– Jennie Hurwood
“It is a community organization that links the students of Metis Beach School to community members and community groups. This enhances students’ learning and their appreciation of the surrounding community as well as becoming a centre for lifelong learning,” explains Lynne Bruce, the Community Learning Centre (CLC) Coordinator for Metis Beach School.
Lynne started with the school last fall and feels she is now getting into her stride. “The CLC Coordinators at other schools tell me it usually takes a year to settle into the role,” she says. Although looking at the number projects driven by the CLC this year you wouldn’t know it. “Mr Mitchell [the Principal] and the teachers really support the initiative by applying for grants and taking on projects,” Lynne explains, “their involvement makes a big difference for the students.”
One of the biggest challenges Lynne faces as CLC Coordinator is that the majority of students arrive by bus from towns up to an hour away from Métis-sur-Mer. Not only does this make the school day long for students, but after-school activities and parent involvement do not occur nearly as much as the school would like. This means that almost all activities organized through the CLC have to take place during normal school hours. For the students, this is a positive thing because it means that the curriculum is presented in imaginative and engaging ways. However, it is more difficult to involve parents and community members who work during the day.
The sports program is perhaps the best and longest-running example of how the CLC initiative has complemented the Metis Beach School curriculum. As a small school with no gymnasium, and no space for a sports playing field, they have come up with a number of creative solutions to provide the students with their weekly physical activity. The program is funded through grants and private donations. It recently allowed the school to buy snowshoes for the students so that larger groups can be taken out for hikes in the winter months.
Whether snowshoeing across the fields in Métis-sur-Mer, cross-country skiing in Baie des Sables or swimming in Mont Joli, it is clear that community volunteers are vital to the success of the sports program. It is also an excellent opportunity for students and community members to get to know one another. Lynne is pleased to mention that the school counts at least ten regular volunteers from the community who ensure the success of the sports program, but more volunteers are always welcome.
Another “side effect” of the students living far from one another is that they have fewer opportunities to socialize with their school friends outside of school. This is an important aspect that can affect their wellbeing and that works against initatives to retain English-speaking youth in the region. Happily, the school and the CLC recognize this and work together to organize a number of educational trips throughout the year. Last fall, Secondary students went to Parc de la Gaspésie for a three-day hiking, cultural-exchange and canoeing trip linked to the sports program. They visitied the park again in January of this year for a ski trip. Soon, students from grades 5-6 and secondary 1-2 will be visiting the enrichment class of Alaqsite’w Giptu (meaning “the eagle will soar”), a Listuguj First Nations school, where they will be taking part in traditional activities thanks to a grant awarded by the CLC initiative (see p. 3 for more about the Initiative).
The CLC also works to bring students from Metis Beach School together with students from l’Envol school. The fact that Lynne also works at l’école l’Envol must surely help. At the start of April, the fifth annual “Walk into Spring” event saw students from both schools walking from l’Envol to the Town Hall, where a healthy snack awaited. This event was organized in collaboration with Heritage Lower Saint-Lawrence as part of the 5/30 Health and Wellness Challenge activities for the community and saw more than 120 people take part.
The Metis Beach School CLC is not only concerned with physical activities. The Kindergarten students from both schools will also be getting together regularly as part of a project called Read with Me. Lynne explains that the 12 Kindergarten students will be paired up with 12 senior community members to read and improve vocabulary in their respective mother tongues. The project is bilingual, intergenerational, and will take placehree times per month from March until June, mostly at the Métis-sur-Mer Public Library.
The older students at Metis Beach School were given the opportunity to meet and work with Darrius Garret, one of the Freedom Writers. The students read his book and watched the film adaption of the story, “they knew his character, they just hadn’t actually met him, so they were really excited about him visiting,” says Lynne. This unique opportunity was opened up to the community with an evening talk held at the Métis-sur-Mer Public Library at the end of March. (For more information about the event please see Freedom Writer, Freedom Speaker)
The key to the success of the CLC and to student success is community involvement. As the old adage goes: it takes a village to raise a child. It is for this reason that a Community Learning Conversation will be organised in the coming months to evaluate the needs of the community, how the school and community can work better together, and how resources can be better shared for the good of everyone. “We really need community members to tell us their point of view,” says Lynne, “we want to hear from everyone who cares about education, youth, and lifelong learning.” More information about how you can contribute will be distributed with the help of Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence.
Lynne Bruce may originally be from Toronto but she is no stranger to the area – her mother was born here and from a young age, she regularly visited her family in Métis-sur-Mer.
You may well wonder how an office manager and department head in a large, fast-paced, quota-driven, Toronto marketing company would wind up in Métis-sur-Mer and how she’s adjusting to the change in pace. “A little more than two years before I left Toronto I was in a serious car accident,” explains Lynne, “I couldn’t work for two years because of my injuries.”
She was just easing back into the world of work when she got a call from the Rimouski hospital to say that her father had three to five days to live. “I came right away. I packed two suits and maybe enough clothes for a week. I wasn’t expecting to stay,” she says. When she saw her dad at the hospital he was going into palliative care, but he came out of palliative care and lived another 16 months. Lynne explains that she was able to work part time and take care of her father: “I was here and I thought: ‘if I leave he will have had to go into a nursing home,’ and I just couldn’t do that.” By the time her father passed away, Lynne found that she was at home in Métis-sur-Mer; she had become part of the community here.
Not only is Lynne the CLC coordinator for Metis Beach School, she also works at l’Envol school and she has thrown herself into community life: “I volunteer at this, I volunteer at that, I volunteer at the lunches to wash dishes, I’m on the Comité des Loisirs.”
So how did she make the transition from the big Ontarian city to the small Québécois town? “It didn’t seem like such a big transition. There were bigger things going on in my life and I felt really welcomed into the community here,” Lynne says, seeming very happy with the quality of life on the banks of the St. Lawrence.
- A CLC, or Community Learning Centre, is an English school in Quebec with a community-minded outlook.
- The CLC initiative, organized through LEARN Quebec, aims to bring students from English schools in Quebec closer to their communities in order to enhance student success and preserve the vitality of English-speaking communities.
- CLC schools open activities and resources to the community to promote lifelong learning and relationships between youth and seniors in the community.
- The CLC initiative promotes Community-Based Service Learning (CBSL) as a method to engage students in both their studies and with their community. CBSL in schools uses the local community as a classroom learning resource, and allows student activities to be a potential resource for the community. Students address real community needs while learning curriculum material. The material becomes more relevant to the learners and a community need is fulfilled.
- Each CLC is unique as it adapts to the community it serves.
- 37 English schools in Quebec, including Metis Beach School, are part of the CLC initiative.
- CLC schools have CLC coordinators who make the link between the students, the school staff, parents, local organizations, community groups and community members.
- This is usually done through collaboration on particular projects.
- CLCs are currently funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada-Quebec Agreement for Minority Language Education and Second Language Instruction and le Secteur des services à la communauté anglophone et des affaires autochtones at the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport.