I went to France this weekend--or rather Petite France (or rather 쁘띠 프랑스)--as part of the first school-type trip I've taken since coming to Korea. This was part of my Saturday Public Speaking class, and our twenty kids were combined with the same number from the Critical Reading and Writing class and the Mathematics class.
We left Saturday morning at 9 AM and returned Sunday, a half-hour late, at 5:30 PM. The weekend divided into three parts, so that's how I'll describe it. We drove northeast from Seoul into Gyeonggi-do, and spent most of Saturday at the Institute for Mathematics Culture, basically an interactive math interpretive center:
The morning was basically a lecture (in Korean) for the students, then we went to lunch at a tofu restaurant about a ten-minute drive away. The afternoon had lecture, but also hands-on activities for the students:
... as well as the teachers (my native teacher counterparts in the critical writing course, Lauren and Derek, learning about the 'catenary'):
We spent the overnight at SMOE's retreat center in the town of Namyangju-si, styled a bit like a Swiss chalet, but with few of the amenities. As the weekend was chilly, the ondol floor-heating was welcome, but the sleeping on the floor was not. Shortly after arrival, there was a welcome speech, then we played a game of Jeopardy we had prepared, with the kids in the PS and CRW classes divided into four teams. Later in the evening, the facility staff led the kids in a series of recreational games in the "program hall" before 11:00 PM bedtime.
Say what you will about the isolation of the location, the notable absense of elevators in a five-storey building and the lack of bedroom furnishings, the food was quite good!
In the morning, the students were supposed to wake early for an exercise regimen, but no one we talked to did; after breakfast, we packed up and left for France--you know, the smaller one (webpage here).
Petite France appears to be a combination tourist resort (there are guest houses for rent, and loads of sightseeing families and romatic couples) and educational center (vis, our visit, the SMOE logo prominently placed outside, and its other title as Gosong Youth Development Center). It has also been used for filming numerous Korean dramas.
|Period French table hockey|
|One of my students as participant in the mime artist's half-hour routine|
If it is supposed to recreate France, the site is an unmitigated failure--not to knock the art, architecture or artifacts, but the fact is that everything is in the Korean language, and what is not is in English. Oh, there is the occasional 'Le' in front of a noun--Le Gallery, Le Shop--but I heard not one iota of French spoken. You might as well save your money and go to Paris Baguette or Tous les Jours.
Okay, that's going a bit far; there were things to see and enjoy, enough to occupy an hour, perhaps. But then I found the "Saint-Exupery Memorial Hall, dedicated to the creator of Le Petit Prince:
Most of the exhibit was in Korean and contained reproduction photos from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's life. Ho-hum. But the top floor was the jackpot--two dozen or so original drawings and sketches, a sampling:
There you go, dear reader, my first school trip, and my first trip into the Gyeonggi-do countryside outside Seoul. The sites we went to were all well-done: professionally managed, more-or-less interesting for the students. However, we spent far too much time on the buses, and the week-end was just far too long and drawn-out.
However, my real complaints are dry and pedagogical: 1) while the extra class program per se is based on exclusively English-language instruction, not a single portion of any of the sights, site or activities was done in English (the only exception is our Jeopardy game); 2) none of it had anything at all to do with public speaking.
From a curricular perspective, this weekend was a waste of time for my students--hopefully they benefitted in other ways, not least by some informal social time with members of the opposite sex. The students were well-behaved, upbeat and positive, and seemed to enjoy themselves--more than I did, at least.