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First Look - November 2016

Puy du Fou Académie Crafts New Realm of Park Education

In 2015, Puy du Fou theme park in Les Epesses, France, opened its own primary school, Puy du Fou Académie. The school welcomed 50 pupils ranging in age from nursery to mid-primary school. David Nouaille, the park’s deputy general manager and director of communications and marketing, explains the purpose of the school: “This original school, open to everybody, aims to convey Puy du Fou’s expertise to the very young, through the teaching and development of the qualities essential for performing arts. As a result of this exceptional educational project, pupils will be able to participate in our [park’s] shows.”

Nouaille says the school is based on a few fundamental principles:

  • Small classes, with a maximum of 15 students, ensure the personalized monitoring of each pupil and a schedule to suit each child’s individual progress
  • An education and training in artistic excellence based on the development and command of basic skills, like observation, memorization, reflection, and imagination, as well as an introduction to English to ensure they are “open to the world” at a very young age.
  • A common syllabus of theater, gymnastics, dance, and music. The instructors include seven primary teachers and four nursery-school teachers. All students also receive 250 hours of artistic training provided by four art educators who are members of the park’s show teams.

The school’s origins are in Puy du Fou’s internal training center called Junior Academy, which opened in 1998 and trains the park’s future managers, performers, and technicians on weekends and holidays. Today, more than 600 students are enrolled in one of Junior Academy’s 26 schools, which include costuming, dance, drawing, lighting, horseback riding, photography, and animal care, among others.

Nouaille says the close proximity of the park to the new academy is ideal because it’s a fantastic playground for the pupils and allows them to see what they could someday do. The academy has already proven a success, as the school’s enrollment more than doubled to 100-plus students when it began its second year in September 2016.

“Our challenge is to convince one child out of four to work for a Puy du Fou theme park as a manager,” says Nouaille. “It is a bet on the future, because they will be free to leave us of course, or to stay with us. [But] we strongly believe that more among them will probably want to work at Puy du Fou.”