The French Boat - Le bateau français

05 May 2005

A huge, French ship called ‘La Marne’ provided Grade Six with the opportunity to search and explore a real military vessel while practicing their French.

A huge, French ship called ‘La Marne’ - which was docked in Mombasa harbour - provided Grade Six with the opportunity to search and explore a real military vessel while practicing their French. It was an opportunity not to be missed!

Haute Sécurité
The visit started with the port security. Several police road blocks and teams of askaris reminded the children that this was no ordinary school trip. The tension mounted as the students waited for the previous visitors – The Aga Khan Nursery School - to clamber off the boat. The disembarking infants wore large grins and wide eyes reflecting the adventure that awaited Grade Six inside.

On parle français
The children – carrying clip boards and worksheets – set off to gather information and to fuel their own inquiries. Of course - as this was a foreign language trip - all conversations, questions and recordings were undertaken in French. This process started by greeting the entrance guard “Bonjour, comment ça va?” and counting as the students walked up the gangway “Un, deux, trois…”

The students were split into groups and each group was assigned a friendly, French naval guide to tour the ship. The exploration started with the helicopter at the stern of the boat. As many gazed in awe at the aircraft, others took this opportunity to gather information for their worksheets: setting up French conversations with pilots, engineers, chefs and officers. “Où habitez-vous en France?”

As they peered over the edge of the boat the students could view military exercises taking place: a small rubber dingy full of sailors patrolling the waters and a group of engineers were adjusting a large gun. As the excited visitors squeezed through their first door into the interior of the vessel, they discovered a gym full of sailors working out, an array of lifejackets, buoyancy aids and a life sized, orange man (made out of plastic).

Next was the ascent to the admiral’s and captain’s control room. Stairwell after stairwell of steep, metal stairs led the way. The students had to be very careful working their way up the steps. They thought about the fun and challenge the nursery children must have faced – no wonder they were grinning!! Signs written in French lined the doors and walls probing the children to ask their English meanings. One door even had a”Entrée strictement interdite” sign with a special combination lock. “Only the admiral is able to enter this room” explained the guide.

La Passerelle
By the time the children had reached the main control room they had scaled four flights of stairs. The French sailors were extremely helpful and kind: assisting the children on their way and allowing them free access to a range of objects and areas. Some of the visitors had the opportunity to sit on the admiral’s special chair, others got to peer through the telescope and to look at the flags in the identification book.
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