Pregny site of Ecole Internationale’s Campus des Nations is located in the quiet leafy area on the right bank of Lake Geneva, close to the United Nations and the Red Cross buildings. The school in Pregny is the smallest in the Ecole Internationale, taking around 180 students from 3 to 7 years old. It is housed in a lovely purpose-built building surrounded by a large playing area and sports grounds.
I arrived to a group tour a little early, so I had a chance to enjoy the small garden outside of the entrance and study the curriculum displayed in the corridor. Ecole Internationale’s Campus des Nations teaches the four programmes developed by the International Baccalaureate organisation. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) was developed for the youngest children and is divided into the units of inquiry, which combine knowledge across different subjects. I was later told that mathematics is also taught as a separate stand-alone subject, but it is up to a teacher to decide the programme for each class.
The units of inquiry are usually the same for all years (from pre-reception to year 2), but they are studied on the different levels getting progressively more difficult. You can read more about PYP curriculum here.
In addition to the curriculum, the corridor was decorated with children’s art works, class photos and even an aquarium with several gold fish. More unusually, the walls were also covered with what must be the Ecole Internationale’s values like “Thinkers”, “Creativity”, “Empathy”, “Tolerance”, “Independence”, “Integrity” etc. The words were printed in different languages including Swedish and Korean with or without English translation.
After a short introduction in the Miss Becci Lee’s office, the principal, we were taken on a tour of the school. The classrooms of the younger children are located around the shared space complete with a puppet theatre and costumes for dressing up. As we were walking through the school, the children had a class there discovering the story about jack and the beanstalk, counting the beans and jumping around the stalk. I loved this idea of getting the young kids from their classroom and teaching them in such a playful way.
I was also impressed by another class painting self-portraits while listening to classical music. In year one a girl gave us a thorough explanation of the chic hatching project they were doing. The class was studying about the life cycles and, as part of the practical task, the children were watching the chicks hatch in the incubator. One of the chicks was not very well at all, and while it may have been a bit disturbing to watch it was very educational and eye opening for young children.
We also had a chance to see the library, where children were choosing the books for home reading. In addition to English and French books, there was a section with books in several other languages mainly donated by the parents. Miss Lee explained that some children come to Ecole Internationale without speaking a word in either English or French and for them it is very comforting to find the books in their own language.
English is the language of instruction in Ecole Internationale’s Campus des Nations, but French is also taught to a high level. In pre-reception and reception there is a French speaking assistant in the classroom. In years one and two four units a week are dedicated to either English or French. As in other campuses of Ecole Internationale, children can also have extra-curricular classes to support their mother tongue.
The indoor gym is located in the basement and there was an improvised stage for school performances. However, I noticed quite a strong smell of damp in the basement and I was very pleased when we went outside to explore the school grounds.
The outdoor space was undoubtedly my favourite part of the Pregny school. In addition to the well-equipped sport grounds, there is a large playground in the shade of the trees all covered in flinders for a more natural feel. I was particularly impressed by the mud kitchen and the outdoor classroom, constructed by children and parents working together. I also loved seeing a small flower garden where each class had their own planting spot.
I am a firm believer that kids should spend as much time as possible outside and it was great to see a school so close to Geneva city centre with so much outside space and facilities. Even more, I was happy to see that children were learning not only at their desks, but also while playing, working in the garden or staging a play. Everywhere I saw happy, involved children, who clearly enjoyed being at school.
You can read more about Ecole Internationale and the difference between its campuses here.