New Milford's French Academy Offers a Dual Learning Experience
Utilizing both French and English educational practices, students are inspired to learn.
Serving approximately 160 students from pre-school to the fourth grade, Anne-Sophie Gueguen, Founder and Executive Director of the French Academy of Bilingual Culture, believes that a curriculum based on bilingual education effectively impacts a young child's development and instills them with a "larger toolbox" of skills.
The school, located in St. Anastasia's, is a non-profit private school. According to Gueguen, approximately 30 percent of the students are children of French expatriates, while the other 70 percent have some or no French spoken at home.
"There are children from all over the world who attend the French Academy," Gueguen said. "26 countries are represented in our student body."
"A bilingual education embraces multiculturalism," Gueguen said. And multiculturalism opens the students minds to the larger world around them, she said.
Looking for a dual education for her children in Bergen County, Gueguen decided to open the school in 2007. She began with pre-schoolers and a staff of three. Today there are approximately 300 students and a staff of 55.
"The curriculum that the Academy offers combines the best of two educational systems," Gueguen said.
Having both native French and English speaking teachers, the Academy stresses collaboration in teaching the common core courses and the curriculum defined by the French Ministry of Education.
Gueguen said that the way in which the curriculum is presented at the Academy is designed to encourage critical thinking. There is an emphasis on writing out answers to questions, "filling the white space" rather than multiple choice options. There is also an emphasis on study skills and science, math and reading begin at the earliest ages in the school.
"Every moment is a learning moment, even for our pre-schoolers," Gueguen said. "At lunch they count, recognize the shapes of what is before them and learn about colors and textures."
Every month the Academy reinforces what the students are learning by offering assemblies or taking them on trips to the museum. In studying medieval culture, they visited the Cloisters.
"We want to connect their abstract learning to a visual experience," she said.
Guenguen says that studies have shown that bilingualism enhances a young student's potential for grasping abstract ideas, symbolism, conceptualization, and problem solving.
Education begins at a very young age at the French Academy. Starting at the age of two, children receive approximately 90 percent of their instruction in French. As the children age, the number of hours taught in English incrementally increases so that by the fifth grade, they receive an equal amount of teaching in French and English.
With each year Gueguen intends to offer another grade level until she reaches the eighth grade.
With a satellite school already established in Morris Plains, Gueguen is in the process of opening another French Academy in Jersey City this September.