The Beauvallon School, a pioneer in active pedagogy

In 1929, Marguerite Soubeyran founded a unique school of its kind in the Drôme, the first coeducational school with active pedagogy in France. A republic of children in the middle of nature, where boys and girls from 3 to 17 years are taken care of who are suffering, ‘misfits’. In 1972 she was interviewed by French television at her school in Beauvallon.

Marguerite Soubeyran : “We should always put the children in a situation of success, never in a situation of failure, that’s the most important thing here. Failure is an accident. Success is life.”

The basis of a unique place

In the late 1920s, Marguerite convinces her brothers, major Protestant landowners, to fund an educational adventure. Marguerite Soubeyran : “We bought land open to nature. Because a school has to be open. She must open her door to the world, and the world must come, and we can go out: so we took a field where there was nothing. There isn’t even a road to get there. The child should be in a quiet environment. What could be quieter than the countryside? We also did a lot for the flowers. We believe in creating an environment of beauty for children. It’s a big part of education. We have put flowers everywhere and planted many trees. How many people have said to me, “How can you have all those flowers, with your difficult children?” I always answer them, “But do you think they don’t like flowers as much as you do? That they can’t be interested in flowers if you show them they’re theirs, it’s because they’re planted?” And by the way, we’ve never had any problems!”

A pupil of the Beauvallon School, in 1972 : “We can do whatever we want! During the break we are free. We can go on set to make our huts…”

Trained by the pioneers of new education in Switzerland, Marguerite invented her own method based on making children responsible. Marguerite Soubeyran summarize the principle as follows:Discuss with them everything we are going to do at school, both adults and children. And together manage to establish a set of simple laws that will ensure that the house works harmoniously and without any problems. So we set up ‘meetings’. I couldn’t be in a school without a meeting. It is the backbone of the school.

A pupil of the Beauvallon School, in 1972 : “Here we could say what we had in mind without complex or anything.”

The welcome, or the motto of “Tata Marguerite”

School life is organized around the garden with its swimming pool, cycle routes, its small tables in the refectory and its dormitories – close to family habits – the election of pupils who check the cleanliness of the hands, and the trust between adults and children (those with talk to each other). An effect that Marguerite Soubeyran details as follows:The big ones help the little ones, the little ones also raise the big ones, it all goes together. We have elderly people in the house, couples with children, in order to have the most humane possible environment, as natural as possible for the children we receive.

In this oasis of tranquility, the motto is hospitality and friendliness. Beginning in the 1930s, Beauvallon welcomed refugees fleeing the war in Spain and Jews seeking to escape anti-Semitic persecution in the same way. From 1942, intellectuals such as Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet, Emmanuel Mounier or Pierre Seghers also went into hiding, as did dozens of Jewish refugee children. False papers, active resistance networks in the region, shelters in solidarity families protected Jewish children from the roundups by the Vichy government. In 1969 Marguerite is recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

Marguerite Soubeyran : “When I was 10, I read a book where there were abandoned children, unhappy children. I will not have children, I will adopt children and I will take care of children.”

“In the darkest hours of France, thanks to the fairies of Beauvallon for their silent demonstration that there is no reason to despair of man…” Louis AragonJuly 1942, in the Beauvallon School guestbook.

Marguerite Soubeyran “I was very surprised when I heard directors of children’s homes say: ‘You are nervous when you are 50. You can’t go any further. You have to retrain or do something else. I was stunned because I think that on the contrary, we learn the with the children all the time It is a way to stay young, to be able to continue living We are obliged to pay attention to all events, to the society that is forming around us to adapt our school throughout the We can’t stay static, we have to move forward Otherwise it won’t work We have to retrain ourselves, ourselves and the school It’s a way to live as long as possible For my part, I’d like to stay with us for as long as possible stay with them, not to leave them.”

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