New curriculum aims to ‘enrich the identity’ of PEI’s young Acadians and Francophones

Linda Lowther (left) and Georges Arsenault, co-authors of the book L’Acadie de l Île-du-Prince-Édouard: 300 ans d’histoire, stand with students from École St-Augustin at the book's recent launch

Students in PEI’s French schools and French immersion classes will be learning more about the history and stories of the Island’s Acadians when they return to school this fall.

About 300 years’ worth of stories, in fact – thanks to the introduction of a new social studies book titled L’Acadie de l Île-du-Prince-Édouard: 300 ans d’histoire, written by Island authors Georges Arsenault and Linda Lowther.

“The book is setup in a timeline from the 1700s right up until 2020,” says Paulette LeBlanc, a French Social Studies curriculum leader with the Department of Education and Early Learning.

LeBlanc, along with her colleague Carolyn MacKinnon, has been busy developing new curriculum to accompany the book.

“The goal is to give the teachers ideas and interesting activities they can do at different grade levels,” LeBlanc says. 

The curriculum will be delivered in modules, starting in Grade 6, and will build on the previous year’s lessons – through to Grade 10.

“So, they will be covering most of the vignettes in the book over those four or five years,” LeBlanc says.

The book is a chronological series of short stories, or vignettes, that highlights Acadian culture and important key figures in the Island’s Acadian history. It’s presented in a way that’s more “student friendly” than the Acadian history resource teachers used previously, says LeBlanc – a book written in 1980 that was primarily for adult readers.

“It had quite a bit of information, but it wasn't really written for children. It wasn't written in a language for students,” she says.

“This is the first book with pictures, illustrations, and short stories that’s written in a way that children can understand.”

Paulette LeBlanc speaking at podium while students look on
Image caption: 
Paulette LeBlanc, a French Social Studies curriculum leader, speaks to attendees at the recent launch event for the new Acadian Social Studies book.

The new book provides students a more ‘dynamic’ concept of history, delivered in a ‘magazine-type’ format, says René Hurtubise, Director of French Education with the Province. 

“It revolves around 50 big events in PEI’s social, political, and cultural history – in a layout that’s visually appealing.” 

Hurtubise says government’s goal was to enrich the identity and sense of belonging among PEI’s young Acadians and Francophones – and the new curriculum will achieve that.

“It will give students a better understanding of the development of the Acadian and Francophone community and its contributions to PEI and the country.”

LeBlanc has been ‘test driving’ some of the new curriculum with Grade 6 students at École St-Augustin in Rustico. She says the response has been positive.

“They’re wanting to learn more and wanting to expand their knowledge.”

The new curriculum promotes group discussions about the Acadians’ history, says LeBlanc – encouraging students to share their thoughts about events of the past and how they relate to the world today.

It’s a new way of teaching history, she says.

“Instead of learning and memorizing, like we did in the past, it’s going to be about giving your opinion, looking at current events, and comparing it to the past. Trying to get the students to do some historical critical thinking and asking, ‘What can we learn from that?’”

LeBlanc says the new curriculum will be finalized by September – just in time for students’ and teachers’ return to the classroom where 500 copies of the new book have already been delivered.

Some students have read the book already. However, LeBlanc says that’s a good thing.

“They're flipping over the pages, but that’s what we want. You don't want to stop the curiosity. You don’t want to stop the learning.”

Read about the launch of L’Acadie de l Île-du-Prince-Édouard: 300 ans d’histoire by visiting: Teaching our Acadian and Francophone History

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