Safe and sound! The year 6 children of Stokenchurch Primary school have arrived at PGL Château du Tertre. Although some (mostly teachers) may have departed still in a half state of slumber, 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 even as they devoured breakfasts at Portsmouth, while also showing great mindfulness of the other passengers on the ferry. The hours on the ferry went by smoothly with children entertained by hotly contested games of cards: friend against friend and child against teacher (minimal sulking in inevitable defeat by Mr Birdseye). The children enjoyed any opportunities to go out onto deck - taking photos of windswept poses and keeping on the lookout for an elusive dolphin sighting. Favourite overheard quotes from the time include:
"Is that France?" asked while still leaving Portsmouth
and of course...
"How much longer until we're there?"
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 indoor evening game. 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!
Here is a quick photo of everyone together after completing the evening team building activity. Future photos will hopefully focus on smaller group shots - much easier to orchestrate!
It is always a 50/50 split between those who rise on their own, and those who need a gentle prod but 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. With harness and helmets donned the climbing, abseiling, leaping, team building and archery began!
In the afternoon the children had their first 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 within the picturesque village.
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. With all the clues and directions provided only in French, the children worked together brilliantly and deciphered them all. Minimal dictionary aid advised. No teacher support allowed (though some sneakily given anyway). 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).
As evening approached all too quickly, the children faced their biggest challenge yet - their teachers. The evening activity of the 'Mini Olympics' had arrived. Groups had the chance to compete against each other in a PGL led series of brilliantly noisy and hilarious challenges. All seven groups of children competed fiercely to claim victory - or at least victory over the teacher team. Devilish tactics were incorporated by all who competed until one fearless team sang triumphantly for each event! The winners...
...to be shared at the France drop-in session, which we'd like to remind everyone is currently scheduled for the 28th June.
Here a few photos of three of the groups striking a pose (those groups not featured today will be shown in a future post within the week):
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 attack the PGL site activities list along with a true test of the children's listening skills. 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) to learn. The children appeared to love spending time interacting with the animals, sampling some of the organic produce along with sharing songs and laughter.
The children appeared to already be forming close bonds within their groups, supporting each other in a way that made all the teaching staff very proud of the year group as a whole. Stokenchurch chants and songs filled the air all day, by far drowning out the other schools 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 approached almost all too soon, but the treat of an evening around a campfire meant that the smiles and mirth 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.
After an evening that will be held dearly within memories for some time to come, all retired for a night's gossiping, 'midnight' feasts and - eventually - rest. Below are some pictures from two more groups. Some final group snaps will 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!"
After the children recovered from the shock of this statement from the teachers, realisation dawned on what the statement entailed. It was time to plan and prepare for the visit to the market. Mission quite-possible had begun. 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:
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 great unity and collaboration.
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. Great revelry was had by all. 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!
Enjoy some pictures of the last couple of groups together towards the end of the week: