Going Beyond the Classroom at French Summer Camp


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Martine is a native French speaker, but her son, born and raised in Toronto, was resistant to speaking the language with his mother at home when he began French immersion at age 6. So, Martine did what any parent would: she organized her own French language day camp for eight kids in her home.

Well, maybe not quite what any parent would do! But, the ad hoc camp was a success—Martine’s son and the other children enrolled were quickly speaking French with confidence and having fun. And more parents were calling Martine to ask how to enroll.

Nearly two decades later, Camp Tournesol is the province’s largest French day camp, with 17 locations in Toronto and the GTA for kids ages 4–14. It is also Ontario’s only overnight camp for French immersion students, with locations in Muskoka and Georgian Bay, and has a 13-day Quebec French immersion trip.

Day camp programs are tailored by level: one camp for francophone or French immersion students, another for Core French or extended French students, and a Kinder Camp—the only preparatory program of its kind, for kids ages 4–6 who have little or no French.

If you think language camp sounds like summer school, think again. Kids won’t be filling out grammar worksheets or taking exams on their summer break at Camp Tournesol. Instead, they’ll be developing their verbal skills experientially, through conversation while they play games and sports, sing songs and make crafts, and play at splash pads.

Basically, they’ll do all the fun stuff kids do at camp…just in French.

Mississauga dad Claudio Ghirardo believes that this is why his two kids, Jason (15) and Carmela (10), have stuck with the language over the years. Both struggled with French immersion in school initially, but within the first week of camp at age 6, they were coming home excited about earning achievement stickers and showing “huge leaps” in their vocabulary and confidence in speaking. Claudio also credits the quality of the counsellors, who “really connect with the kids”.

Both of his children have returned to the camp every summer since and continue to excel in French. Jason has even completed the camp’s counsellor-in-training program and is joining the Camp Tournesol staff this summer.

Ultimately, the more-play-than-school structure seems to be why Camp Tournesol is as popular with kids as it is effective for language development: the focus is on experiential learning in a non-academic, social environment—with no fear of judgement, tests, or grades. It turns out to be just the right formula to allow children’s French skills to skyrocket, while they’re busy making friends and camp memories.

For more information, contact Camp Tournesol by phone at 888-455-6845 or email at info@campt.ca.

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