This week saw a grand celebration of francophone culture come to École St. Thomas Elementary. The French immersion school took part in a variety of activities celebrating Carnaval, an annual festival in Québec. Throughout the week students participated in a variety of French activities and winter fun.

Skating, outdoor games, toffee in snow and tug of wars are just some of the ways students got to celebrate the winter season. French language skills were also flexed through cultural activities, art and theatre workshops, and skyping with French author Mireille Messier. Director of Education for LCSD, Nigel McCarthy, says that the week’s excitement extends past the students.

“It’s been an exciting week, not only for the students but also for us as teachers, and certainly for those of us that work across the division. Because we get to come to a school where celebration is the norm. Day after day, it’s activity after activity, whether it’s doing la tire in the snow, whether it’s an arts celebration and a drama presentation, it’s just been an amazing week here at St. Thomas,” says McCarthy.

The celebrations helped teach the French immersion student about the country’s history all while having fun. McCarthy says that the culture is given a special flavour all it’s own. The week is partially driven by the francophone history in Western Canada, and all the small communities that held on to the French language.

“Whether or not it’s Morinville, it’s St. Albert, it’s Debden, it’s the area around Prince Albert. It’s all these small communities that are part of the fabric of Alberta and Saskatchewan that really give a local identity to what we do. That’s what’s really fascinating about the St. Thomas celebration; it’s French, but it’s French in the west.”

The educational component also helps with the student’s language skills. Jacqueline Peters, a grade four teacher at École St. Thomas Elementary, says Carnaval lets the children use French outside of the normal curriculum in many different ways.

“They sing, they act, they play sports. Today we played bingo all in French, so it’s just different ways of practicing our languages. Learning new vocabulary, learning a different culture, and all doing it a different way. Not like in a traditional classroom setting, we’re doing it and having fun,” says Peters.

Peters admits that Carnaval is one of her favourite times of the year. Her and her students both look forward to the francophone festivities.