My senior year of high school, I finished my Girl Scout Gold Award by redesigning the French language curriculum in District 112 to include aspects of francophone culture into a mostly euro-centric language program. Main goals of this curriculum include increased understanding of francophone culture, introduction to non-traditional vocabulary, mock experience solving world issues involving francophone countries, and monthly classroom immersion into the culture of one francophone culture through field trips or in-class activities.
Since the project’s completion, it has been slowly implemented in the Pre-French I- French II classes. At the end of 2012, this program will be fully active in Chanhassen High School as part of the main French curriculum.
Below is an article from the local newspaper covering Pioneer Ridge Freshman Center’s French II class’ experience with the new program
French Classes Take Aim at Africa’s Problems (February 12, 2009
AIDS, drug trafficking and global-warming may be daunting problems facing countries in Africa, but a group of students at the Pioneer Ridge Freshman Center are determined to help where they can.
“We’ve seen how every vote matters in the local Senate election,” said Ivan Contreras. “The same applies to the the problems over there. Everyone can make a difference.”
Contreras was one of several French students who put their language skills to the test, researching problems in Africa and eventually developing a project to to help deal with AIDS in Rwanda.
Students in Michelle Maria’s French II classes produced their own movies describing a serious problem they encountered in research of French-speaking African countries.
“They then had to offer a way to be able to change it and make a difference,” said Maria.
Once finished with their productions, the class had a celebration to watch all the movies and pick one to take on as a service learning project for the remainder of the year. During the celebration, they enjoyed an African meal, sitting on cushions on the floor in a typical Moroccan setting, while feasting on couscous, dates, apricots, and mint tea. While they voted to address AIDS in Rwanda as their class project, other movie topics included lack of education for children in Madagascar, drug-trafficking in Maroc, and child trafficking in Togo.
“We are really motivated to make an impact,” said Ashley Kemp. “Helping just one person would be a positive impact.”
The students didn’t seem fazed by the extent of some of the problems they chose to research.
“We may not be able to stop big problems completely like the impact global warming has on ocean reefs in the Seychelles,” said Micha Mills. “But we can make a small difference.”
Spencer Banister said the standard of living in some of these countries is so low that anyone from the United States can make a difference.
“These people live off of 10 cents a day,” he said. “Donating just $10 can go a long, long way over there.”
During the time Jeffry Lyman was researching childhood nutrition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a cease fire in the civil wars there occurred.
“These countries have so much potential for fixing their own problems,” he said. “They just need to be pointed in the right direction.”
Dan Schanus was also working on the Congo project and agreed with the potential the country has.
“Children are starving all across the country, yet it has huge ore deposits that could make it one of the richest countries in Africa and solve those hunger problems,” he said.
The projects were part of the students’ French class, so they were expected to use and develop their French speaking abilities.
“While I was developing my presentation, I was surprised at how I could say pretty much whatever I need to in French after only two years of studying it,” said Ali Souza.
The students had to pick problems they felt they could actually do something about, said Maria.
“We’re asking these students to become global citizens, so what better way than to ask them to pick the project to work on for the rest of the year,” she said.
When I started my Girl Scout Gold Award, I had no idea it would have this much of an impact on my school district. French teachers now have the option to share the francophone world with students who may not otherwise be introduced to alternative French cultures. While it is still a work in progress, I am optimistic this is a step in the right direction for increasing cultural awareness in students and modernizing curriculum development to include opinions of students.
Thanks to the guidance of my mentors Katherine Martens and Kris Rydland, I am now in college studying education policy and have since learned just how lucky I have been to be supported by such amazing teachers. It is fantastic to know a single student can have such a large impact on a community.