Students build an appreciation for French culture


WESTBROOK — For Dean Morin’s French 4 students, their Oct. 29 class proved to be more than building their language skills.

Members of Morin’s class Tuesday competed to see who could create the best replica of the Eiffel Tower. Their construction materials were pipe cleaners, wire, crayons, pencils, erasers, Halloween decorations, paper, a tin cup, tape, glue and scissors.

Morin modeled the assignment on cooking shows in which chefs have only a certain amount or type of ingredient to create a dish. The goal wasn’t so much the end product, he said.

“I want them to understand this is an important structure that represents France. It is such a magnificent structure,” Morin said.

The lesson was just one of the ways Morin hopes to help students better understand the French culture. He has also brought in cheese from different regions of France and may in the future do a special unit on French impressionist painters in which students will study the style and be asked to recreate it.

“Its cuisine and the love of art the people of France have is really tremendous,” Morin said outside his classroom Tuesday as his students were busy making their towers.

“When you learn, you should foster all the senses, from hearing it, to tasting it to with this, building it,” he said. “I want to instill that in my kids so they understand the best of France.”

Junior Angelica Johns, who has done similar building events at leadership summits she had attended in the past, said the exercise adds to the classroom instruction.

“It definitely helps us understand why we are learning French in the classroom and why it is so important to learn about other cultures,” said Johns, who would like to one day travel to France.

“It’s always interesting to learn about where you want to go someday,” she added.

Junior Cameron Reece said he appreciated this style of learning.

“It’s a good way to get more engaged and hands-on with the material,” he said as he helped his partner, fellow junior Liam Cooledge, with their tower.

Although students were free to be creative with how to construct their towers with the materials they were provided, juniors Joe Begos and Westley Ramsey found that their background in robotics came in handy.

“I am taking robotics and sometimes we have to build things, so I can apply some skills I’ve learned with robotics,” he said.

Even with that background, Begos and Ramsey, like many of their peers, found trial and error was the best approach to finding a way to build their replicas.

Originally he and Ramsey built their base out of pipe cleaners, but Begos said after finding doing so wasn’t structurally sound, they decided to wrap pencils with the pipe cleaners  to serve as the base.

The students’ towers, Morin said, were not graded, but were judged with the top three teams getting acknowledged.

“I want them to think outside the box – how did someone make this out of metal and why is it so important today,” he said.

Morin has taken several groups of students to France to visit the Eiffel Tower and other important French sites.

“It’s a remarkable place to visit, and is so unique,” he said. “It is so awe-striking. You just sit there and think what an amazing structure this is. It was built in 1889 when technology was definitely limited.”

The 1,063-foot wrought iron tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair that celebrated the centennial of the French Revolution.  Meant to last only 20 years, close to 130 years later after its construction, the tower remains one of France’s top tourist destinations. More than 250 million people have visited the site since 1889.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9160 or or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

Westbrook High School juniors Joe Begos and Westley Ramsey discuss the next step they should take to build a replica of the Eiffel Tower during French class Tuesday.

With an image of the Eiffel Tower displayed on her phone, junior Angelica Johns fine-tunes a model of the iconic Paris landmark.

Liam Cooledge works on constructing a model of the Eiffel Tower using only the items his teacher, Dean Morin, provided.