspiring element (for me at least) of their pedagogical approach is their connection with the outdoors and nature. L’écoline places a significant emphasis on getting the kids outside every single day; whether it’s beach sessions, forest walks, or visits to their own educational farm or canapé forestier, they place nature at the core of their educational approach. 

Did you know...

Reggio Emilia pedagogy was developed by Loris Malaguzzi in the Northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia, which still remains the heart of the movement. The core values of this approach to education are that each child is the primary architect of his or her own learning rather than a traditional didactic approach, that the learning experience must be multi-sensorial, and that children possess ‘languages’ other than spoken language which they use to construct and communicate their understanding. Being a Reggio-inspired school requires a journey, commitment, and investment of a lifetime for the school and its educators.

We took a brief tour into the room where the children were gathered around tables sharing a snack. There was lively conversation and laughs–again, a warmth and familiarity exuded from the space and its people.

A huge paper-maché rocketship loomed over us as we entered and my son’s face erupted into a smile. He ran inside the small door of the rocket ship and I quickly reacted, telling him not to touch, to be careful, to not go in. Marion and Jelissa laughed–‘but of course he can touch and go in! That’s the point!’ And they explained a previous project they had been working on with the children which had turned into this group project of designing and constructing this ginormous rocket. My son sat in its hearth, his eyes huge with wonder; you could almost see the gears in his mind shifting and grinding away; his imagination taking flight.

It was hard pulling my kids away from this visit, and in all honesty, I kind of wanted to stay longer too. This is the environment of l’écoline–it’s a place that welcomes you to come exactly as you are and celebrates and empowers the unique characteristics that make up each individual. It’s a place that gives each student a firm foundation– an appetite to become lifelong learners. And isn’t that what we want for our children? Isn’t that what we want for our future?

If you are interested in learning more about l’écoline (do you have kids who are or will be in 1P or 2P? Are you looking for a pre-school option for your child? Want to inquire about their workshops and ateliers?) you can reach them via their contact form here.

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