Register Wednesday | June 26 | 2019

Blue Metropolis day 2

I attended the “Quebec Roots” book launch yesterday, day two of the Blue Met. (Sober as a judge, mind you.)

The project invited anglophone students from across the province—including some unexpectedly remote locations—to develop photo essays on their communities. Covering elementary, secondary, and adult ed classes, these so-called “distance-education” projects were assisted by professional writers and photographers.

Hard to judge the quality of the works themselves, as the most touching aspects of the book launch were the students’ presentations and seemingly heartfelt dedication to their own creative works. Compared to the half-empty conference room last night, this event was packed full with students and teachers from Lasalle and Lachute to James Bay and Nunavik.

It was refreshing to see community engagement playing a role in an education system that seems to focus primarily on hard skills. “In our school, we don’t have a creative class, or even a music class,” reflected one student. Alas, it was an added bonus to see such a project enacted in a creative context.

Her teacher echoed the sentiment, noting that in addition to community linkage, the students get to see their names in print. “The students are all engaged, and that’s rewarding because I think that’s what education should be.”

Agreed.

An occasional glance around the room gave me the impression that most of the students were pretty glad to be there. (Admittedly, they did have a day off from school.) But equally impressive was the distance traversed to set this up; aside from the Lasalle group (“it took us 15 minutes to get here”), many of the visiting students traveled up to 6 hours to be there.

If it sounds like I’m singing praises, it’s not that the event was particularly wild or exciting or hilarious. Rather, it would be wrong to overlook the importance of such community engagement in a society that is Facebooked and Blackberried to unhealthy degrees. And as has been demonstrated in the past, when given the chance, these students actually have something worthwhile to say.

I should give props to Maïté de Hemptinne, firstly because everyone at the event did, but mostly because she one of the most modest and low-key organizer I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. And they all agreed it couldn’t have been done without her (I also scored a book – sweet.)

* * *

I have to share this cool anecdote, courtesy of the presenting students of St. Paul’s School in the Lower North Shore region:

“We had about twenty-one snow days this year. And as [my classmate] noted, we come from a small town. There are about 60 students from grades 7 to 11, making up four different communities in the area. We have no high-speed internet. In bad weather, the internet connection doesn’t work. So, yeah, that was a particular challenge for the project.”