A cultural exchange program at East Three Secondary School earned French immersion teacher Denise Lipscombe the Governor General’s 2017 Experiences Canada Award.

French Immersion teacher Denise Lipscombe has earned a national award for a cultural exchange program ran at East Three Secondary School.
photo courtesy of Denise Lipscombe

The award recognized a program that saw students from Quebec visit Inuvik and vice versa.

“It’s a great honour for us,” said Lipscombe. “I know it’s in my name, but it’s really everybody who comes together to put this exchange on. It was the students, it was their families, it was the community members, it was everybody else in the school who makes this happen.”

She’s ran the program twice, in 2007 and 2015. In the last one, a cohort of students came from Quebec City and stayed in Inuvik to experience cultural activities such as dogsledding, Northern cooking, drum dancing and visiting the pingos. Inuvik students in Lipscombe’s French immersion class also had the opportunity to live in Quebec with host families and immerse themselves in that language and culture.

“Where me and (another student) stayed, their family mostly only talked French, so to communicate you had to talk French,” said student Fletcher Dares. “It was fun to see what’s different down there.”

A lot of fundraising and preparation work takes place before the students travel.

“There are quite a few opportunities for students from the North to travel down south, but there are very few opportunities for southern youth to come and visit the North,” said Lipscombe. “The aspect that we get to host as well and show off our region and culture is so important.”

Hannah Gordon-Rogers, another student who took part in the exchange, said she most enjoyed dogsledding with her partner from Quebec.

Deborah Morrison, president of Experiences Canada, said Lipscombe’s program went beyond simply visiting interesting sites but demonstrated true experiential learning by involving elders and community members.

“There is no better way to foster a greater understanding of the diversity of cultures and communities across Canada than providing an opportunity for young Canadians to experience it first-hand,” she stated a news release.

The 2017 Governor General’s History Awards will be presented by Governor General Julie Payette at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on November 22.

Lipscombe will also be recognized at the annual general meeting of Experiences Canada Nov. 24.

Both Lipscombe and East Three Secondary School will receive $1000 from Experiences Canada as part of the award.

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