In the heart of Neuilly sur Seine, where Marymount Paris finds its home, winter days are winding down, days are getting longer, and spring feels just around the corner. The light at the end of the COVID tunnel beams brighter every day. On the horizon, we are acutely aware of the troubling global and political dynamics that inevitably impact our community of students from 40 different countries, speaking a panoply of mother tongues, and representing 16 religions.
In this delicate balance of both growing optimism and unsettling disquietude, Marymount Paris turned to the light and life that is the promise of our Founders with the unveiling of an exquisite educational Living Classroom.
While the expression of how we live out the RSHM tradition may adapt to suit the needs of our time, the call of humans’ intimate connection to the outside world is one that finds its roots in the founding of our school.
When Mother Butler sailed from New York to Europe to found the first Marymount school on the continent, she found a beautiful and stately property at 72 boulevard de la Saussaye after many months of travails in her research. Upon hearing of the prospect, Mother St. Constance reminded Mother Butler “il faut un jardin, mes enfants [it takes a garden, my children].” Since our outdoor learning project began in 2018, this memorable phrase carried the school through the intentional planning of the Living Classroom in the spacious, yet underutilized, gardens of our school.
We believe that outdoor learning for children is fundamental for a rich and balanced growth in crucial developmental areas; most notably, students’ self-identification as active and principled stewards of the 4 natural world. We aim to harness the green fingers of every student to take us all on a journey of learning with life itself.
Additionally, in the era of COVID-19, the importance of flexible, engaging, and year-round outdoor learning spaces takes on a special significance, having experiential interactions at its core.
Over the past several months, I spoke with many of our students as they watched the construction of the Living Classroom – I listened to them, answered their questions, and shared in their anticipation. And despite the challenges brought by COVID-19, the optimism was abundant to see life continuing and thriving in our Living Classroom.
Together, we imagined the rich, meaningful, and enduring knowledge they would acquire about themselves, their studies, and the world around them that could be enhanced by outdoor learning. In short, we imagined how they would learn about life – and their place in it. The Living Classroom is a new way for our school to express our commitment to the guiding vision of our Founders and their gift to us “that all may have life and have it to the full.”
Inauguration and Blessing
We celebrated the Living Classroom Inauguration and Blessing on March 8th. At the ceremony, one of our student speakers wisely developed the connection between our school project and Laudato Si when she quoted Pope Francis’ explanation that the Earth “was here before us and was given to us by God. It is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” She then rallied her fellow students and reminded them that once the ceremonial ribbon was cut, their important work as Marymount Paris environmental stewards began.
This was a poignant and touching example of the synodal journey of our global community that was eloquently expressed in Sr. Margaret’s Fielding’s letter on Founders Day. The Living Classroom Inauguration and Blessing reminded our school community of the multiple means of expression that we as lay people have at our hands to share in the charism of Père Gailhac as we increasingly accept the privilege and the responsibility of walking in the footsteps of the RSHM.