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Greenfield Public Schools

GHS French students enjoy time in Canadian outdoors

Students walk down the L'Escalier Casse-cou rue St. Jacques, which translates to Breakneck Stairs, St. Jacques Street in Quebec City. (Submitted photo)

Students walk down the L'Escalier Casse-cou rue St. Jacques, which translates to Breakneck Stairs, St. Jacques Street in Quebec City. (Submitted photo)

GREENFIELD — They attempted to navigate both sled dog trails and conversations featuring thick French accents, learned a little about Quebec history and lost a kiwi along the way.

A group of 17 students studying French at Greenfield High School spent their mid-winter vacation exploring the outdoor wonders of Quebec City. Teacher Tamara Grogan wanted to expose students to the French language and to teach them some more about the neighbor country to the north.

They learned about the military history of Quebec City, one of the oldest European settlements in North America, in a museum in one of the fortified city’s protective towers.

“That was the first museum I ever went to where they were happy when the U.S. (then the American colonies) lost,” said junior Caleb Boucher.

Their dogsledding adventure proved to be more difficult than anticipated. The dogs were hard to control, especially when groups met up with one another, and students had to avoid a steady stream of animal waste.

They weren’t old enough to drink, of course, but they learned that even the bar glasses at the Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel) were made out of ice.

And at week’s end, out of money and tired from walking, they holed up in a small pastry and sandwich shop, just in time to watch through the windows as snow covered the city.

“It was great. ... It was like a trip to Christmasland,” said Grogan, who has organized four trips to France and four to Quebec before this one.

To expose her students to as much French as possible, Grogan prefers Quebec City over Montreal, which is only about 40 miles north of the border.

Some attempts at French were quickly derailed by bilingual Canadians who switched to English, the students said. Others had some luck while shopping in stores, yet there were also some classic “deer-in-headlight” moments.

“It was fun to be around people with a very thick French accent,” said Scott Grote, who said he studied French for years but still had trouble understanding some residents.

The group had a few final adventures passing through customs back into the United States. Freshman Sam Marsden drew a temporary blank when asked if he could prove he was an American citizen. Grogan had to temporarily stop documenting the trip when a customs official ordered her to put away her camera.

And Boucher, hoping to enjoy one last Canadian snack, had to hand over his kiwi to the authorities.

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