A school in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc that attracts families from all over

Just ask the first graders where do you come from to see the popularity of the school and the village. They are several to raise their hands in response Montrealwhile others come from elsewhere in the region.

They have in common that their family chose to settle in this small town in the RCM of Maskinongé, particularly known for La Mauricie National Park.

But this success story is also one of community solidarity and mobilization. Because there were only about twenty students left, the regular educational institution had to close its doors in June 2004. A parent committee was then formed to revive it.

And in September 2005, the school was revived with an alternative calling. Of about fifty students who were right at the beginning of the adventure, the establishment now numbers 85, 95% of whom live in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc. And it is not the question that is missing, especially as the pandemic supports the director of the establishment, Stéphane Robitaille.

In the spring and summer of 2020 we had 20 new registrations. 11 families have settled in Saint-Mathieu. That is almost 20% of young people in one year!

A quote from Stéphane Robitaille, director of the establishment.

The École de la Tortue-des-Bois in Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc chooses the alternative method for its students

Photo: Radio-Canada / Francois Genest

Mr. Robitaille added that strong demand is limiting the capacity to welcome students from neighboring villages. The people of Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc, we welcome them automatically and we have to keep some space. This means that registrations from outside are refused every year. There is still a challenge and it is that of the kindergarten, so that is where we accept the ones from other villages most often.he said.

Environmental values

Since we are surrounded by lakes and forests in the village, the development of ecological responsibility and the connection with nature are central to learning and values. Moreover, every day starts here with a forest walk for the children. A way for them to putting ideas in their placesaid the director.

The natural aspect is present throughout the day, as the Ministry of Education’s program is integrated into outdoor activities, says Mr Robitaille, who has been running the establishment since its inception.

With the outings we learn science, we can also do French and maths! We can also spontaneously learn what nature has to offer us that day, depending on the season.

A quote from Stéphane Robitaille, director of the establishment.
Three girls are playing in a wooded area.

Regardless of the season, learning often takes place outdoors.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Francois Genest

One student, one project

Another aspect that distinguishes the school is that students have to carry out a personal project during the school year. Have the idea and develop it with the help of parents and teaching staff. Some organize student trips from A to Z, others plan the construction of a skate park

Sacha Dupuis, a boy from the third grade, will present his first play at the end of the lessons. He is responsible for everything! From the set-up of the set to the staging. He even auditioned for the roles of his classmates. The first role was assigned to him by chance!

Stéphane Robitaille strongly believes in this personal project philosophy. projets”,”text”:”Le jeune va mener à terme son projet qui lui est propre. Donc c’est pour développer la motivation et la confiance en soi. Il y a autant de projets qu’il y a d’élèves donc cette année, c’est 85projets”}}”>The young person carries out his own project. So it is to develop motivation and self confidence. There are as many projects as there are students, so this year it’s 85 projectshe argues.

A man posing smiling in a hallway

Stéphane Robitaille has been the director of the establishment since its inception

Photo: Radio-Canada / Francois Genest

Not only young people are involved in school. Parents too. With the alternative calling, they are called to participate in co-education with teachers and to support them in learning activities. This parental involvement combined with the natural aspect weighed on the balance when Éloïse Lavergne and her husband decided to move to Saint-Mathieu-du-Parc with their two children.

I wanted to be involved in the school and I had always told myself that I would like my boys to go to the Tortue-des-Bois. Here we are lucky enough to participate in the lessons and help the teachers. The natural side was essential. We knew they went for a walk in the morning before going to school, we thought it was super interestingargues Mrs Lavergne.

Rare houses for sale

But as in many rural places, houses for sale are rarer with the exodus of city dwellers seeking large spaces. Not to mention the popularity of telecommuting. To accommodate families, the municipality focuses on housing. There will be no short-term solution, however, mayor Claude Mayrand warns.

We have no land for sale and if there is, it is far from the village. But yes, we have many requests. In the autumn, work will be done on the construction of paths in the eco-district.

A quote from Claude Mayrand, Mayor

He wants to be able to make about ten lots accessible for new construction, probably in the spring of 2023.

While attendance in most primary schools at the Energy School Service Center has been declining since 1998-99, Tortue-des-Bois is showing positive growth. It serves as a model for other villages such as Saint-Adelphe, in Mékinac MRC, where an alternative school will open in the fall.

Data that according to the director shows that anything is possible when a community takes matters into their own hands.

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