SERVICE-LEARNING AT THE FESTIVAL OF NATIONSOct. 9, 2006
Fifteen Norwich University French language students and professors Fran Chevalier and Carol Ayer attended the Festival of Nations in Crown Point, N.Y., Sept. 15-17 to participate in a service-learning opportunity as part of their class curriculum.
The Festival of Nations was a cultural event held to celebrate the nations which, in the eighteenth century, wrestled for control of a colonial territorial prize: the Champlain Valley. The festival consisted of live music, craft demonstrations, a presentation of Native American dance, food, family fun, free French lessons, and various competitions. Two state historic sites, Crown Point in New York and Chimney Point in Vermont, co-hosted this public event, with activities at both ends of the Lake Champlain Bridge.
Chimney Point and Crown Point share a long history of use as an east-west lake crossing, as a landmark for north-south travel along the Champlain Valley, and as a home to Native American tribes, the people of New France and the people of the British Colonies before American independence. Today, a large number of people of Native American, French, Canadian and British extraction live within one hundred miles of the Lake Champlain Bridge, the convenient link between Chimney Point and Crown Point.
A highlight of the festival was a visit by the sailing vessel Royaliste, a replica of a 1755 gaff-rigged, square tops’ l ketch that was commissioned as a dispatch gunship, which stopped by the points while touring Lake Champlain.
According to Michelle Barber, Service-Learning Coordinator at Norwich, service-learning is the incorporation of service into the curriculum.
“It requires strong connections between the service and the learning objectives of the course, students meeting a community need, and structured reflection,” Barber said.
For the Festival of Nations, the students prepared posters, gave French language lessons, judged an art and sculpture contest, and sang French songs for attendees, primarily K-12 students and parents.
“The students performed superbly, giving tours of the Champlain Memorial, instructing in French, and judging the sculpture contest,” said Barber. “Our students seemed to enjoy the day, as did the youth and their parents. I could tell it was a success when, on numerous occasions, Fran's students asked me if there were other service-learning projects in which they or their classes could get involved.”