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Embracing all things français

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Charleswood may not be as synonymous with Winnipeg’s Francophone community as St. Boniface, but that didn’t stop students at École Charleswood School from getting their hands greasy and boots full of snow to celebrate a slice of French culture last week.


"It’s a language learned in the classroom, but there’s also a culture that needs to be experienced," said Sylvie McLaughlin, one of the school’s French immersion teachers who organized the day-long event.


"We’re getting them to build a sense of community."


Some 80 students in the school’s French immersion stream took part in cultural dance lessons, cooking classes and snow sculpting.


In the school’s basement, students tapped and clacked their heels to a number of traditional and modern dances, from jigging to jazz to hiphop. In the home economics room, others fought through tears as they sliced and diced onions, while the meat for tourtière bubbled and boiled in pots.


Outside, another couple of dozen students did what they could to pack and carve unco-operative, powdery snow into the shapes of globes, animals and SpongeBob SquarePants.


The school’s French teachers banded together to bring the cultural day to the school for those students who couldn’t take part in an eight-day cultural exchange to Quebec, which returns home March 5, McLaughlin said.


"It’s important for the kids to realize that we’re trying to make them live (the culture a bit)," she said, noting most of the students have been taking French immersion at nearby École Dieppe and École Tuxedo Park schools.


"At the teenage level, we need to engage them more."


Drew Derksen has been taking French classes since Grade 1, though admits he doesn’t get to use the language much outside of the classroom.


Now in Grade 8, Derksen said the activities, along with an upcoming French-language debate he’ll take part in this April, are a chance to learn more about francophone culture, he said.


"I haven’t experienced much French culture before, it opens my mind a bit," he said.


"It gives me a chance to speak French more with my friends and have more conversations in French."


For more, visit www.pembinatrails.ca/charleswood.

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