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Interview de Fabienne BONIS pour The Time-Picayune

J'ai été interviewée par une journaliste locale pour évoquer l'ouverture de Country Day au monde et ai donc évoqué l'ouverture avec Saint-Jean.

Saint-Jean est mentioné dans le journal local - The Times-Picayune - de la Nouvelle-Orléans pour son échange avec le lycée et l'école primaire!

Fabienne BONIS 

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Metairie Country Day emphasizes foreign language, with early instruction and exchange programs

Metairie Park Country Day School challenges its students to wonder, question and explore the world around them. The spacious, oak-tree lined Old Metairie campus of this pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school emphasizes exploration in the school’s foreign language studies program.

Foreign language study begins at an early age at Country Day with the study of the French language, introduced to students in kindergarten. Lower School students in kindergarten through third grade participate in French classes, where basic vocabulary and French culture are taught. 

When a student enters the fourth grade, he chooses to continue with the study of French or switch to the study of Spanish. This continues through Middle School and Upper School. Students in the Upper School also have the option to study Latin as an elective. 

The goal of the Country Day foreign language studies program is to completely immerse the student in the language through classroom lessons as well as travel abroad. Trips abroad to France and Spain are offered to Upper School students, allowing them the opportunity to experience the language and culture being studied here at home, and also allowing them the opportunity to use these language skills learned in class. 

Carolyn Chandler, head of school at Metairie Park Country Day in Old Metairie, traveled to China in 2012 with a group of independent schools representatives from the United States. While there, she and the other representatives toured schools in China, met with Chinese educators and discussed the education system in China. 

Travel abroad for students has also been expanded to South Africa with a partnership with a sister-school in Cape Town, South Africa. Recently, through a trip to China, Country Day Head of School Carolyn Chandler has opened the doors to a possible partnership with a Chinese school.

Students who travel to France have the opportunity to live with a French family and attend classes at Saint Jean de Passy School in Paris, France. The students from Saint Jean de Passy School participate in a similar exchange program here in New Orleans where they are able to live with a Country Day family and attend classes at Country Day. 

Attending class is not the only part of the program. Students also explore the area where they are living, and are encouraged to participate and soak up the culture. Country Day French department chair and teacher, Mary Beth Ellis, says “the trips abroad for all of the students encourage diversity among people and allow for the students to get a sense of global acceptance.”

Lower School French teacher Fabienne Bonis says her students love learning about other areas of the world. Bonis is an “exchange teacher” hailing from Saint Jean de Passy School in France. In order to effectively teach the language, Bonis uses a variety of teaching methods including singing French songs, telling stories and playing games.

She is encouraged by her students’ enthusiasm for learning French and sees many similarities in her students here and in Paris. “Their interests are similar despite the language differences,” said Bonis when talking about her students. Bonis’ fifth grade students at Country Day are also pen pals with students in France, but instead of writing letters, the students use Skype to communicate with one another. Bonis said, “the students love it and can’t get enough of it.” 

In keeping with the idea of total exposure to a foreign language, the Country Day Spanish program includes travel abroad to Spain, and this year, has branched out with a teacher exchange program in partnership with the Colegios Peterson School in Mexico City. Country Day teachers Angela Beerman, Chris Nichols and Meb Norton “switched places” with Colegios School teachers Zulema Gabriel, Cristalina Emelia Segura and Danielle Melgoza.

In addition to classroom work here and in Mexico City, each teacher had the opportunity to discover the culture surrounding him/her through exploration of the host cities. Country Day Lower School fifth grade teacher Angela Beerman enjoyed her time in Mexico City.

“The students I taught were polite and courteous and eager to learn,”  Beerman said. She continued, stating that the parents of her Mexican students want the same things for their children as American parents want for their children: good, quality education that will prepare them for the future and the world around them.

Beerman also said she saw improvement in her students’ language skills, stating that educational strategies she used were helpful to improving her Mexican students’ English language skills. Her counterpart at Country Day, Daniell Melgoza, enjoyed her stay in New Orleans and loved the city and its rich history. She noticed many similarities with her students here and in Mexico City, stating that “kids are kids no matter where one lives.” 

Because the world is ever changing, Country Day has formed a partnership with Cedar House School in Cape Town, South Africa. Like Country Day, Cedar House School is an independent school located in the suburbs of a large city, and includes a diverse mix of students. During a two week period in the Fall of the school year, Upper School students from Country Day along with Country Day Upper School American history and civics teacher, Charles Cowherd, travel to Cape Town, South Africa, where they live with host families and attend classes at Cedar House School. In the spring, Cedar House students travel to New Orleans to live with their Country Day student and attend classes at Country Day. 

The Cedar House students also spend time touring New Orleans and the surrounding area and participate in a study of civil rights history. Charles Cowherd said, “both Country Day and Cedar House are similar in their educational philosophies, so it’s a good match for our students and theirs.”

In addition to their stay in Cape Town, the Country Day students also spend time in the rural village of Bulungula, located in the Western Cape of South Africa. It is here that many of the students get a first-hand glimpse of life in South Africa. For many of the students, this portion of the trip has the most impact on their lives.

Country Day Senior Brenna Weber was able to participate in the South Africa exchange program. She still stays in touch with her host family from Cedar House, but it was her stay in Bulungula that affected her most profoundly. When she speaks of her time in this rural village, her eyes light up with enthusiasm and her voice fills with pride and excitement. 

“We lived in huts with only one light in the center,” Weber said. “We had to do many things for ourselves such as heating water for a shower.” She also said there were many children in the village who were curious about the Country Day kids. These children wanted to know everything about America and the lives the students led back home. Weber was amazed at how happy and energized these children were every day despite the fact that they had very little. “I took a picture of some of them with my phone and showed it to them,” Weber said. “It was the first time many of them had ever seen themselves!” Moments such as these make Weber want to continue her studies abroad while in college.

Because of the type of impact these experiences have on the students and participating teachers, Country Day is exploring the possibility of an exchange program with a school in China. In the fall, Head of School Carolyn Chandler had the opportunity to travel to China with a group of Independent School representatives from throughout the United States. The group was able to tour different Chinese high schools and participate in conferences with Chinese educators. The schools were government run schools with an emphasis on science and math. 

Chandler was able to discuss with Chinese educators their approach to education. She was also fortunate to meet some Chinese educators who are forward thinking and are working to incorporate more creative expression into the learning process in China. One school Chandler visited was a school in Shanghai where the traditional Chinese program was taught, but there was also an American based curriculum with language and the arts encouraged. 

Howard Hunter serves as Country Day’s academic dean and teaches history in the Upper School. Part of his job is to help students and faculty bring these experiences home to the classroom so the entire Country Day community will benefit. Hunter feels that these foreign exchange programs are not just for enrichment, but “are essential to the education process due to a constantly changing world.

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