By Bruce Dupeyron, 2015 Community Leadership Project, 2013-2014 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Policy Studies, University of Texas at Austin
By focusing on Francophone minority communities, the main goal of this project has been to support educational institutions, in facilitating the integration of francophone newcomers. Although this project has involved several categories of actors, management and teaching staff, children, parents and community members, we have quickly recognized that allowing children to be key players was a central aspect to this project. In this context, children have been the main actors of this initiative, which has supported their discovery and practice of various ‘francophonies’, thanks to teachers who also reflect this diversity from Canada, Africa, and Europe.
These young children are registered in the daycare Gard’Amis, in Regina, Saskatchewan, in groups of children aged 1 to 5, and in the only francophone summer camp in Regina, Camp Troubadou, for children aged 6 to 12. The needs of children in the daycare vary substantially with age, but similarities between the groups exist, namely storytelling, music listening, dancing, directed and free play, indoor and outdoor activities allow children to learn and speak French in different contexts. The project has supported those activities by fostering learning with a more diverse repertoire of francophone educational material. After two rounds of consultation with the teaching staff of the daycare, we have been able to identify a range of complementary material that can be used mostly indoors, for example books, audio books, and toys that reflect the cultural diversity in the daycare, so that children can be more fluent in French and socialize with their friends. For instance, music discs featuring francophone songs for memorizing vocabulary and dancing, or lullabies from different francophone countries before going to nap, have been worthwhile. Anecdotally, one of the teachers has brought our attention to the fact that, during naptime, one or two children might wake up earlier than the others, and need to have a quiet activity: it has been suggested that having a book light might help in reading a story to them, which has complemented nicely the books that have been selected. In addition, since books written by Robert Munsch are a favorite of older children in this age group, some of them have been chosen for reading times, which often lead to questions, further exchanges and games.
Moreover, Camp Troubadou has been welcoming children coming from different socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds. They may go to Regina’s francophone school or to French immersion schools. In other words, they may speak French, English or another language at home, but have spoken French throughout the summer, thanks to the variety of activities proposed by Camp Troubadou’s teachers, which have contributed to reinforce their linguistic skills and allow them to socialize with a diversity of friends. The goal of the project for this age group has been to stimulate children with a variety of historic, cultural and linguistic realities through visits, games, creation and presentation of plays… Specifically, some of the activities of the project have been materialized in the support of outdoor events, for instance a visit of CBC / Radio Canada Saskatchewan in French, outdoor games, and indoor activities, such as the discovery of culture and gastronomy of several countries, live games inspired by TV games, socialization and fun with board games, collective creation a show presented to families during the final week, involving a potluck.
When school resumes, Camp Troubadou’s teachers take care of the Club Enfant, a before and after school program, managed by Gard’Amis. One of the concerns we had was that the equipment purchased for the summer would be used during the school year, when indoor activities are prevalent. Children in the Club Enfant have a broader repertoire of activities they can choose from: beyond sports in the gym and existing games, they have now other options, such as music listening, multiple board games – from easy and fun ones to intellectually more challenging ones.
We have been pleased to see that this project has provided additional tools to teaching teams, in order to inspire and motivate children in being integrated in rich and diverse Francophone communities.
NB: Since some parents did not give use the authorization to use the image of their children, some faces have been blurred.
The video attached is one of the interludes from the show that was produced at the end of the summer of 2015. It was structured with little plays, in which children played different roles, with interludes played by Cédric Delavaud (teacher) and Kael Séguin Horth (child). Kael’s parents gave us a written consent for a public use his image.