We're here! The year 6 children of Stokenchurch Primary school have arrived at PGL Château du Tertre. Although some may have found staying awake a challenge (particularly on the ferry), it was lovely to see the excitement levels bubble and build as we reached the end of the journey.
The children did incredibly well in representing themselves - and the school - throughout the voyage. They were respectful of the other passengers on the ferry and only tortured their teachers and coach drivers a little with their singing. The hours on the ferry went by smoothly with children entertained by hotly contested games of cards, board games, an organised quiz (teacher teams showed no mercy), a game of bingo and organised teaching of circus skills led by a clown.. the last one threw us a bit as well!. The children enjoyed any opportunities to go out onto deck - taking photos of windswept poses as we tried to convince them that they did not need multiple photos of the channel from different angles. Favourite overheard quotes from the time include:
"Is that France?" asked while still leaving Portsmouth
"Look _________ has fallen asleep!" usually followed by an adult pleading with everyone nearby to not disturb them and let them get rest!
and of course, "How much longer until we're there?" asked at alarmingly accurate five minute intervals.
At the end of the journey children were greeted enthusiastically by PGL staff and enjoyed a guided tour before settling for a well earned dinner. The smiles persisted as the children channelled their unwavering energy into an outdoor evening game (the weather held strong for them). Despite many seeming like they wanted the day and evening to continue, there was further excitement as children settled themselves for their first night in their rooms with friends. They did - eventually - settle and await the thrill of their first full day abroad!
We would normally love to share a photo of group at this point to show off those persistent smiles even after such a long day of travel, unfortunately the château's internet connection is experiencing difficulties! Sadly, it has taken many attempts to upload this typed message this evening but we're hopeful to be able to share photos of groups engaging in PGL activities within tomorrow's entry as we have done in previous years!
Edit: see below for a group shot of the yeargroup posing by the château ready to start the day of activities!
Children thoroughly enjoyed their teachers' 'wake-up tactics' this morning and once the day had properly begun - all were fully engaged in the day's adventures! In the morning children had the opportunity to tackle their first set of outdoor activities. The prospect of a bit of drizzle would not deter our fearless groups as they tackled a multitude of challenges - see below for group shots of groups 1, 2 and 4!
While coach A completed activities in the morning, coach B ventured down the road to visit the local organic farm (in the afternoon the coaches then switched to allow a full experience for all). Their hosts were gracious in receiving us and keen to share their knowledge and way of life however...they didn't speak a word of English! Despite the challenge of engaging with the fluent native tongue, all pupils were wonderfully patient and ecstatic when they were able to use their French skills (supported by our fantastic PGL leaders who joined us for the excursions). The children appeared to love spending time interacting with the animals; sampling some of the organic produce along with sharing songs, laughter and dance moves (an organised 'dance-off' in a barn surrounded by hay bales is quite the sight to behold!).
As evening approached all too quickly, the children faced their biggest challenge yet - no we don't mean the expected evening shower. The evening activity of the 'Mini Olympics' had arrived - battle against the teachers' team had begun! Groups had the chance to compete against each other in a PGL led series of brilliantly noisy and hilarious challenges. All six groups of children competed fiercely like true warriors to claim victory - or at least victory over the teacher team. Devilish tactics were incorporated by all who competed until a few fearless teams sang triumphantly after each event! The winners...
...to be shared at the France drop-in session, which we'd like to remind everyone is currently scheduled for Wednesday 27th June.
Here are a few photos of groups 1,2 and 4 striking a pose (those groups not featured today will be shown in a future post within the week) along with our fearsome competitors showing their warrior faces after the evening's activity (Editors note: we promised the children the pose they were pulling was a warrior stance and absolutely not just the symbol for West Ham football club):
Another day and another set of opportunities to tackle personal goals, strengthen friendships and hone linguistic talents. The schedule for the day included further chances to conquer the PGL site activities list along with a true test of the children's listening skills.
In the morning pupils braced themselves for the worst with the weather but were fortunate to have rain-free activity time. Groups tackled zip lines, climbing walls, archery ranges and obstacle courses with cheers, chants and celebrations as everyone did spectacularly! Many children proudly discussed their morning's successes at lunch sharing their personal achievements and records - see below for a group picture during activity time.
In the afternoon the children had their second chance to experience some French culture, and put their language skills to the test! It was clear that many were relishing the chance to visit the bakery in order to sample the bread and pastries, however so many demonstrated desire to learn as well as fill their bellies. Teachers stood proudly as child after child asked thoughtful questions of the baker in order to learn more about his trade and his life.
While one coach was experiencing the bakery, the pupils of the other had the opportunity to pit their wits against a fiendish town trail/scavenger hunt. The children quickly realised that no amount of pleading or attempted bribery of their group leaders would reveal the answers. Consequently, the children worked together brilliantly and solved many of the tricky directions. It was a wonderful way to experience the beautiful town and led to some great photos as children attempted to answer their questions with photographic evidence (see below for a couple of examples).
The bonds formed within groups as children supported each other through activities, language challenges and eating meals (we're still unsure how much support was really required there...) was delightful to see and hear. Stokenchurch chants and songs filled the air all day, by far drowning out the other schools (including even their somewhat croaky voiced teachers at this point) in volume and passion. This carried on within free time periods where pupils gained more scope to explore the stunning PGL grounds, filling the time with games and relishing the freedom of choice.
The evening snuck up on us all again, but the treat time shared together around a campfire meant that the smiles continued. While the fire roared, the children serenaded the whole site with their powerful voices. Amongst the singing and dancing, all had the chance to sample some toasted gooey campfire treats. Some proved to be experts at the fine art of marshmallow roasting, while others... well it seems more practice is needed.
Below are some pictures from the other three groups; some final snaps to be shared tomorrow.
The last full day at the site! Though if the children felt a touch of melancholy over this fact, it was quickly dispelled as an incredibly tightly packed day of fun and grand trials awaited them.
"We're going to the classrooms children!"
Despite the teachers insisting that the day was just going to be spent practising times tables and handwriting - they saw through us. It was time to plan and prepare for the visit to the market! Mission not-so-impossible had begun. They had prepared a lot at school so we were all pretty confident in their skills. Their briefing: devise a plan of attack as a group for the lunchtime competition; infiltrate a local French market; invoke the use of natural Stokenchurch charm and manners; use well-practised language skills (with minimal subterfuge) to acquire the needed 'assets' and finally, extract themselves from the market having gained a rare cultural experience (and the 'assets'). All accepted. All achieved. No man, woman or child was left behind - the bright green hoodies helped. See picture below for all the groups together having fought through the light drizzle with their spoils.
Upon returning to the château the children used further military precision to assemble their lunches! It was a strange mixture of creative flair, practical food preparation skills and competitive natures that combined to produce a range of decorative platters. The ratio of time it took to create the meal to time it took for the children to demolish their own creations need not be said. We were all glad to see great groups have fun doing something in a way that demonstrated superb unity and collaboration. See picture below for an example of one of the prepared dishes!
The afternoon's final activities flew by, further French food on the day's special menu was sampled and finally the disco loomed. Children and staff spruced themselves up for a night of singing, dancing, games and giggles. The PGL staff were fantastic in making the experience exceptional and the children retired for the evening ready for the final morning and the journey home. We're sure at this point they can't wait to tell you all about it. Keep an eye out for updates on return times and we will see you all soon!