Levi Black.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, West Salem High School French teacher Christy Beckstrom had hosted a French Language and Culture camp every summer at the school for more than a decade.

After going through a hiatus last year, Beckstrom brought her camp to McNary High School for this summer, teaching K-8 students from across the district about French language, history and culture.

“With construction happening at West, I didn’t thing we were going to be able to do it this this year, which was sad because we missed it last year due to COVID. So when this opportunity came up, I was really excited to be a part of the summer programs,” Beckstrom said.

The French Language and Culture Camp is one of more than a dozen camps being featured at McNary this summer — each camp is capped between 25-30 students. The camp wrapped their first two-week session on Friday, July 9 and is currently in its second session. 

Cordelius Stinson.

Campers have gotten the opportunity to learn about basic French vocabulary, through numbers, colors, animals, days of the week, and months of the year. They also learn about culture and history through crafts, games, songs and cooking. 

Beckstrom also has nearly to a dozen of her high school students volunteering at the camp.

“They are learning too. They learn how to make French recipes with the kids and it helps them practice their vocabulary and learn songs, things we don’t have time to do in the classroom,” Beckstrom said. 

In the kitchen, campers have gotten instructions on how to cook a number of French dishes, such as crepes, cream puffs and fondue. 

“I love the fact that we are able to cook different things and then eat them,” Whiteaker seventh grader Charlotte Potter said. “My favorite was the crepes.” 

Charlotte Potter.

Along with vocabulary and cooking, students have received the chance to build catapults and learn the sport of fencing by making swords and shields made out of foam.

“I think it’s important for them to understand the culture. It is not just language,” Beckstrom said. “We try to keep them busy.”

“I just love coming here to learn,” added Cornelius Stinson, who is going to be a freshman at Sprague High School. “I really enjoy learning the culture, the history and the language.”

On the last day of camp for the first session, students created their own Ariane bottle rockets and got the opportunity to launch them in the courtyard later that afternoon. 

Beckstrom believes that this camp is not only useful to help teach students about a different culture, but also to help them prepare for a non-socially distanced school year.

“This year, I think it is really beneficial because the kids are getting practice on what it is like to be in school again,” Beckstrom said. “They are in table groups and working quietly and doing team activities. I think we are seeing their social skills are building back up. It gives them a great base for starting school strong next year.”