May 15, 2007
Students at Fort Kent Elementary School concluded the French Immersion After-School program on May 1. Approximately 40 students participated this semester in the program, which provided them with an opportunity to increase their French language skills in a fun and innovative way.
The four-week program was taught by the University of Maine at Fort Kent's pre-service teacher education students all who are fluent in French.
Activities and games were related to this semester's theme of "Springtime." Students participated in learning spring-related vocabulary words by playing concentration and charades. They also constructed origami frogs, held frog races, and made butterfly mobiles representing the butterfly life cycle. Because of the nature of an immersion program, all instruction for these activities was given to elementary students in French.
The last day of the program was a celebration with the children participating in an obstacle course in the school gym. Melissa, a grade 2 student, said, "The obstacle course was so much fun!" Third grader Joseph and fifth grader Robin both mentioned that they liked making the butterfly mobile. "It was fun cutting, gluing and putting it together." All children were able to bring home their products after each session. As the students left the school that afternoon, many said to their French teachers, "See you next year!"
University education students also thought this experience was a positive one for them. "I really enjoyed working with the students. They were very positive and motivated. It was a breath of fresh air being in the classroom," said Craig Hillier.
Julie Cameron agreed that she enjoyed working with the students as well. "I feel it is very important to have the hands-on experience. This program also gave me an excellent opportunity to work on my French and teaching skills."
Julie Clattenburg, Michelle Geldart, and Kerry Matthews all thought this was an excellent opportunity to practice what they are currently learning in their education courses at the university, while Amie Baker and Carolyn Power believed the experience also was important in providing them with a chance to practice using their French language skills.
It is hoped that in the near future, parents will be able to work with the university students and professors to be able to provide the French immersion program at the elementary school. It is vital for the reemergence of the heritage language that the parents and families of children as well as the community take a more direct role in the instruction of the French language.
Kate Harrington, Professor of French at UMFK, and Doris Metz, Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, would be happy to share their expertise as parents take over the major role in the attempt to revitalize the French language in the St. John Valley.