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.