“Carnaval” at École Braemar Elementary School

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Last year, École Braemar hosted its very own “French-style Winter Carnaval.” It was the first large-scale French event on the North Shore to include both French Immersion and English students. For its second year running, the entire school came together to celebrate bilingualism, learn about French Canadian culture, and the rich history of the Québec Winter “Carnaval.”

Québec’s winter carnival is one of the largest winter carnivals in the world. Lasting 2 weeks long, you can participate in parades, fireworks, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hockey, and watch ice carving, dog sled races, and canoe races on the ice of the semi-frozen Saint Laurence River. Students at Braemar participated in all the merriment of “Carnaval” including theme songs, bingo, crafts, and making “le tire” maple candy on the snow provided by Patrick Demers from the Maples’ Sugar Shack made possible by the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), for which we are most grateful.

Although it was overcast and raining, we still enjoyed the winter spirit by wearing toques, scarves, and with each student having the opportunity to make maple syrup candy on the snow. Children enjoyed learning theme songs like Chansons du Carnaval, Salut Bonhomme, Au temps du Carnaval, Bonnes Gens, Chantez Dansez. They could be heard singing down the halls and humming these songs out in the playground as they played.

Much preparation was done for the “Carnaval.” In the week prior, parents prepped craft materials, children learned new French vocabulary, carnaval music, and students in our grade 5 French Immersion class practiced speeches to deliver to each class the morning of Carnaval. Anika N and Olivia D welcomed students to the “Carnaval” festivities and presented a French/English Bingo over the PA system to easily include all classes. The first two winners received a maple candy treat and each student won a Braemar School pin designed by our local Canadian Parents for French (CPF) chapter, for which we are most grateful.

Grade 5 French Immersion students visited each classroom to share a small presentation on the “voyageur.” Voyageur is a French word for traveller. Most voyageurs were French-Canadian men who paddled canoes and delivered furs and trade goods for the fur trading companies. The “voyageur” dressed themselves with a shirt, red toque, a “ceinture fléchée,” and a pair of deer skin leggings. Grade 2s and up made a little toque trader, which represented the hat worn by the “voyageur” and the mascot of the “Carnaval:” the Bonhomme. The grade ones and Kinders made Bonhomme masks and enjoyed running around pretending they were the “Bonhomme Carnaval”.

The “Carnaval” was a huge success with positive feedback, from children, teachers, support staff, and volunteer parents. All the students enjoyed learning about the French/Canadian culture and participating in “Carnaval”, however, the maple syrup demonstration and candy making were undoubtedly the most impressive activity of the day. During this time in Quebec students would run home from school and go straight to the sugar shack. There they would be given a pail to bring out to the maple trees where they would exchange it for the full pail and return it to the sugar shack. It would take 40 pails of maple sap to make a pail of maple syrup. The children were paid with “le tire” the maple toffee candy. To make this delicious treat maple syrup is reduced and heated to 235 degrees Fahrenheit then poured on snow, rolled onto a popsicle stick, and then cooled before enjoying.

Our growing collection of activities and materials that we have created can be shared through CPF. Again, thank you to the PAC and CPF for making this event possible. We look forward to another exciting “Carnaval” at École Braemar Elementary School.

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