For mini Francophones and Francophiles alike, Les Explorateurs offers scouting fun and adventure with a French twist.
Based in Canberra, Les Explorateurs delivers the official Scouts Australia program in French, supporting kids to use their French language skills outside of the classroom.
Group leader Darren Kriticos says the group started in 2011, when parents of children attending Telopea Park School banded together to create an opportunity for their children to utilise the French they learn at school, outside of the classroom.
“[It’s] giving the children exposure to some of the scouting opportunities for fun and learning, but also giving them exposure to French outside of the school context,” Mr Kriticos says.
“We notice that there’s a natural thing with the kids, that once they go out of the classroom, they tend to revert to English.
“We’re trying to give them a context where we can validate their use of the French language and it’s an opportunity to inject a bit of French culture … We’re building a bridge between the Francophone and Francophile communities.”
With around 60 children participating, Mr Kriticos says the group is about “learning by doing” and “learning by fun”, encouraging the kids to get out of their comfort zones.
“It’s a very self-directed program; we’ve got guidance and opportunity, but the kids can chart their own course… and put emphasis on the things they want to learn,” he says.
“It’s exactly the same program [as ‘regular’ Scouts], we just deliver as much of it in French as we can.
“The thing we do a little better, I think, is the cuisine. We try to ‘French up’ the old camp cuisine, and we’ve got a bit of a reputation for that.”
Participants are placed in their appropriate age group – Joeys, Cubs and Scouts – and do activities like camping, pioneering, canoeing and surfing.
“The kids love it,” Mr Kriticos says. “Last year, we took a group of Scouts over to England and France, where they could go and see the origins of scouting and the first place [founder of scouting Lord Baden-Powell] ever had a scouting group.
“The benefits are being able to see the kids grow. They come in and they don’t have a lot of confidence, and that’s one of the biggest things we can do, we can go and build their confidence … and we see that in the feedback we get from the parents but it’s also the feedback we see directly from the kids.”
Les Explorateurs meet each week at the Ainslie Scout Hall, offering programs from ages five to 15. For more information, visit explorateurs.org.au