Around the World with Alice & Womple: Workshop reflection 3 – France

Hello, dear parents and teachers! We cannot wait to share our third workshop reflection and a review of an educational STEAM exploration box we used in our Around the World with Alice & Womple program! The local Cultural Center Barka or KC Barka kindly gave the space for the program. Womple Studios was kind enough to gift their educational boxes and support our program, and we’re very happy to bring the joy of uncovering a new country each time through unboxing. This article will explore our program aims and what we did in the third workshop, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

About the Womple STEAM educational box

Womple is an amazing educational box that takes children around the world in order to explore different countries and cultures. Each box has materials for two country-related crafts, some of which can include art and some include engineering and building. We especially love the addition of stickers, huge informational posters, and a chapter book about Womple’s adventures from various countries. The crafts have detailed instruction posters, so for us, this is another chance to practice English by following and decoding instructions.

Who hasn’t been swept away by a story? Great stories transport you to new places: spelunking in underwater caves, trekking through hot and humid jungles, climbing to the peaks of treacherous volcanoes. Stories also help kids understand complex topics and other people by immersing them in new experiences and putting them in others’ shoes. Stories illuminate new concepts, expand kids’ worldview, and build empathy.

Each country is followed by Womple, our amazing CTO – Chief Travel Officer! Womple is our dear plushy friend present in each workshop, and he is our guide to all these amazing cultures, countries, and languages. We will reveal a bit more about Womple in each workshop so you can follow our journey worldwide to see what will happen next!

Coddiwomple (v.) — To travel in a purposeful manner towards an unknown destination.

Our third Womple box – France

Our third Womple box was all about France. It included a large map of France, materials to create a French comic book, and materials to paint a pointillism painting along with stickers, postcards, keychains, and of course, a book about Womple’s adventures in France! These crafts were really hands-on and required a lot of creativity to complete! This Womple box was a bit different than Rapa Nui because this one required the children to be creative in terms of language as well and design a comic book.

Workshop methods and program aims – in case this is the first Womple box article you are reading (we add the same methods to each post)

The program focuses on learning English through literature, travel & science. Each workshop has a dedicated book from a country we visit, where we follow our main character Womple on his travels. The science focus is present through exploring different phenomena from different countries (from the animal to the human world) and engineering (building various structures from cardboard and wood.)

The overall aims of the program include the following:

  • Vocabulary acquisition through play,
  • Developing awareness about other countries and cultures,
  • STEAM – using science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (primary school level),
  • 21st-century skills – communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking,
  • Dramatic activities – gross motor skills (body movements) and gesticulation (facial expressions),
  • Crafting – workshops with the book theme and fine motor skills development (using fingers).

The program has around ten children, and the spaces are limited. The present children need to be able to write and read the Latin alphabet. To participate in the program, the children need to have completed at least one year of language learning in school since the program is not for absolute beginners. The program is open to children from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. The group is permanently formed, and the same children attend from the beginning to the end of the program.

The grand opening

To select a person to be in charge of this box (this includes unboxing and also deciphering what are the activities today) we decided to do something very French. We dropped our names in one of the children’s hats and selected a person, fair and square. It was random but it was still democratic as we had to agree that this person opens the box today.

We tried to guess what is the country together – the children always ask but I never want to tell them because the goal is that them to deduce what is the country based on the content they see in the box. The thing that gave this box away was the Eiffel Tower part of the Pointillism craft. Since the kids were younger the comic book craft didn’t help them guess because they were not familiar with the comic books, so we listened to some music in French until they guessed the language.

The big questions and map exploration

This time the children had much more questions than before! We spent over 30 minutes just talking and exploring, all initiated by them. We are slowly, but surely working on our critical thinking skills.

They asked some big questions, such as:

  1. How many languages do people speak in the world? What are the most interesting ones and why?
  2. How many people are there in the world?
  3. How many countries?
  4. Why are languages so important to people?
  5. How many languages do people speak in Serbia? And which ones? Why?
  6. What happens with a language when people stop speaking it?

After this, we focused on France and explored each place from the map individually. The children really liked the architecture in the illustrations and they all picked something to explore and search online. They are also improving when it comes to typing online and using Google as our preferred search engine.

They watched many videos of different locations and then explored the most well-known parts of French culture such as famous people, and food, and they were also intrigued by the Eiffel Tower and wanted to know how does it look inside!

Explore some of the pictures below to peek into this part of the workshop. 👇

Getting more friendly with Womple and reading his story

Today the kids took Womple and literally walked him around the map, and table, and even held him to the laptop so he can see the videos too. It is brilliant to observe this as a teacher because puppets and plush characters always have such success in the classroom and kids start referring to them as real persons. They asked me where is Womple from, and what does he do, and they were interested to hear about his adventures in France, so we read the book.

One of the children read it as much as he could, and he showed the pictures to others and retold the main events using pictures. I loved this because as a teacher my goal is to just support and let students learn independently and take over the workshop.

1st crafting activity – French comic book

This is where we started to have problems. I really thought that creating a comic book would be so natural and easy for them, but it was quite the opposite. They constantly asked me if this is ok if that is ok, and I did my best to motivate them to not ask me. Whatever they write is amazing, and I helped them form stories by giving them tips about locations, and characters, and also translating some things into English.

