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Belgium: "20 reasons" to love your elementary school!

The Borlon Community School in Belgium is a very small elementary school that has completely redefined its pedagogical project over the past few years and has gone from being a school threatened with closure to being overflowing with students! We had the chance to visit the school and see some of the ingredients of its success.

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Part of our team had the opportunity to go on an educational mission to Belgium at the end of January 2023, in the heart of Wallonia (the French-speaking region), to develop links with various educational stakeholders, including the eduLAB. On this occasion, some articles will allow us to share with our readers memories of key moments. 

We have already had the opportunity to tell you about the Borlon Community School in an article entitled Redefining pedagogy to save a small school: the history of the Borlon school. This time, we had the chance to go there to see the atmosphere. 

About 50 students from 2 years old to grade 6 are in the small building that was once almost deserted, but is now overflowing! They are divided into 3 classes and often work in multi-age projects. The proof is that when we visited, they gave us, in groups of three - young and old - a presentation of about twenty reasons why they can be superheroes in this establishment, in addition to giving us drawings that they had made for us. 

Here are some examples of why they feel like superheroes: 

  • Having larger student tutors paired with smaller ones.
  • The availability of iPad tablets for those who have difficulties, but also for better learning.
  • The possibility of making cabins in the woods.
  • Learning the game of chess.
  • The grade-free portfolio, in which they collect their "pride", replaces the report card and is presented by the students themselves at parent meetings.
  • Conduct school outside, when possible.
  • Class councils that allow students to share their pride in themselves or in others and to propose projects.
  • The hive and the care of the bees that produce honey. 
  • Reading every day, during which the older children can read to the younger ones.
  • Projects made with Minecraft.
  • Etc. 

Among these reasons, chosen by the teams - "and we had to limit them to 20, because they had identified so many", said one of their teachers - were elements related to the pedagogy and the environment, but also to the feeling of inclusion that reigned there. One girl explained to us, before burying her head in her teacher's shoulder, visibly moved, that she had been intimidated and unhappy in other schools before coming to Borlon this year, and that she now feels really good.

The well-being of young people comes first

This attention to the well-being of young people is evident in every member of the school's staff, starting with Jonathan Ponsard. He has made it his mission to restore the reputation of this school, which was once threatened with closure due to lack of students. 

Today, he integrates an alternative vision based on "positive pedagogy, multiple intelligences, chess, videogame pedagogy and the integration of digital technology in learning with the aim of developing the pleasure of learning". Of course, she has to train new colleagues, but in general, the results justify the extra effort to adapt to these ways of doing things, which are far from usual in Belgium. Moreover, it was with the desire to share his experience with other teachers that he set up the TechnofuturTIC, a space for training, sharing and educational and digital experimentation called theeduLABwith which École branchée has the pleasure to collaborate and about which we will have the opportunity to speak to you soon.

The municipal school of Borlon.

The schoolyard. 

In one of the school's classrooms.

Jonathan Ponsard and students from the school. 

Borlon's school superheroes hold class councils that make them very proud.

Audrey Miller and Stéphanie Dionne, from École branchée, are with Cassiopée Henaff from EduLAB and teacher Jonathan Ponsard, also EduLAB coordinator.

This mission was made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie du Québec within the framework of the 12th call for projects Quebec - Wallonia-Brussels.

About the Author

Audrey Miller
Audrey Millerhttps://ecolebranchee.com
Directrice générale de l'École branchée, Audrey détient une formation universitaire de 2e cycle en technologies éducatives et un baccalauréat en communication publique. Membre de l'Ordre de l'Excellence en éducation du Québec, elle s'intéresse particulièrement au développement professionnel des enseignants, à l'information à l'ère du numérique et à l'éducation aux médias, tout en s'activant à créer des ponts entre les acteurs de l'écosystème éducatif depuis 1999. Elle s'implique cette année notamment dans l'Association Edteq et en tant que membre du comité d'orientation stratégique de l'ACELF.

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