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Tech Class

Tech Camp Fortifies French Community

A high school uses robots and 3D printers to keep students interested in staying with the French school board.

By Stefan Dubowski
Photo: matthew liteplo

Photo of Josée Landriault, OCT, smiling in a suit with arms crossed. Josée stands in between two tables in a classroom with students sitting and standing.
Josée Landriault, OCT, holds a tech camp for students transitioning to Grade 7.

THE CHALLENGE: Bolster the bond between feeder elementary schools and the regional high school.

THE SOLUTION: Hold a weekend sleepover tech camp.

LESSONS LEARNED: Josée Landriault, OCT, says one of the main challenges she faces as principal of École Secondaire Gaétan-Gervais in Oakville, Ont., is getting students from elementary feeder schools to stick with Conseil scolaire Viamonde, the French-language public board.

"We're regional schools," she explains. "It's a lot easier for our students to go to the immersion school or the English school near their home."

Landriault felt that by strengthening the bonds between elementary and high schools, she'd convince more students to attend Gaétan-Gervais, which starts at Grade 7. So she developed a weekend sleepover tech camp. Over a Friday and Saturday in the spring, the high school hosts 100 or so Grade 5 and 6 students from feeder schools. The youngsters bring their penchant to learn tech, such as how to program robots and how to run 3D printers.

Friday afternoon, they play games to break the ice and make new friends. Saturday, they get into the tech. High school students run the games and workshops. And everyone practises French.

Planning begins in early October with Landriault and teachers choosing high school students and working with them to design activities. "We want to teach them all these great skills — how to work together, how to plan, and how to innovate and troubleshoot.

Teachers guide the students through the process, while Landriault connects with the board, feeder schools and local businesses to help sponsor the event.

With planning done by spring, the camp commences, usually around noon on the Friday. Participants start in the gym and cafeteria. Then when classes end at 2:30, the camp gets the run of the school.

OBSERVATIONS: The younger participants get to practise new tech skills, building on already-strong digital interests. Since they have the school all to themselves, they start to feel comfortable there, which makes it easier for them to transition to Grade 7. They also make friends among other elementary students and the high school students running the activities. "It creates these positive bonds that know no age," Landriault says.

The high school students practise their organization and collaboration skills, gaining confidence as leaders.

Both groups come away with a strong sense of community and a feeling that French activities are fun. Landriault says those fortified bonds help more feeder-school students choose to stay with the French board.

HELPFUL HINT: Start planning early to identify your student leaders.

The College's professional advisory Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media – Updated guides members' professional judgment in the use of technology.