Recently on a school trip to Europe, we were hosted by the Technology students at the Lycée Gay-Lussac in Chauny, Picardie, our partners in a joint WW1 Commemoration project.
Over a two-year period, students in both schools communicated online to learn each other’s language, to exchange symbolic care packages, to research a person in their school communities who had fought and fallen on the Western Front during WW1, and to respond creatively to that research. The shared work was displayed in each other’s libraries and plans for visits were made.
In April this year, 42 students and four teachers set out from Auckland for France. After the obligatory trip to Paris, we arrived by bus in the Valley of the Somme. Our first duty was the New Zealand Memorial at Langueval, where we sang the National anthem in Maori and English to honour our ancestors. Nearby, we found the names of fallen relatives at the Caterpillar Memorial. Then we arrived in Chauny for our homestays, the best part of the experience, according to the students.
The first day we were taken on a tour of the Technology Department. Four young men, very proud of their workshops and of their newly acquired English, explained all that they did, from concept and design to finished product, using materials from wood to metal to plastic to Infotech. We viewed a variety of plastic items formed in an industrial press, several energy saving devices inspired by the solar powered compacting rubbish bin on display, and we enjoyed, in fact accompanied, the robots they had programmed to dance.
The final event of our stay was the unveiling of the ceramic and glass fresque created over the previous year by the students and staff. It featured the art work and the poetic responses in French, German and English written by the students learning those languages. It was a moving and fitting moment.