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Immersed in culture

Andrew Rankin
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 10, 2010

INUVIK - In the days leading up to their 10-day Quebec adventure, the group of Grade 5 and 6 French immersion students from Sir Alexander Mackenzie School could barely contain their excitement.

That excitement turned to anxiety when the 13 girls and boys realized they'd have to speak French ... all the time.

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A group of Grade 5 and 6 French immersion students went on a 10-day excursion through Quebec last month. From left, Tristin Blake-Grandjambe, Emily Rutherford, Colin Johnston, Darcie Setzer, Peace Ankamah, Aurora Donovan, Chelsea Greenough, Nina Verbonac, River Ross, Deklen Crocker, Arlo Clarkson and Alex Skinner. Missing from photo is Lovelle Simon. - photo courtesy of Nadine Wagner

The reality set in quickly when they prepared to order their first meal at a restaurant in their second language.

"They were shocked at first," said their immersion teacher Nadine Wagner. "They were really nervous, wondering 'how do I do this'? But they survived."

They got plenty of praise for their French-speaking skills at the inn where they were staying. Every day staff members there organized activities for the students from nature walks to dancing lessons. They also got to try some real Quebecois cuisine.

But that was only part of what the kids experienced with the group of teachers and chaperons they travelled out of Inuvik with on May 14.

They took a walking tour of old Quebec City, where they visited museums and marvelled at the romantic architecture.

Classmates Darcie Setzer, Chelsea Greenough, and Deklen Crocker all agreed the experience had a profound impact on them and hoped one day they might take up residency there.

"It was really beautiful," said Setzer.

Crocker couldn't agree more.

"There was lots of history and lots of beautiful buildings and lots of tourists," he said.

Besides scooting over to Montreal for a day visit, the group also got a taste of circus school at the Ecole de Cirque de Quebec where they learned and took part in all kinds of circus performances from juggling to trampoline acts.

"That was so great," said Setzer.

The kids and their parents held numerous fundraisers throughout the year to pay for the trip. Wagner said besides exposing the students to French culture, the aim of the trip was to reward them for their hard work.

"I was really proud to see the effort they made to communicate in French," she said. "There was never a dull moment."

Crocker said he understands the importance of speaking French because it's a nice language and it "opens doors" for him.

But he admits he's aiming to play in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs so perhaps he might not be able to speak it as much as he'd like, unless of course he travels to Montreal.

"I'd like to talk to my fans there," he said.

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