Author: Chaithanya Yalamanchili
The adolescents of the Erdkinder program at Pragnya Montessori School visited Collège Montessori de Lyon in Lyon, France. Collège Montessori de Lyon is a Montessori adolescent program in Lyon and they have graciously hosted us for a week. Collège Montessori de Lyon is founded by Dr. Manuel Penin who is also the Program Director of the school. He is ably assisted by his colleagues Emmanuel Denoyer, Huguette Torres and Chelsea Moulton who take up various responsibilities in the Erdkinder program.
Our trip was scheduled from 7th April to 16th April 2019, but the planning started as early as January. The adolescents of our school planned and executed the trip on their own. Their adolescent guide, Chaithanya Yalamanchili, collaborated with them as they worked on the documentation to get their visas processed. The adolescents took complete ownership of this task and collected all the required documents from their parents. They even went to the consulate and attended visa interviews on their own to procure their visas. The adolescents at Pragnya Montessori wanted to share their culture with their French counterparts. They planned to cook an Indian meal for them, show them some Indian arts and they made pencil stands out of wood for the school in Lyon. It was a mesmerizing experience to see the adolescents take up responsibilities and accomplish real-life tasks as they planned their visit.
We reached Lyon on the night of 7th April and the parents of Collège Montessori de Lyon received us in Lyon. Our students stayed at the homes of the French students for a week and experienced French culture firsthand. Our hosts were very considerate of our culture and our food habits and they have accommodated us keeping them in mind. The French students and their families ensured our comfort and safety and integrated us into their families. By the end of the trip, our students enjoyed their care and hospitality.
On the first day, we attended a drama class along with the French students. The students of Collège Montessori de Lyon were working on a play and we have joined them for a lesson in Drama. The drama guide at Collège Montessori de Lyon only spoke French and he communicated with our students through action and rhythm. The students played games which required movement and communication and thoroughly enjoyed it.
After the drama session, our students were invited to cook lunch. Dr. Manuel Penin guided our students and they prepared a three-course French meal for the school. It was a novel experience for our students and they enjoyed every bit of it. We made Gratin Dauphinois for main course, a traditional French dish with Potatoes, milk, cheese and cream. After lunch, some of the students took up arts while others helped in the kitchen. We were visiting the farm on 8th April and the students prepared sandwiches for lunch at the farm.
The French adolescents made the sandwiches quite meticulously. They asked each and everyone for the ingredients of their sandwich and make it according to their tastes. It was a well-coordinated effort by the adolescents and they accomplished it effortlessly.
On 8th April, we went to the farm which is about an hour’s drive from the school. We took the metro and a bus to reach there. It is an agricultural research facility and the adolescents from Collège Montessori de Lyon assist them in various activities. Students from Pragnya joined them in the farm and worked on clearing spaces and shifting compost. We had our lunch at the farm and came back to school.
9th April was a holiday and some of the French adolescents decided to take us for lunch to a Pizzeria and then visit a park. We met them at noon and the French adolescents took us to a Pizzeria. They guided us through the city streets and took us to lunch. The staff in the restaurant only spoke French and so the French adolescents translated for us and ordered on our behalf. It is really heart-warming to see these young adults taking up our responsibility and ensuring that we have a good time. After lunch, they took us to Parc de la Tête d’or, which is the biggest park in Lyon. The adolescents played football, catch-catch and other games in the afternoon. One of the French Students, Wassila, was a gymnast and she gave us a lesson or two in acrobatics.
On 10th April, the French students organized an outdoor activity for us. They took us to the Trampoline park. They came up with this idea for outdoor activity after a lot of deliberation. They planned the finance and the travel to the park. They made sandwiches for lunch which we ate at the park and immersed ourselves on the trampolines.
On 11th April, adolescents from Pragnya Montessori cooked an Indian lunch at the school. We made Vegetable Pulao, Aloo Kurma, Raitha and Double ka Meetha. The Indian adolescents planned these dishes and learnt their preparation before their trip to Lyon. It was a challenge for our students to cook in a French kitchen and they willingly accepted it. While their adolescent guide only assisted in their work, the Indian adolescents planned the meal and cooked it. They have done a terrific job with the lunch. Even without the cooking equipment they usually use, they managed to cook the meals to perfection. We overshot the lunch time by an hour but that didn’t deter the adolescents to garnish and decorate their food after they cooked it. What we provided them is not just with the food, but an Indian experience and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of them even took leftovers home for their families to taste.
On 12th April, Dr. Manuel Penin took us and a few French adolescents to visit some historical places and museums in Lyon. We visited the old town and Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, one of the prominent churches in Lyon. We went to Musée des Confluences, a museum which displayed the origins of life and taxidermies of various animals. The museum had videos and clips of evolution of life. There was digital infographic which let its users trace the genealogy of any animal back to its single celled ancestors. This caught our adolescents’ interest and they were engaged in exploring it for a long time. It leapt straight out of the kingdom Animalia work in Elementary and they were able to see the connections between different life forms. After an hour of exploration, we went back to our homes. I was delighted to hear that the adolescents really appreciated their time in the museum and thanked Manuel for taking them there.
On, 13th April, we took a train to Paris and bid goodbye to the school and the families. We are very grateful for their hospitality and their efforts to ensure that we had a good time in Lyon. Our students even got parting gifts from the families and they were happy they visited Lyon.