Founded by a group of parents intent on giving their children a “good head start”, the River East French Exposure Nursery School has been educating three and four year old children in preparation for kindergarten for more than 40 years.
In the beginning, this wonderful idea of a French based Nursery School was located in Neil Campbell School. It was known as the French Immersion Nursery. Over the years, it has called many schools home. At one point a move was made to Salisbury Morse Place School, where REFENS was located until June of 2000. Michelline was hired to teach the program in September of 1994 and in these past 20 years has had the opportunity to teach close to 1000 children - most of whom have gone on to a River East/Transcona school and many of those children have enrolled in the French Immersion program. In September of 2000, REFENS took up residence in Sherwood School who, in our time of need, offered us space. We are the only Nursery School program that offers an initiation to the French language in the North/East Kildonan area and we have even had some students who have travelled from as far away as St. Vital and Fort Rouge to attend our classes.
Over the years, our students have had many wonderful opportunities. We have visited out local Library and Fire Stations. We have taken in activities at The Festival du Voyageur and the Winnipeg International Children's Festival. Most recently our students have been the invited guests at the KidsFest Opening Ceremonies and have performed on stage with Jacques Chénier and Fred Penner.
The children who go through our program are prepared to face Kindergarten in either French or English. Our program teaches not only numbers, letters, colours and shapes but also the skills necessary to be part of a group. We learn that there are times when we must listen and learn, there are also times to play and enjoy the company of your friends but also how to share those precious toys and books even when you don’t want to. We follow the school schedules and procedures: we are quiet in the halls and respectful of other classes, we do fire drills and respect the playground rules.
We follow a routine that emulates one found in a kindergarten setting. We have circle time, we learn about the weather and the days of the week and during our daily lesson we learn not only vocabulary we also practice the fine motor skills we will need to succeed in our future endeavours. Every month we have a science lesson and have Show and Tell presentations, we celebrate birthdays and Christmas and Halloween and Easter and, at the end of June, even rejoice in the fact that we have learned so many new things that we are ready for Kindergarten and therefore, must leave each other. The friendships that are started in Nursery School last for many years. Each Spring, we host a Family Fun Night to which we invite all REFENS Alumni. It is wonderful to see so many former students and their parents come out a enjoy an evening of re-discovery and a stroll down memory lane!
We left Sherwood School in 2003 and headed into Transcona where we landed at Joseph Teres School - our current home. We have felt very much at home in this space and have made many wonderful connections with the staff and students. We have created opportunities to work together - we collaborate with the kindergarten class when we make paper and have had grade 4 students who have begun their basic French program come into our class and work with us.
Our program has a wonderful reputation in the RETSD just ask the kindergarten teachers in both the Immersion and English schools. The children who graduate from REFENS are ready and anxious to take on the challenges that the education system has in store for them.