Students at Elbow Valley Elementary School highlighted French language and culture last week with cultural lessons and fun activities, including the creation of a colourful ice sculpture.
Half of the students at Elbow Valley Elementary School are taught in English, while the other half are taught in French as part of the school’s French immersion program. Students from both streams took part in the school's annual French Culture Week activities that ran from Feb, 28 till March 4.
According to the assistant principal at the school, Alanna Berger, this week is important in bringing the students together to share the knowledge of Canada’s historic French culture.
“We’ve had French immersion in Elbow Valley since about the 1970s and we were often a divided program,” Berger said. “We often had the French program and the English program and we really want to move away from that and unite our community.”
Berger said she hopes families from the community can join the celebration next year.
“It's a beautiful way to help people be informed about what we do and what's wonderful about French immersion and the French program,” Berger said.
The week began with a virtual presentation by Folklopholie, a French-Canadian group that performs traditional Francophone dances and teaches the kids songs.
“They're very engaging and the kids had a really great time,” Berger said. “Normally we would have them come in as a presentation to our school and the kids would get to participate and go up and join the festivities. But unfortunately, we just weren't sure we were able to do that with COVID-19.”
The presentation introduced the students to Francophone culture and got them excited about the week of activities that would teach them what French culture looks like in Canada today, Berger added.
The following day, students created an ice castle outside, using colourful blocks of ice.
“It's so beautiful outside today, it's 15 C and our ice sculpture is melting like crazy, but it's stunning and it's just a work of art,” Berger said on the day of the event.
Some of the other cultural lessons throughout the week included learning about Le bûcheron and the Métis.
Le bûcheron are French-Canadian culture lumberjacks, Berger explained. The kids learned an old lumberjack song, completed crafts, and were taught the history of le bûcheron.
“Le bûcheron were the French people in Quebec – the lumberjacks that paved the way for the people,” Berger explained. “Le bûcheron is kind of an icon, I would say, for the French Canadians. It's just kind of a way of life passed down from generations.”
Lessons about Le bûcheron included stories of the explorers, the settlers, and the voyageurs that trekked across Canada.
While the Métis and French Canadians were two distinct populations, throughout the fur trade period, they constituted the same community, Berger explained, making them an important part of French culture.
She described the Ceinture Fléchée as a notable symbol of Métis culture, which is a colourful finger-woven belt or sash worn by voyageurs of the fur trade and adopted by the Métis people.
She said the sash is a traditional piece of clothing from lower Canada and Canada East as they moved throughout Canada.
“All the French immersion kids know what it is so we kind of help teach the English kids all about it. That's really fun,” Berger said.
French Culture Week came to a close on March 4 with jersey day, where students dressed in their sports jerseys and sang a French hockey song to celebrate Canada.
Berger said for some students, French Culture Week is their favourite week of the school year, and they love all the activities and lessons.
She added that it’s important for the Anglophone students at Elbow Valley Elementary to understand what the French immersion students learn about, and to have all students participate in the fun activities together.
“It's a way for us to bring the community together, to establish the community, and to help our whole school understand what we're learning about, why we're learning about it, and why it's important in our school and in our province,” Berger said.