They’re not allowed to sing in class. So Charlottetown students learned sign language


Students at West Royalty Elementary School have been learning the American Sign Language version of O Canada to allow them to sign along during the morning's anthem as they are too close together in the classroom to be allowed to sing.

P.E.I. children learn sign language to join in 'O Canada' without singing


2 days agoVideo


Students at West Royalty Elementary School in Charlottetown learned the American Sign Language version of 'O Canada' because singing is not permitted in class due to public health rules.1:34

Every morning before the school announcements, students at West Royalty Elementary listen to O Canada played over the school speakers.

The school's kindergarten to Grade 5 students were unable to sing along due to public health guidelines and physical distancing limits.

Most of the classrooms aren't big enough to allow for the two-metre distance required if students were to sing.

"This year has been a little bit different because at the beginning of the year, I was on a cart so I was rolling into each classroom," said music teacher Sandy Zinck.

"And the children were not six feet apart so we could not do any singing at all."

They are now able to take part in the national anthem by using the American Sign Language (ASL) version.

Grade 2 students stand on their circles two metres apart in music class, one of the rooms that allows for enough distance to sing as long as masks are worn.(John Robertson/CBC)

"I think it's wonderful for children to be able to communicate in another language and to be aware that there are children who can't hear — and that they now know a little bit of sign," Zinck said.

"That all children can sing O Canada even at a time when we're not allowed to sing."

It started with the Grade 5 students who were preparing for a Remembrance Day event.

Music teacher Sandy Zinck said it has been wonderful to see the children signing on their own in class during the national anthem.(John Robertson/CBC)

After seeing the success of the concept, the music teachers expanded to other grades — reaching all of the school's more than 500 students.

Some classes were even taught how to sign Happy Birthday so they could celebrate classmates on their special day without actually singing the words.

Some of the students were also taught Happy Birthday in sign language.(John Robertson/CBC)

"It's a good thing to find some way to have community and I think that was the big loss for us as music teachers where we were told we could not sing," Zinck said.

"There's things like Happy Birthday and O Canada that bring people together and by using sign language, we could bring that back to them."

The students were allowed to sing along in music class as long as they were two metres apart and wearing their masks, something not always possible in their classrooms.(John Robertson/CBC)

Zinck said it's wonderful now to see students in their morning classrooms signing along with the national anthem without prompting.

She plans to continue teaching it when public health restrictions have lifted so that the hands and voices can rise along with the glowing hearts.

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

John Robertson is a multi-platform journalist based out of Charlottetown. He has been with CBC News for more than a decade, with stints in Nunavut, Edmonton and Prince Edward Island. Twitter @CBCJRobertson Instagram @johnrobertsoncbc

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