Another school year begins, also for the youngest ones. In Lleida , the Escoles Bressol Municipal (EBM) network offers 1,036 places for students from 0 to 3 years old distributed in the 18 educational centers that the city council has in the city. Although schooling at this early age is not compulsory, the pedagogical philosophy of this project has become a European benchmark for other nursery schools . They flee from the term kindergarten , they are quality public educational centers that promote the development of children in a welcoming environment that facilitates learning, experimentation and autonomy.
Children of one year share a classroom with a maximum of twelve students. With them are two teachers and some reinforcement educator. Depending on the trimester, a trainee is added to the team. In the elder classes, they can be a score. Those of the youngest, newborns with at least 4 completed months, can not be more than 8, have bottles and quiet spaces for mothers to feed the infants. Mireia Moliné, the director of the Escola Bressol de Balafia, explains that “now the walls are empty, but little by little they will be filled with the results of the workshops and the activities that the students will be doing”. And he continues: “Each classroom is different, distributed in corners of activity in which children will know the different languages, from the musical to the mathematician or the plastic”.
Each school has its own projects but the 18 centers share the same philosophy in which the main objective is to foster a welcoming school adapted to the physiological, emotional, social, play and autonomy needs of each child. For this, the more than one hundred teachers of the network participate throughout the school year in joint training programs, visit schools with different characteristics and even lead European cooperation programs such as Comenius or Erasmus Plus.
Fantasy at the service of learning
In Balafia’s nursery, one of the classrooms looks like a small theater. There are puppets, costumes, mirrors, hats and a long list of accessories to explain stories. The adjoining room has walls covered with slates, placed at ground level. Some are for drawing with markers and others, more conventional, for colored chalk. Above, almost on the roof, a structure serves to dry the works of art that will decorate the walls and corridors of the center. There is also paint of hands, of fingers, to paint with rollers, with brushes, waxes and tampons to stamp.
In a corner of each classroom there is also a mini library. In some of the schools children can even take the books home with their loan card. Near the diaper changing room and the bathroom, several small shelves keep the experimental gadgets. Pineapples, wood, sponges and all kinds of objects that, by their materials, shapes, colors or smells, awaken the senses of the smallest. Wooden puzzles and abacus color the corners of mathematics. The symbolic game, the one that reproduces scenes from everyday life, is always a success. In the classes of the EBM there are small grocers, medical consultations, dollhouses and kitchens.
In the playground, children’s games, bikes and scooters share space with the orchards and sandy areas. In them, the children themselves will plant and take care of their vegetables for weeks until they can eat them. In this way the child approaches nature, which also, to encourage the consumption of fruit, will eat seasonal fruit every morning in the classroom.
The neighbors pushed the project
The mayor of Lleida, Àngel Ros, explains that “the Escoles Bressol were born in the Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Lleida”: “I remember it perfectly because then I signed the payroll of the teachers, which were paid thanks to a subsidy from the City Council ” The first center opened in the neighborhood of Pardinyes in 1976 but quickly other neighborhoods copied the experience to become a first network, which would end up assuming the consistory and that depends on the Regidoria d’Educació i Infància. Ros says that “at the moment, the Escorens Bressol network is one of the most beautiful projects in Lleida” and adds that the city can boast of having “the highest ratio of public centers of 0-3 years per inhabitant of the state”.
Neus Àvila was one of the first teachers of that first center in Pardinyes. Today she is part of the team of the school of Balafia with about fifteen more educators and tells that in her first years as a teacher “there were mainly children of 3 and 4 years, since compulsory schooling started later”. Àvila, with three decades of experience behind him, explains that “spaces were being adapted in many other neighborhoods such as the Secà de Sant Pere, the Bordeta, the Blocks Juan Carlos or in Sucs” and adds that “what has evolved the most is the pedagogical proposal and the facilities “.
The schedule of the nursery schools is not a prolonged schedule and follows the teaching day of the superior courses. The head of the Technical Unity of the EBM of Lleida, Carme Roma, says: “We are aware that other types of centers offer other longer hours, but we must understand that we do not work under the same concept in terms of Education.” “The schedule is part of the pedagogical philosophy, since the children in the school have routines and habits, a play time and many activities scheduled inside and outside the classroom, in addition to the dining room and the siesta time, but We believe that time at home with the family is very important, “he adds.
In nursery schools everything is designed according to the size of the children, that is, less than one meter high. The doors have protective systems to prevent injuries to their hands and along the corridors, small windows allow students to see the patio. The heating goes below ground, which benefits the students who still crawl. In addition, this type of heating avoids having radiators with which children could burn.
The toilets, always inside the classroom so that the educators do not have to leave the class, do not rise more than two feet from the ground, like the pikes to wash their hands. Carlos Sáez, the architect of the Escola Bressol Municipal de Balafia, explains that “projecting a school for such small children has nothing to do with devising a primary school or an institute, because the protections, the warm materials and many of the details they were introduced in a joint work with the team of teachers who analyzed the needs of the children “. “I am very satisfied with the EBM projects that I was commissioned, since the ventilation systems, the facades with air chambers, the orientation or the mobile porches make these schools sustainable buildings and low energy consumption”, adds the architect.
Projects outside the classroom
In addition to life in the center, Bressol Municipal Schools have an intense activity outside the classrooms, ranging from swimming courses to trips to the Mitjana Park to discover the fauna and flora of the territory or visits to the city’s museums . One of the innovative cases presented as a model outside our borders is the project that Lleida’s network of children’s schools has been carrying out together with the Center d’Art La Panera for more than 10 years. The Bressol Escoles teachers and the educational service of the museum elaborate cultural proposals and contents related to temporary exhibitions adapted to children from 0 to 3 years old.
This week, in the many children -even babies- begin their very first schooling, they will be hard days of tears and adaptation. However, the adventure has just begun and little by little the routine of leaving home for a few hours will be filled with discoveries. With the help of the puppet theater, the garden, the two-hand wash basins, contemporary art and seasonal fruit, the young children of Lleida will experience new experiences and their first learnings. What they will not discover until years later is that, far away from there, in other nurseries in Europe, other children and teachers will learn from them and copy their method.