Colleen Westerman works at Taupo Intermediate where she is a Year 8 classroom teacher and teaches French to other Year 7 and 8 classes. Colleen is a passionate French teacher who started teaching French at Taupo Intermediate in 2007. Students at Taupo Intermediate have active links with French-speaking students from New Caledonia through a sister school partnership with College Jean Mariotti in Noumea. Students can participate in a yearly school tour to New Caledonia and Taupo Intermediate and College Jean Mariotti have a mutual exchange programme.
Colleen started the Shared Histories Project with her Year 8 class in March 2014. She found out about the Shared Histories project through her contact with Glenda Palmer, the National French Adviser at International Languages Exchanges and Pathways (ILEP). Colleen had previously visited Northern France while on a Language Immersion Award in 2012 and had been moved by the historical war sites she visited. She thought the Shared Histories project would be an excellent way in which to give her students the opportunity to learn more about World War 1.
The Taupo Intermediate Year 8 class partnered with College Jules Verne in France for the Shared Histories project. In Terms 1 and 2 the students researched and compared letters and photos from French & New Zealand soldiers. They also studied the involvement of civilians in the war effort and shared the significance of battlefields in Northern France. The value of the Shared Histories Project is that it can be use across the curriculum, in English, French, History, Art, Mathematics and Social Sciences. Some activities that the Taupo students completed as part of the project include:
The creation of a video and posters introducing Taupo Intermediate School for the students at College Jules Verne in France.
Research on a family member involved in World War 1 and the creation of a booklet on the soldier.
Research on individuals and animals involved in the war, such as horses, dogs, nurses, stretcher bearers and the creation of a poster.
Her students were very enthusiastic about the Shared Histories Project and got very caught up in it. Participation in this project has helped Colleen’s Year 8 students to be more aware of the World War 1, the effects of war and the sacrifices made by many soldiers and their families. It served as a way to remember the past and pay tribute to all those people who were lost of injured in World War 1. The project was also an excellent way to engage parents and families in their children’s learning. ‘It was great how the whole family got involved in the project’, commented Colleen.
Colleen advises all teachers to get involved in the Shared Histories Project. There are more and more schools in France who are looking to partner with a New Zealand school and there is lots of support provided through the Shared Histories Project team. There is also funding available through the French Embassy for the project. Colleen warns that it does require thought and planning but it is well worth it.