Comenius Students’ Trip to France
The Academy has been working closely with Le Portalet School and Gymnasium Balingen as part of the international Comenius programme - a British Council scheme designed to increase students' understanding of European cultures and languages.
During the seven-day trip to south west France, KSA students stayed with host families in the small medieval village of L'Argentière. The majority stayed with French students who they had been hosts for during the first exchange trip to England last year.
The three schools were divided into teams made up of English, French and German students and they worked within these teams on a number of activities and challenges during the week. One of them was the canoeing descent - a number of KSA students had been taught to swim by PE teacher Liam Feely in preparation for the trip. Other activities included an orientation race in a local nature reserve and a tour of L'Argentière by leaders in medieval costume.
Students also spent time in school, where they developed their language skills, blogged about their experiences and prepared for a presentation about Comenius at the end of the week. This special event was attended by parents, teachers, members of the community, the head of the school district and the town mayor. During the presentation, Year 9 student Joe Smallman made a speech in French. In addition, a group of English, French and German girls got together of their own accord and choreographed a hip hop gymnastics routine to perform to the audience.
French teacher Aine McAllister, who is leading the Comenius project at KSA, said the impact of the project was reflected in the students' growing confidence.
She said: "The spirit of Comenius could be seen in the fact that one student who couldn't swim two weeks before the trip, was one of the first in the water during the lunchtime break when we were canoeing.
"The school and local community were so welcoming that our students couldn't have anything but a positive attitude towards Europe and towards learning another language so they can have those experiences again. All the activities were so well organised that students felt encouraged and supported to try new things.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, their ability and confidence in speaking French improved. They were excited about how much more they could understand."
Next year, the Comenius group will visit Stuttgart in Germany to participate in a half marathon, in keeping with the project's theme of sports and leadership.
What students said:
Daniel Khumalo: "I was a bit nervous before we went but by the end of the week, I felt good because I had bonded with my host family and I felt like I fit in. They welcomed me into their home and told me it was my house too. Although they spoke some English, I tried to make the effort to speak French to them.
"Being nervous just means you have to conquer your fears and I think I did that. I would do it again.
"It was great to try new things like the canoeing - I'd never done anything like it before. Comenius has given us the chance to do a lot of things and if I hadn't gone to France, I wouldn't have done them and felt those feelings.
"I think it's important to mix with other cultures so you get to understand other cultures and be part of them too."
Lewis Pywell: "One of the benefits of doing something like this is that you build up the confidence to go to other countries because of what you've done in France. As the week went on, I started using more French words and I helped my host student, Carl, with his English homework when he didn't understand parts of it. We went kick-boxing together one evening and I'm still in touch with him. I spoke to him on Facebook last night.
"Comenius has given us a lot of great experiences and helped us to lose our fears. If you learn a language you can interact with some really nice people."
Shaun Lee: "The good thing about the trip was interacting with other people. It was an excellent trip - it was fun and challenging. Now I have learnt to swim, I'm looking forward to going canoeing again and going swimming with my friends."