Multi-cultural trees on display at West Prince French school

Eric McCarthy
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Published on December 09, 2013

Grade 2 student Jorja Shields, adds a decoration to her class tree for Guadeloupe, part of the multi-cultural tree display set up in the main corridor at the Pierre Chiasson French school in Deblois. Students will strip their trees the last day of classes before the Christmas break and add their ornaments to their own trees at home.

Published on December 09, 2013

Zavier Delarosbil, a Grade 2 student at l’école Pierre-Chiasson in Deblois, displays the decoration she is adding to a tree representing Guadeloupe. Seven multi-cultural trees, with decorations representing countries and cultures from around the world are on display at the West Prince French school until the last day of classes before the Christmas break.

Published on December 09, 2013

Paris Murray is proud of the decoration she made for her kindergarten class’s Madagascar tree.

Published on December 09, 2013

Anika Dunbar adds a lion’s face decoration to her kindergarten class’s Madagascar tree. Every student at l’école Pierre-Chiasson, the West Prince French school in Deblois, were encouraged to make four cultural-themed decorations for their class tree. They get to take the decorations home on the last day of classes before Christmas and add them to their multi-cultural decorations from previous years.

Published on December 09, 2013

Multi-cultural tree

Published on December 09, 2013

Multi-cultural tree

Published on December 09, 2013

Multi-cultural tree

DEBLOIS -- Although they are done up in the spirit of Christmas, the decorated trees that line the main corridor at l’École Pierre-Chiasson in Deblois are called multi-cultural trees rather than Christmas trees.

This is not one of those “seasons greetings” versus “Merry Christmas” scenarios, though. Each of the trees represents a different country and culture as selected by La Coopérative d’intégration francophone (CIF) de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, a P.E.I. francophone organization that welcomes French-speaking newcomers.

It was up to artist Lynn Gaudet to research the seven countries featured ad to decide on decorations to represent their cultures. “What I usually do, I go on websites and look up Christmas traditions for that country. If it is not really celebrated, I go with New Years,” she said in explaining why they are called cultural trees.  All of the countries featured, she said, do have a French language presence.

The special project, now in its fourth year, is coordinated by the local Rev. S.-E. Perrey committee and funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada through CIF.

Gaudet said students at the West Prince French school associate her with the tree project. “Even the older ones, they’ll say, ‘oh, what country are we doing this year?’” she says in describing the high level of interest in the project among students.

Cork, wood, recycled materials and items from the local dollar store form the basis of many of the art projects that end up on the trees, the artist said. The sophistication of the part projects increases with the Grade levels. She said she matches countries to particular Grade levels. For the kindergarten class, she said, “We always try to make something appropriate for their age, and this year it was just bang-on, with the Madagascar Disney film. They all knew what Madagascarwas.”

High school students did their tree project on Haiti, learning some things about the hardship earthquakes inflicted on the small country. They inserted into their project the Christmas wishes they have for the people of Haiti.

The decorated trees remain on display until the final day of classes before the Christmas break. Students then get to take the decorations home. Most students make four decorations a year.

“Every year now it’s becoming a tradition at home, because they take out the Christmas decorations they did at school to put on their trees, and they remember what country it was,” Gaudet remarked.

She’s careful to move the students around the globe from year to year. If they worked on a country with a winter scene last year, she tries to give them somewhere down south the next year.

“They’re all excited to know what country and what we are going to study this year,” she said.

Organizations: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Geographic location: Île-du-Prince-Édouard, P.E.I., New Years Haiti

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