Stickers coming to the rescue

Since all of the kids felt like nothing was good enough and they needed a more structured environment, I pulled out the face stickers I created earlier. These proved to be so amazing as they have my face showing various things and they motivated them a lot. Another set of stickers had children’s drawings from my students on them with motivational messages, which also made them happy because they saw drawings of other children.

We had an issue with perfectionism, so we talked about it and tried to shift our mindset because no one will grade their work and the most important thing is to enjoy and have fun with your creation. Honestly, as a teacher this really made me feel sad because their creativity was so diminished by constant homework, fear of being judged, and lack of freedom. I praised their work and had to reassure them many times that they are doing a great job.

Teachers and parents, please let your children be more creative and just do art for the sake of art. Not everything needs to have a curriculum connection or be graded. The children are under so much pressure and I can clearly see it from my point of view in the informal teaching sector.

Teachers and parents, please let your children be more creative and just do art for the sake of art. Not everything needs to have a curriculum connection or be graded.

Gallery of our comic books at the end of the workshop

Explore some of the comic books we photographed at the end of the workshop below. 👇

2nd crafting activity: Eiffel Tower Pointillism Painting

We reserved the pointillism painting craft for another workshop because the kids already had to make a comic book and we spent too much time exploring and discussing things they were interested in. We will do this craft with some of the future groups because we need to print out multiple painting frames and Eiffel Towers for the craft. I tested this craft at home. I do this with all of the crafts before taking them to the kids because I need to know if it can be replicated to a group of children and if yes, how can we do that? This one was super fun to make, but it is also messy, so in the future, we will inform the parents to dress up the kids in old clothes.

The picture below shows all of the materials we have received – paint brushes, paint, frames, other cutouts, paper, and sticky glue pads.

Parent feedback in Serbian (shared after each workshop)

Dragi svi,

Imali smo nove drugare u nedelju i ovog puta smo putovali u Francusku. Počeli smo kroz istraživanje jezika i slušali muziku na francuskom dok nismo pogodili jezik.

Deca su ovaj put imala toliko mnogo pitanja da smo pola sata pričali i istraživali, na njihovu inicijativu, tako da konačno napredujemo u kritičkom razmišljanju. Možete ih pitati: Koliko jezika ima u svetu? Koliko ljudi ima u svetu? Koliko zemalja ima u svetu? Koliko se jezika govori u Srbiji? Koji su to jezici? I još svašta nešto.

Zatim smo se fokusirali na Francusku i istraživali svako mesto sa mape pojedinačno i sami su tražili po izboru šta žele da vide. Možete ih pitati za poznata mesta, hranu, kao i šta je naš turistički vodič Womple radio na Ajfelovom tornju jer smo čuili i priču.

Nastavili smo sa izradom stripa po uzoru na francuski strip i tu smo imali dosta problema – većini dece u grupi je jako teško kada im zadatak nije skroz detaljno dat već imaju slobodu potpunu da budu kreativni, što je samo odraz rigidnih metoda nastave na koje su navikli.

Prostor za dalji rad/poboljšavanje veština koje nam nisu jača strana:

Skoro svakog sam lično morala da motivišem da je bitna priča i da niko neće reći ako nije savršeno nacrtano i prosto su navikli da se svaka sitnica ocenjuje. Da li smem da nacrtam Womple-a, da li smem da zalepim stiker, da li smem da bojim bojicama, čak i pitanja da li smem da napišem nešto van okvira kocke stripa, koja strana mora da bude prva (iako su svi papiri prazni i neobeleženi), i baš bezbroj pitanja sličnog tipa.

Svi su dobili personalizovane stikere koje sam dizajnirala sa svojom decom u školi jezika kao i stikeri koje su sama deca crtala, tako da je to makar malo pomoglo oko motivacije pa ih pitajte da Vam pokažu ”moju facu” na stripu.

Koliko možete motivišite ih da završe strip kući da bismo generalno grupi gradili samopouzdanje.

P.S. Naredni put dođite u staroj odeći jer ćemo se uprljati i ne želimo da upropastimo nove stvari. Imaćemo vajanje više puta kao i tempere i slično!

Much love to the little ones,

Milica Alice Vukadin

To conclude

Here’s everything we got in our Womple Box this time. I am especially happy with the stencils because we can easily reuse those in any of the future activities since they have Womple, many words, and also the full English alphabet. The children really enjoyed exploring France and watching videos, as well as reading the story today, and I am personally pleased that we had the chance to get out of our comfort zone with the comic book. These tiny things help children become more confident and to create whatever they want without the fear of being evaluated or judged.

Big thanks to Womple once for enabling us to have these amazing workshops with their educational boxes. I’ve already explored all of the boxes they sent us and I am quite excited about the future topics!

If you are interested in getting your WompleBox and want to use it at home, you can click here or the image below to get 30% off your first box by entering our special code FIRSTMONTH30! We want to thank Womple once more for this gift because the children have been more excited than in any program we’ve done so far!

Check out our two previous Womple workshop summaries

What do you think about our third workshop? Do you think world travel and practical activities can help your child improve their English skills? Let us know in the comments or on our Instagram page!

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