Stories from the ESL class: Gardening at Lloyd Park
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to join Zelda’s ESL class on a trip outside the classroom to help develop their conversational skills. The class is designed to focus less on traditional ESL learning methods and expectations and more on giving students practical help with day to day communication and conversations.
I was really impressed by how practical the choice of taking the ESL class to participate in a two hour gardening session at Lloyd Park was.
We travelled there on the bus, ensuring that all the students would know exactly how to get there in future, and giving them an opportunity to practice vocabulary for using public transport. The students weren’t expected to get stuck into gardening right away, but instead got to explore the park, chatting in English, and relax before getting started. Everyone seemed to have lots to talk about – at least one student was excited to be coming to Lloyd Park for the first time since she’d lived in Walthamstow!
We then met with two park gardeners, who got us set up with equipment and gave a quick talk on good weeding – how ripping out weeds too quickly or cutting them with shovels can leave roots in the soil from which the plant grows again, but gently easing weeds out with forks is much more likely to get rid of them for good. They also had hoes for those volunteers who weren’t comfortable kneeling down, and they did a great job of explaining weeding in simple language.
Everyone was quick to get stuck in, though we needed to get past some initial self-consciousness at having to kneel down! More than one person made up for it by demonstrating surprising skill with a hoe from working gardens at home, and everyone shared stories of gardens, especially in their home countries, and the plants they liked to grow. After a while, I noticed that most of the group had got so into it that they were now kneeling down to get at the weeds better.
The best part of the day (though some might say it was the free hot drinks and cake at the end!) was that the ESL group had been given an entire flowerbed to work on by themselves. By the end, we had half a flowerbed completely clear of weeds, and we could take a step back and know all that was our work. What a bonding experience for the class!
Lloyds Park runs flowerbed gardening (and wild conservation gardening) sessions every week as well as a variety of walks, exhibitions, family activities, and classes including Tai Chi. You can find out more here: http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Parks-and-open-spaces-events.aspx
Zelda’s ESL class is ongoing and Zelda has more great activities planned, so if it sounds like something you might be interested in you can find more details here: http://www.significantseams.org.uk.gridhosted.co.uk/participate/learn-english-as-a-second-language-with-significant-seams/
ESL Sew and Tell, Thursday 10am-12pm, Suggested donation £3