A group of 21 French immersion students at Ecole Davis Road are participating in a pioneer exchange program that has not only allowed them to immerse themselves in a culture thousands of miles from home, but will also give them the chance to bring that culture back to Ladysmith later this year.
Thanks to the efforts of teacher Sean Walsh and a fellow colleague, the Grade 6/7 students got to travel to Sainte-Croix, Que., for a one-week exchange through the SEVEC program, which paid for their flight. Each school involved is then responsible for fundraising for the activities planned during the exchange.
“It was a once-in-a-life opportunity,” said Meghan Henry.
The students arrived in Quebec on Feb. 8, and each student was paired with their host families. The next day, they were taught a traditional Québécois dance and spent an afternoon at Valcartier, a fun center with tobogganing, skating and go-karting.
“We were there for seven hours; they didn’t want to leave,” Walsh said.
Zach Morneau said the experience was one of his most memorable.
“It was like Mount Everest but like, eight times funner,” he said.
Some of the other activities they enjoyed included traditional Québécois dinners, Carnival, snowshoeing on a maple farm and shopping. The students also got to take in a Remparts hockey game before returning to Ladysmith Feb. 15.
Dog sledding proved to be the most popular activity.
“It was a really good, exciting experience. I was following what my mom did when she was little,” said Paris Hanke. “It reminds me a lot of driving a go kart but having to make the steering motions with your body instead of just your hands.
“It was like a roller coaster kind of, but with dogs.”
The children spent the weekend with their host families.
“They did all sorts of things like snowmobiling, horseback riding; they got indulged in the culture with the French families,” Walsh said.
The experience also allowed the students to test their life skills and French immersion education.
“It really pushed the limits of the kids to go and stay with a family they didn’t really know,” Walsh said. “Some of the kids had never even had a sleepover before and then they went and had a seven-day sleepover with a family that doesn’t speak English. They really gained a lot of independence.”
The class is now trying to raise funds for its side of the exchange. A group of Québécois students will be hosted in Ladysmith May 30 to June 6. Some of the activities planned include zip-lining in Victoria, a Transfer Beach day with kayaking, a trip to Whistler and a trip to the Horne Lake Caves.
Those wanting to help out can donate bottles at the recycling depot under the Sean Walsh account.