Next fall, Ecole Emilie-Tremblay staffers will attempt to stanch the flow of students to other Whitehorse schools through a new experiential learning program.
Every year, Ecole Emilie-Tremblay loses students to Whitehorse’s English high schools.
By Grade 7, 50 per cent of the students have left the school for the English stream.
“Since we have a small school we cannot really compete with bigger high schools in terms of option courses and things like that, so we decided to create a whole new program for them,” said Andre Bourchier, president of the French School Board.
“Some kids want to be within a bigger school, some want to be elsewhere because they’ve been there forever and some want the opportunities of more options.
“The idea of the new program is really to offer something exciting so that the kids stay with us.”
Will French immersion students from FH Collins Secondary School be admitted to boost enrolment?
It depends on a student’s skill at reading and writing French, said Bourchier.
The program, dubbed Nouveau Secondaire, will see students learning multiple subjects while participating in one activity.
For example, the kids could go on a canoe trip and learn five subjects all at the same time.
They could test the water for a chemistry assignment while learning about the ecology of the lake for biology.
They could calculate distance and navigate using maps for math and geography.
At the end of the trip they could be required to write an essay for their French grade.
These kinds of experiential lessons will require two teachers per classroom to make sure all subject matters are covered.
“It’s asking us to let go of our specialties and become generalists,” said Grade 7 teacher Jean-Francois Boulin.
The territory will give Ecole Emilie-Tremblay $100,000 a year to fund this three-year pilot program, said Education Minister Patrick Rouble.
That’s enough to cover the salary of one teacher, said French School Board representative Martine Brisebois.
The school will be hiring two more teachers for the fall for the new program.
“We’ll be looking for people with special skills either in the arts or outdoors and we will also be looking for people who can teach multiple subjects,” said Bourchier.
The program will be based on three main lines of education.
The first is community volunteer work. In Grade 7, the students will be required to complete 10 hours of community service and they will work their way up to where they are completing 30 hours of service in Grade 12.
The second stream will be fine arts, where students will take part in theatre, photography and painting classes.
The third area will be the outdoors, where students will go on field trips, taking part in outdoor sports as well as outdoor research.
The secondary students at Ecole Emilie-Tremblay are being encouraged to develop passion for a subject and follow that subject through their high school years, said Brisebois.
This will culminate in a Grade 12 personal project, requiring a student to achieve something concrete that they can add to their graduation diploma.
For example, a student interested in outdoor recreation might train to become a qualified ski instructor at Mt. Sima and receive that certification by the time they graduate.
“We’re trying to create a challenging, interesting environment that will make them part of the community,” said Bourchier.
“For us what is most important is that the kids do participate in the francophone community, identify themselves with the French community and want to stay with us and do their lives in the Yukon speaking French and being francophones, so this is what the program is aiming at.”