Diari Segre – “Immersió en Anglès nativa i des de ben petits”

El passat diumenge 2 de febrer Iemer Nursery tornava a aparèixer entre les pàgines del Segre!

Aquest cop donant llum a una meravellosa experiència realitzada la quinzena abans de les festes de Nadal; i es que no podia ser d’una altra forma quan s’ajunten dues dones tan emprenedores com Maria Dolors Romeu i Font, directora de Iemer Nursery i Hill Hessin, directora de Kiddiwinkles d’Irlanda; tot posant en marxa idees i projectes en comú, donen el seu punt de sortida amb un intercanvi, rebent aquí, al nostre centre, dues de les seves educadores, que durant tota la seva estada van formar part activa del nostre professorat, compartint, aprenent i gaudint del que més respectem. L’amor i l’ensenyament als infants.

Iemer Nursery is a pioneer among nursery schools in Lleida teaching in English.  This is not a matter of using English for one or two hours a week: English is the teaching medium in this school, which is directed by Maria Dolors Romeu.  Since all the teachers always speak in English, the young children interiorise it as naturally as they learn their mother tongue.  This school has taken the further step of starting an exchange with the English schools Kiddywinkles, some of whose teachers have come over for short periods, entertaining the possibility of further strengthening ties.

The neurobiologist David Bueno states that one of the biggest challenges for the infant brain up to the third year is to learn about and adapt themselves to where they live so that they can survive.  In order to do this, doctor of biology and professor of genetics at Barcelona University, reminds us that children learn to speak without anyone teaching them. They can learn any type of language, and mastering them is a huge advantage for the brain: the sooner they get to know them the better. The only problem for anyone who has three languages to learn is that it may take a little longer, but only one or two months.

Currently no-one is seriously discussing the importance of learning a language such as English, even though more and more children are encountering it, either at school or at kindergarten.  However, in Lleida there is a nursery school that leads the way in total immersion in this language.  For many years  Iemer nursery – directed by Maria Dolors Romeu, who previously taught in Cambridge, 80 kilometres from London – has accepted total immersion as a fundamental principle and English is the language medium used by all the teachers.  Now, however, a further step is being taken.  The teachers from Lleida have been temporarily supplemented by British teachers from the Kiddywinkles schools, directed by Jill Hessin. 

The children have heard at first hand the native English of the teachers and they, in turn, have learnt about traditions such as ‘El Tío’

Initially, before the Christmas holidays, two of these teachers, Irish in this case, spent two weeks at Iemer Nursery, where they supplemented the teaching staff.  This is an experience which they will repeat so that the children can stay in contact with the original language, as well as making video calls between children in English schools and the one in Lleida.  Hessin explains that she got to know Romeu at a course in London about the methods of the pedagogue Pikler (a philosophy that both centres share) and stayed in touch thereafter.  “It was a very positive experience and we want to keep coming and if possible introduce Spanish into our own school with the help of the teachers at Iemer.  Ireland is not a bilingual country and it has been a pleasant surprise for us to see how the immersion that is practised here allows such young children to understand English perfectly – stories, orders, phrases, questions …”  adds Hessin, and the two  resident teachers, Justin and Eileen, agree.  “They make themselves understood in English with everything that their two years allows them, of course, and they learn songs …” adds Eileen, who arrived hopeful and excited and left “having learnt many things and with the desire to return”. “The close and loving treatment the children receive is fantastic.  They have particular activities but the lessons are flexible in relation to the children’s needs.”  She confessed to being surprised by activities like yoga and mindfulness and the fact that a teacher came in to teach instruments like the violin.

An approximation to the Pikler philosophy

One of the philosophies (but not the only one, although the most important) imbibed by the Iemer nursery is an approximation of Pikler.  The pillars on which it is founded are autonomy and free movement, and the teachers seek to respect the evolving motricity of the children.  For this purpose, one of the rooms has furniture for playing on, following the teaching of Emmi Pikler.  The adult does everything with the child and does nothing to the child.  The most important thing is the freedom to observe, test out and overcome the obstacles autonomously.  Here they do activities, through English, such as music, ball-playing, yoga, mindfulness, listening to stories and playing with puppets, to mention just some of them, all with the aim of “making children happy, not making them into Einsteins”, paraphrasing Bueno, who emphasises that the pillars of this stage should be “music, arts and physical education.”   At Iemer they have made all this clear.

The exchange is positive and will continue

What is the value of the exchange?  The children have played and interacted with the British teachers completely naturally.  They have found neither the language nor the Pikler method strange and this reconfirms that the iemer Nursery project works.

Will it be repeated? The interaction and learning with native English-speaking teachers have been positive and will continue until the spring.  We also intend to make exchanges with families over there.

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