Earlier this year grade 6/7 students at Immanuel Christian School (ICS) in Charlottetown wrote letters to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, asking if she’d like to come to their school for a visit during her tour of Prince Edward Island. Included in the cordial letters were recommendations of other lovely places to see on the Island: Potato farms, the beaches, the house that inspired L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. It started out as a simple letter writing assignment, given to the students by their teacher, Bethany Kipp.
About a month later students gathered for a Friday assembly and found out that Camilla had read the letters personally and was interested in visiting the school. Students also learned that she would be pleased to watch a scene or two from their class play, an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet. Jaws dropped, hands covered mouths and gleeful exclamations of surprise followed!
Weeks leading up to the royal occasion, scheduled to take place on May 20th, were marked by busyness and excitement for the entire ICS community. Staff and students made royal fascinators with feathers, decorated classrooms and rehearsed diligently for the special day’s program—which they officially called “Arts and Letters”.
Videos of the school’s brush with royalty show Camilla receiving a warm welcome from the ICS community. Dressed in Shakespearean garb, young actors dance gracefully for the smiling Duchess, whose visit to the school began with a band performance in the gym, and was followed by plays, poetry readings and a musical number sung by the entire student body.
By all accounts, the day will be remembered in a very positive light. ”She’s probably the most famous person I’ll ever meet, so it’s pretty amazing,” one ICS student told CBC News.
“She seemed very natural, at ease and quick to chat with anyone she met,” says Matthew Mann, Principal at the school. He adds that the opportunity was also “a wonderful curriculum moment” pointing out that it afforded students with the chance to present what they had already been working on in class to an authentic audience.
“We were reminded that learning is made much more rich when there is something authentic that follows.” Students were congratulated for their work, and felt a real sense of accomplishment, he reflects. “I think that served well for their feeling of pride”.
When it came to preparing for the big day, Mann says that the school faced a peculiar (somewhat humorous) tension. During a meeting with British police, media representatives, and local government officials, he was told that “you want it to look natural, as though nothing’s been staged” he recalls. The reality, of course, was that much of the day was well practiced and carefully planned, he says.
Still, the pressure to impress didn’t get in the way of the students’ genuine expressions of creativity and hospitality, says Mann—nor did it add an unwanted layer of artifice to the way the school presented itself.
“It was rehearsed,” says Mann, “but it was us. It was the real personality and character of the school … We had kids dress up, but we’re not a uniform school. We didn’t go with anything that presented us as inauthentic.” What resulted, he says, was “a warm and beautiful vision of children and community”.
Mann says that he was especially struck by a comment from one of his staff members at the end of the day, who, upon reflection described the event as a wonderful example of the school “at its best”.
To see more student letters, see the link below:
Check out a few links below to see coverage of her visit to ICS:
Camilla at Immanuel (Video from The Guardian)
Royal Watchers Gather in P.E.I (Video from CTV Atlantic)
CBC News (Video)
Royal schedule includes visit to private Charlottetown school (Video from The Guardian)