With big changes already in place when schools returned, Pierre Cook thought it was a good time to introduce another change.

Cook, who teaches a French-language class at École Boréale in Hay River, started a weekly radio show, Radio Boréale. 

The students, from grades five to eight, contribute news stories, choose music, record advertisements and tell jokes.

Starting a program like this had been a personal goal for this year, said Cook, and COVID-19 was the perfect opportunity to introduce a new element to the curriculum, with all the disruption that has happened.

“When it all got flushed down the toilet in March, we didn’t quite have digital infrastructure developed, it was lacking. When we went online in April it was difficult,” said Cook.

“But now we’re back in classrooms, me as a technology guy I kind of held back using screens in the classroom, because some parents were hesitant,” he said. “But now that’s changed.”

Cook said his class is fortunate to have Chromebooks available for each of the students, which they have used to write scripts and record their pieces for the show. 

Being able to work on these digital literacy skills has become more important during COVID-19 and it has helped students engage with what they’re learning now they’re back in classrooms, Cook added.

“In grade five and six, we’ve got some younger characters that are really all about the newsroom, really all about dramatic kind of CNN style, news reporting,” said Cook.

“Even some of the kids that may have struggled with the French language in the past, are finding that the more they invest in it, and the more their ideas are coming through,” he added. “They’re willing to put the work in.”

The latest episode of the show is themed around Orange Shirt Day.

“We take those writing projects that are sometimes a little, you know, ‘Teacher chose the subject and teacher chose the parameters,’” said Cook. “We changed it up, Radio Boréal changes that, where the student chooses his content.”