Earlier this year Longlevens Junior School embarked on a Pan European Comenius Project which involved linking with schools in France and Italy to exchange and share experience of school life and the ways in which schools operate in each country. Normally, Comenius projects involve the staff and teachers from each school in a series of exchange visits. However, Lewis Cook, Modern Foreign Languages co-ordinator and the project leader at the school, provided several pupils from the school with a wonderful opportunity to become personally involved also. He arranged for 10 pupils to accompany 4 teachers on a trip to their ‘partner’ school, the Institution Sainte-Marthe, Draguignan, in the Provence region of France.
Lewis, who is an avid Francophile, felt that, following a visit to Draguignan earlier in the year, the environment and circumstances were ideal to allow the children to participate fully in the project by visiting the French school.
Obviously a lot of logistical planning and risk assessment was needed to ensure that the trip would be both successful and memorable. Meetings with the parents/pupils were held to communicate accurately what was being planned and to share the proposed selection process which would be undertaken by the pupils involved.
The selection process was in itself a learning experience for the children and included a letter of application, an interview, followed by a series of teamwork and individual exercises before the final 10 pupils were chosen. The process, which was equivalent to a Job Application Process, provided all the children with a valuable life experience at a very early age. Lewis also provided extra French tuition for the group in readiness for the trip.
Whilst there was some funding for the trip it was necessary to generate further funds to ensure all costs were covered. To do this a series of fund raising events were promoted and these accumulated over £500 which was allocated towards the spending money for the pupils.
After flying from Birmingham to Nice, they travelled by minibus to Draguignan where the teachers and pupils alike stayed at a hotel in the town. Not only did this allow the teachers to maintain supervision but it also allowed both parties to review their daily activities together.
The timetable of events and activities provided a variety of situations which engaged the children continuously and included joining the French pupils in classroom studies, performing a song in English for the school and exchanging communication addresses to allow Skyping, emails and pen pal letters – all of which enhanced the total learning experience!
The excursion, however, was not all ‘work’ as three out-of-school events were planned to give the children a real taste of French living.
Initially, there was a ‘Pétanque’ (or Boules) afternoon in the Town Square in which everyone joined in enthusiastically and a trip to the seaside proved to be an exhilarating exercise. However, last but not least, the finale involved spending an evening with a typical French family. Children and teachers were invited into the family homes of students from the school to be entertained and join in a typical French evening. This wonderful experience included an evening meal, which lasted up to 3 hours, and, as several families had invited close friends to the soirée, there was much to discuss and share. The evening proved to be a resounding success for everyone.
On return to Longlevens the group provided feedback from the trip to a full school assembly which gave them the opportunity to re-live their memorable experiences in France.
Let’s congratulate Lewis, Dave Smith, the Head teacher and the School for providing such a valuable learning experience for their pupils.