Whistler kids celebrate National Francophonie Week 

Sweet maple syrup and the traditional grub of beans, ham and eggs were just part of the week-long celebrations at L’Ecole La Passerelle for National Francophonie Week.

Sixty-one students took part in the event last week at Whistler’s French school, where they revelled in their culture and took pride in their heritage.

The big celebration in the gym, which included maple syrup treats and quiz games with French words, kicked off with one student running around the perimeter of the gym, holding the Franco-Colombian flag aloft to cheers from his fellow schoolmates.

"We wanted to promote all the cultural values because it’s not only about having another language," said Simonne Thériault, at the March 13 fair.

"It’s a micro-society that we try to recreate in an English environment.

"(Being francophone) is like being in an island that’s French."

To that end, the teachers use the National Francophonie Week to let the kids know that they are not alone, that there are francophone people around the world, celebrating that same culture, language and traditions.

Because they are spread out and because they live as a minority in Canada, it’s important to maintain that culture, said Thériault.

At the fair, seven-year-old Melanie Auger was hosting a word search for her fellow students.

"Every year we get together this week and play games and have fun to celebrate being French," she said, adding that it’s important to preserve her French culture.

Auger has been at Whistler’s French school for two years. She has one French parent, which allows her to attend the school. If children have a French parent or grandparent, they are entitled to learn in French.

In B.C. there are 58,000 francophones but only 17,000 speak French at home, said Thériault.

"They have the right to be in a French school and live their culture," she added.

Most of the kids at the school come from a mixed culture, with only one French parent, therefore it’s all the more important to focus on preserving the culture at home.

Partnering with the parents is crucial to this.

"We need to educate the parents on the importance of transmitting the language," said Thériault.

"We have to work together to maintain it. It has to be as natural as possible."

Thériault points to her own household with her five-year-old child as an example. Her child is growing up learning French and English at the same level.

"It’s just part of our normal living," she said.

This is the first year the school has had a principal to call their own. In years past they’ve had a principal in North Vancouver, looking over three or four schools at one time.

There are four classes at La Passerelle, in rooms at Myrtle Philip Community School. Next year the school will be located at Spring Creek Elementary.

Thériault said the goal is to continue with classes to Grade 9.

National Francophonie Week is celebrated in Canada from March 16 to 22. International Francophonie Day in on March 20. The school is currently accepting registrations from the kindergarten level to Grade 7 for all children who qualify.

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