Western Armenian Summer Camp
The Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation organized the first “Zarmanazan” summer camp from 17 July to 11 August 2017 in La Bourboule, France. This educational project is part of the Department’s Western Armenian revitalization program. The camp was organized in collaboration with the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), and with L’association Mille et un Mondes which administered the camp as an organization certified by the French Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Zarmanazan was composed of two complementary modules. First, it was a Western Armenian language immersion summer camp for children ages ten to fifteen. It created an innovative and playful world where the children lived and learned with the language intrinsically and continuously. Secondly, it offered an academic course designed for Western Armenian teachers or teachers-in-training in the Diaspora, leading to university certification by Inalco.
40 children, 20 facilitators, 15 teachers-in-training and 6 lecturers from ten different countries participated in the camp. For the children, each day was a new adventure. They participated in workshops that stretched their lexicon along with their imagination, they learned and created music and dances, explored nature through the lens of a camera, painted individual masterpieces that were joined to create wall-sized artistic pieces, baked and cooked dishes, initiated a daily radio program, participated in book writing took part in acting and movie making activities-all in Armenian. The projects created during the workshops were showcased to everyone during nightly gatherings. This wide range of activities and child-centered environment empowered a fun and creative approach to the Armenian language.
The Zarmanazan camp was the core component of the “Teaching Western Armenian in Diaspora” teacher training course offered by Inalco. Innovative pedagogical approaches and best practices were introduced through seminars, readers’ and writers’ workshops, and, very importantly, through practical training with the children. Based on second language acquisition and critical thinking methodologies, the course will continue throughout the year with follow up assignments. Teachers also participated in a language immersion program that was completely new to them (Portuguese), thus experiencing language acquisition challenges both as teachers and as learners.
All participants also had the opportunity to go on weekly excursions to visit nearby places such as the medieval village of Besse St. Anastaise, hike through the Chaudefour Valley, Tree Trekking in Mont le Dore, ride a cable car up Puy de Sancy, explore the medieval Chateau De Murol, swim in the Lac Chambon, and finally, discover Zarmanazan’s “hometown” of La Bourboule.
Zarmanazan was conceived by Ani Garmiryan, The Armenian Communities Department’s Senior Officer responsible for Western Armenian revitalization projects. She summed it up best: “It has been an amazing experience for the Zarmanazan team to work with so many wonderful and talented people from all over the Diaspora, and it was extremely rewarding to see the linguistic, emotional, physical, and social growth of all participants. Most importantly, the excitement generated about the language among the children was contagious.”
In November of this year we will share with the public feedback from the participants as well as videos of the camp.
Consult below the French and Armenian versions of the article.