Château de la Baudonnière: immersion with a kick

After a grueling week away, I was glad to finally arrive at my front door and to be greeted by the atmosphere of a warm, heated house with all of my home comforts. Once I had sat down on the sofa with a glass of wine, however, it was not difficult to decide that the week was definitely worth it.

I had been away for seven days with twenty-five mixed-level students and two colleagues. Our destination was the Château de la Baudonnière, an immersion centre for English-speaking children in the heart of the Norman countryside.

A tailor-made experience

The Château is staffed by a team of qualified native French-speaking animateurs headed by Liverpudlian Darren Benson. Each school chooses the activities that are of most interest to them and the Château then draws up a packed timetable for students grouped by their linguistic ability or age, as the school decides. Students are kept busy from 08h15 unti 21h00 every day, with time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All meals and activities are accessibly presented in French.

The animateurs, many with quirky names bearing little resemblance to their real prénoms, are instantly popular with the students, who remain engaged in each activitiy throughout. Teachers are free to come and go as they wish (with the exception of a few more challenging activities), although, as you can see below, I couldn’t resist getting involved!

A fun-packed week

There is a range of activities to choose from, and more details can be found at http://www.the-chateau.com. The most popular with the students this year was the Parcours de santé (assault course) which I, perhaps foolishly, did with them…

MonsieurM after an hour-and-a-half crawling around in the mud

Another popular activity was traditional French bread making or Fabrication du pain. Students hand-made bread into a form of their choice whilst learning useful vocabulary and holding singing competitions with other groups during the kneading process. Unfortunately for me, however, the ‘create an anim or teacher in dough’ activity was not the most flattering…

MonsieurM in dough

Despite comments to the contrary, the French lessons that popped up twice for each group during our week-long stay were well organised and covered language that was useful and pertinent to students throughout their stay. Perhaps the only drawback is that the sight of Leçon de français on their activity timetable already fills students with dread… nonetheless, they all completed a daily journal of their activities in French with no complaints!

All-in-all, despite a fractured finger and an allergic reaction with both gave me my first visits to a French A&E department, the trip to the Château de la Baudonnière was a resounding success… and I’m already thinking about next year’s trip!

Photographs © L Blythe

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