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New day program, Camp Les Lilas, makes practicing French fun

'It was important for us to create an environment where kids feel excited to learn'
Josée Gratton, right, and Morgan Elias will run 'Camp Les Lilas' at 10C in Downtown Guelph.

A new program for kids is taking them out of French class and putting them into the community to practice their skills. 

Camp Les Lilas is a new French drama and art day camp. The aim of the camp is to help children ages eight to 12 develop conversational French through games, mini skits and crafts. Campers will also have the opportunity to visit local businesses to practice their French. 

Morgan Elias and Josée Gratton are teachers and founders of Camp Les Lilas. Both Elias and Gratton  wanted to develop a business together that helped kids continue their French education.

“We just want to make it fun for kids to practice speaking French, and we feel like they do that best by playing games, and, drama and skits, and with each other as opposed to learning one-on-one,” said Elias.

"We believe in these types of programs for kids and love being with the kids," adds Gratton. 

The camp will run in Downtown Guelph at 10C starting July 18. During the week, campers will break into smaller groups with helpers based on skill and age throughout the day, and then reunite for different activities. In the future, Gratton and Elias hope to offer one week in July and one week in August.

Elias and Gratton each have experience working at summer camps and tailoring their teaching to different students, which is why French speakers of all levels are welcome to Camp Les Lilas. 

“It was important for us to create an environment where kids feel excited to learn,” said Elias.

Despite having French immersion schools and French programs in schools in Guelph, Gratton said there aren't a lot of programs like Camp Les Lilas within the community. She notes day camps run by the University of Guelph do offer the option for french-speaking counsellors.

“We have a lot of kids that are learning French in our community, but it’s sort of reserved to the school environment, and so this kind of offers them more real world experiences,” said Gratton. 

“There are a lot of sports out there, and a lot of after school activities that are geared towards the musician or the athlete, but there’s not as much geared towards the arts, and especially the French arts."

Gratton adds there are many studies that show the benefits of learning another language and hopes the program will make kids want to travel and continue learning French. 

"I think a huge part of what we want to see with Les Lilas, is that we hope it will become sort of a community," said Gratton.

In the Fall, Les Lilas will be offering French programs for children and adults. There will also be a Spanish class available for adults as well, which will be taught by Gratton.