Averett Students Take Part in the First French Service-Learning Class at Local Museum

Posted on September 23rd, 2020 by Matt Bell

Averett University French students could recently be heard at the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History reading excerpts of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince from the Perkinson Rose Garden. It’s all part of a service-learning project created by Averett University Associate Professor of French and English Dr. Catherine Clark for the French students.

“The French service-learning class is new this year,” Clark said. “Elsabe Dixon, who is the director of the museum, brought up the idea of service-learning with the French students.”

Because The Little Prince has a focal point on a single rose, Clark and Dixon settled on the students reading portions of the book about the rose in the museum’s rose garden. Located on the south lawn of the museum, the rose garden has multiple varieties of roses in pinks, reds and whites.

One specific variety of rose in the garden has transcended through time as a plant brought to the United States from England by Lady Astor. As Museum Visitor Services Coordinator C.B. Maddox pointed out, it is just one of hundreds of roses verified as coming to the United States by Lady Astor during her visits to her hometown.

Clark said by using this information and portions of The Little Prince, students are going to create a project bringing the cultures together with the rose.

“They’re going to do a project on how roses are important in French culture and history, and tie it to the rose garden in Danville. They are going to do some reflections on the rose in the story and tie the two cultures together,” Clark said.

Clark said she created the framework for the class and some of the guidelines while the students are responsible for the work and readings. She noted Dr. Billy Wooten, director of The Center for Community Engagement & Career Competitiveness at Averett University, also helped to put the class together.

Students said they appreciated service-learning classes because they offer new ways to learn and connect with the community around them.

“It’s been helpful making the connections between the rose garden here at the museum and the book, because it’s all about the prince and the rose,” said Rachel Hitt, a senior from Danville majoring in English.

Freshman Remy Vigouroux said that after three years of French in high school, she appreciated the service-learning approach as opposed to the classroom.

“Because of the service-learning aspect, it’s much more hands on. In high school you would just sit in class and be called on. It’s much more involved,” Vigouroux said. “It’s been great to make the connections between the University, museum and community.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the class of five gathered in the rose garden and took turns reading excerpts in French from The Little Prince.

While the rose garden remains in full bloom, students also had the opportunity to stop and enjoy them for their color and fragrance as well as taking a rose home.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, students painted rocks with excerpts from The Little Prince to become a permanent part of the display at the museum. Felice T. McWilliams assisted the students on how to best paint their rocks.