Many middle school teachers feel that 50 minutes in a classroom is long enough to spend with their spirited students. And then there's Keeley Linley.
Talk about brave -- she took three bus loads of middle-schoolers on a five-day field trip out of the country.
Linley, French teacher at Chesapeake Bay Middle School, took 98 students from her seventh- and eighth-grade classes, along with 36 chaperons, to Canada last week for some French language and history lessons.
They left Pasadena Tuesday evening, slept on the buses and arrived Wednesday morning in the French-speaking Quebec City.
MadameLinley, as she is known to her students, has been leading school trips to Quebec for seven years and began planning the latest venture atthe end of August.
The students and parents also began preparations months in advance, with fund-raisers to offset the $360-a-person cost of the trip, meetings and letter exchanges with French-Canadian pen pals.
Linley says the trip makes a difference in her classes. "Students are a lot more motivated to learn in the classroom because they know they'll have to use it in a real situation," she said.
Her detailed planning produced a five-day trip filled with activities including a walk through the historic streets of Old Quebec, a visit to a French-speaking school, a film and costume workshop, a ferry rideon the St. Laurence River, a living history workshop, a fact-findingrally, visits to the Basilica of Ste. Anne-de-Beaupre, a bee museum and a maple syrup farm, plus roller skating and shopping.
After the 16-hour bus ride and a brief chance to freshen up in their Holiday Inn hotel rooms, Chesapeake students were taken to meet their French-Canadian middle school counterparts, some of whom had been pen pals.
As an ice-breaking activity, the Pasadena youngsters were asked toremove one shoe. Then, the French-Canadian students each picked a shoe from the pile and had the task of finding its owner. After the pairs got together, the "Anglophones" and "Francophones" were to interview one another in the language they were attempting to learn.
Withuncomfortable giggles, they began to speak to one another. American students learned that English did not come easily to the French-speaking students. And by the end of the afternoon, American students werebeginning to speak French -- not for a classroom grade, but to communicate with new friends.
At dinner that night, they continued to practice French when Linley reminded them to order "en Francais, s'il vous plait" ("in French, please").
"Je voudrais du salade, s'il vous plait," said one student, haltingly. ("I'd like some salad, please.")
"Bon!" exclaimed their teacher.
Over the next few days, students listened to their guides, Alain, Eric and Michel, who spoke to them both in French and English. They learned about the separatist movement that would remove Quebec from the rest of Canada, and much of the history behind it.
At Artillery Park, they watchedseventh-graders Steve Koontz and Kristin Beuerle put on layers French and Canadian military uniforms. "I don't see how soldiers could move at all with all those clothes," commented one student.
During another activity, the students were broken into groups for a living history workshop in which they dressed in period costumes and acted out some Canadian history -- a version that would have sent Samuel de Champlain, founder of the city of Quebec in 1608, rolling over in his grave. It did send the chaperons rolling in the aisles.
The Chesapeake crew learned that Champlain had married a 12-year-old girl -- the same age as many of them. She lived in France, and Champlain saw his young wife only a few times.
"And why do you think he married someone he only saw a few times?" asked Alain, the guide for Bus No. 1. "Money. He would now have money to return to France."
On a visit toL'Erabliere du Vieux Cap, a 300-year-old farm with an outdoor root cellar dating back to Quebec's founding by Champlain, students tasted maple sap as it dripped into buckets from the trees and watched the various stages of producing maple syrup.
Although nearly every minute was packed with activities intended to enrich the students' learning, ask them for the best activity, and you'll hear: "The Mall."
The students visited Les Galeries de la Capitale, a large mall where they could ride a roller coaster right past the stores or ice skate while shoppers strolled around them.
Spending their Canadian money on souvenirs and gifts, the students practiced asking, "Quel est le prix?" ("What is the price?")
"I liked the mall and being with all my friends," said seventh-grader Chris Collins.
Asked what he learned, Chris offered, "I learned how to order food politely in French, and I learned that the French food isn't as good as American food. Their pizzas don't have enough sauce."
Linley said the county Board of Education requires one chaperon for every five students on a trip out of the country, but she prefers the one-to-three ratio she had on last week's journey -- which might account for the lack of any serious disciplinary problem.
"I couldn't do this trip without the support of the parents and my principal (Charity McClellan)," she said. "Parent support at this school is tremendous."
Bob Fishback, a parent chaperon, said it was the first time out of the country for his son, Ted, and "that was a big thing. It was probably the first trip to another country for a lot of the kids. They were exposed to foreign money, a foreign language, and different customs. Some of the kids wereimpressed with the old buildings. Quebec was very European."