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School offers language camp
23 Deh Gah School students to spend six weeks at Willow Lake

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 1, 2011

For six weeks, 23 Fort Providence students will be cut off from the Internet, television and all forms of electronics, but what they will experience is an immersion into Dene Zhatie.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sheldon Sanderson, right, alongside two Air Tindi staff, waves goodbye before leaving Fort Providence on Aug. 18 as one of the members of the advance party that was sent to Willow Lake to prepare for Deh Gah School's language immersion camp. - photo courtesy of Deh Gah School

Deh Gah School is running a language immersion camp for its older students from Aug. 29 to Oct. 6 at Willow Lake.

The school is entering its sixth year of running an immersion program but it only encompasses kindergarten to Grade 3.

School staff members have long talked about offering a program for older students, said Lois Philipp, the school's principal.

The camp is fulfilling that goal. Participation was opened up to families who have a student in Grade 7 or higher.

That student and their younger siblings could attend if a parental figure, either their own or another parent who was willing to be responsible for them, agreed to come to the camp, too.

Philipp said many families responded positively to the concept.

"Those that wanted to go quite quickly stepped forward," she said.

What the students and parents signed up for is six weeks of camping at Willow Lake.

The lake is located on the Horn Plateau, approximately a 25-minute flight from Fort Providence by Twin Otter.

At the camp, secondary school students will complete the Slavey 15 and experiential science 10 course as well as career and technology credits.

The younger students will focus on Dene Zhatie, also known as South Slavey, the Dene Kede curriculum and skills that can be used in life, said Philipp.

"It's an experiential-based learning opportunity that allows students the opportunity to acquire their language and go out and be with their families and reconnect," she said.

The camp is about language, families and the land, said Phillip. Laura Sabourin will assist Theresa Bonnetrouge, the lead teacher at the camp.

Sixteen other adults, parents and elders will also be on site.

To prepare for the camp, an advance party of six people was sent by floatplane on Aug. 18 to the lake. They were tasked with clearing an area, setting up tipis and tents as well as building a dock and outhouses.

The camp participants arrived on Aug. 29.

At the camp, there will be no iPods or electronics are allowed as well as junk food.

"It will be really good," said Philipp.

Each family was given a basic food kit so they can cook their own meals during the camp.

A number of local businesses as well as government departments came together to fund and make the camp possible.

Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge was extremely enthusiastic and organized the support of Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation, said Philipp.

"They've been equal partners," she said.

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