The school with a cultural flavor

Can a dance choreography initiate a discussion between young people on discrimination at school? Can a photo project establish a friendship between a teenager who has just arrived in Quebec and a Montrealer 50 years older? Absolutely! Culture brings us together and widens our horizons, and this, from childhood. This is why teachers from across Quebec give it a special place in the classroom. Take a look at two favorite projects, winners of the 2019 Essor recognition awards presented by the Government of Quebec.
T he taste of culture in young people is cultivated. At home, at the municipal library, at the museum, at the theater, but also at school… Did you know that passionate teachers offer their students unique cultural experiences? And the impact often exceeds the scope of the activities themselves.

Enter the dance

Anouk Michaud, dance teacher at polyvalente Lavigne in Lachute, knows something about it. At the beginning of the year, she proposed to her optional Dance students that they perform a choreography with Matthieu, a student in a specialized class living with a moderate intellectual disability.

Although Anouk Michaud and Matthieu’s students rubbed shoulders with each other every day, they had almost never interacted before. Then, for months, they discussed, created and rehearsed together. “The borders are broken, observes Ms. Michaud. The regular students’ judgments and fears have vanished! ”

In June, the group presented their choreography to a crowd of almost 1,000 spectators. The performance, poignant at will, went straight to their hearts.

“The reaction from the public was great and immediate,” says the teacher. The message on the importance and the benefits of including young people with intellectual disabilities touched and moved. ”Not bad for an adventure that started with“ a small project ”, in the opinion of its instigator. It is proof that “art is a great tool for integration”, she exclaims.

The teacher has another reason to rejoice: on November 22, her project won an Essor recognition prize at a gala organized by the Government of Quebec to underline the originality and excellence of cultural projects carried out in school environment across Quebec.

Two generations, two worlds, a thousand learnings

Another school, another cultural initiative with great benefits for young people. At Paul-Gérin-Lajoie-d’Outremont, an approach combining dramatic art, plastic art and French allowed the young immigrants of a reception class to better anchor themselves in their new environment. In addition to making them meet … “adopted grandparents”!

The concept was born in the head of the drama teacher Mélissa Lefebvre: to create meetings between newly arrived teens – and often separated from their grandparents – and elders from the neighborhood. The name of this original project, also an Essor prize winner, is Racines croisés .

“Through drama, writing and photography workshops, students and elders were asked to talk about their memories, their dreams, their present. Then, as a team, they created a photo where they staged themselves so that it would reflect them and their encounter, ”explains the teacher.

Impossible not to smile in front of the photos taken. Here, Laurelyn, Lucille and Hien play the librarians in a setting straight out of the 1940s. There, Charlotte, Jacques and Arman think they are rock stars – costumes worthy of the group Kiss included! – on a show stage.

An exhibition open to the public was mounted with all of the works. A short film was even released to document the initiative.

“I hope that when we look at our photo, we understand that no matter where we come from, where we go and who we are, we will meet a part of ourselves”, explained one of the young participants . There they are, these famous roots that cross.

For Mélissa Lefebvre, the project is a success across the board. The pupils came out of it growing up. According to her, Racines croisés has enabled them to “take a concrete place” in their new land of welcome. “He gave them a personal and artistic voice.”

This is without counting the intergenerational friendships that arose from the workshops, as well as the reflections that emerged – among the students, the elders and the public of the exhibition – about immigration and the elderly.

Gather, give a voice, stimulate the imagination, invite reflection: the benefits of culture at school add up. It is not for nothing that, every day, teachers like Anouk Michaud and Mélissa Lefebvre make it an essential ingredient in the development of their students.

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