Rye College students in Years 9 and 10 recently visited College Jean Moulin in Berck-sur-mer, France, to work on an artistic and cultural project.
The link between the two schools has grown since 2010, with teachers and students taking part in a variety of projects over the years, including themes such as Fair Trade, Water, Carnival, The Paralympics and National Heroes. This year a poster in Rye College sparked the inspiration for a project on Street Art and in particular the well-known British graffiti artist Banksy.
The French children spent two days in Rye in March, studying stencil cutting and painting techniques together with students from Rye, and in mixed-nationality groups the children designed and created some stunning artwork symbolising French/British culture, now on display in the schools on both sides of the channel.
The return half of the exchange this May gave Rye College students the change to see their framed Banksy-style posters in pride of place in the French school. This time the students worked together to create photo-montage artworks. The teachers in France presented the Rye group with newspaper reports of their visit to England, and gifts of French books and leaflets to use in French lessons at Rye.
Rye College students also visited La Coupole, near St Omer, now a fascinating museum about WWII, created in a bunker built under the Nazi occupation of France as a launchpad for the V2 flying bombs. The following day, the French host school students took the Rye group on an art-treasure trail around the town of Berck, and along their stunning sandy beach to visit some of the remains of the “Atlantic Wall” now covered in graffiti artworks. Students worked in both languages to debate the consequences of war, whether the paintings were Art or vandalism, and whether they are appropriate on such historic sites.
Each group tried hard to communicate in each others’ language, and as the students got to know each other, the teachers were delighted to see how well the French and British students managed to work together. Real friendships were formed, and both sides of the exchange were surprised and pleased to discover how similar they are, swapping social media details and interests. Of course for many Rye Students, there were two highlights - the fantastic food at French school dinner, and the shopping stop at Cite Europe on the way back!
Next year the teacher are planning to take slightly longer visits to each other’s schools, and hope to apply for a British Council travel award to assist the exchange financially.