Earlier this summer, Nicole and I were very excited to launch The Create Project, to support young people who are learning English. We were keen to provide opportunities for the students to enhance their language learning outside the classroom, in the setting of our Skip Garden.
We started the first phase of this project with young people aged 16 to 18 from City & Islington College’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department. Over the four weeks of our pilot programme, it was wonderful working together with the group of young people at every session to explore new ways of connecting.
On the first day, we started off by getting to know one another through games and activities, learning new vocabulary using things from the garden, and including exploring the five senses within the context of cooking and gardening in the heart of King’s Cross.
“When I used my senses in the Skip Garden today, this made me feel good, because it remind me from back home - Afghanistan, where I was living in a very green village.” - Abdullah
“This made me feel that I am in a big forest alone. Quiet and relaxing moment of my life. I feel like this earth is talking to me. And around people is talking like a little bird talking to other birds. All beautiful people in this earth I feel they are talking to me. This is the best moment.” - Assad
“When I used my senses in the Skip Garden today, this made me feel so interesting. I can use many words to describe about some things I can see, I can touch, I can smell, I can taste and I can hear about them. I also got some new experiences about garden. I learned some new words, for example leafs, soils, compost … it was fun with my friends.” - Nhi
During the second session, we had the pleasure of being Ceramics students from UAL:CSM to show us all how to make objects using clay with the theme of produce - showing us different techniques such as creating pinch pots and letting everyone’s creativity come through. After their initial firing and a glazing session at CSM, these pieces were all ready to be raku fired in the Skip Garden as part of the Ignition project - the first ever for Central Saint Martins. The pieces came out beautifully!
As with all our projects, opportunities for reflection were woven through The Create Project’s sessions.
“Dear Earth, I want to thank you because I live in such a wonderful place … I want to thank you earth for the wonderful nature we are surrounded by. Thank you for the amount of different stunning species of flowers you give to us. By nature I mean the whole: little animals and insects, vegetables, fruits, flowers, forests, woods. Thank you earth because you give us everything we need, from food to water, from trees to mountains... to immense forests.” - Jasmine
One of my personal highlights of the whole project was seeing the inter-generational connections created during a session that involved bringing together The Create Project participants with elderly participants from North London Cares and pupils from Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children. In different groups, everyone worked together to explore the life of honeybees with beekeeper and storyteller Esther, learn sign language from the pupils themselves, plant together and make sweet and savoury pizzas in our wood-fired oven, before coming together to share their experiences with everyone.
Abdullah: “I had really nice time. I made pizza with strawberry and nuts which I didn't had before in my life! I learn how to spell my name in sign language which was easy. I enjoyed meeting other people from different age, and the smile :) that everybody had on their face was amazing. It was a nice time, I will miss these people.”
Abdalhalim: “Learning about bee lifes was really awesome.”
Nhi: “My experience today of being with different people was so interesting. I was so surprise when I joined in a group with different ages and different characters. I enjoyed when a younger girl taught me how to spell my name by my hand [sign language] and some words were describe by hand. I also made a pizza with them and I felt so amazing when older people talk and play with younger people and the important thing was they did everything with us. Today was so fun and thank you everybody who are organised different activities for us.”
Annelies Kramer, ESOL Co-ordinator at City & Islington College had these kind words to say about the project: "Having been a tutor on the ESOL 16-18 programme for many years, I found this project to be inspirational and nothing like anything our students have been involved in before. Observing our young people outside the classroom, doing things out of their comfort zone, having opportunities to be creative and interact with others in different ways, was very exciting.
The facilitators Nicole and Rachel both have a natural ability to communicate freely with the young people, in spite of linguistic barriers, and immediately built an excellent rapport with them. They were very attentive to the students’ needs, checking understanding and making sure individuals were always on track and involved. The tasks they set were always stimulating and thought-provoking.
The feedback from the students involved was extremely positive. They spoke about being exposed to new things they had not experienced before. Working with people of different ages and backgrounds allowed them to communicate in different ways. It was also clear that for many of the students, who are asylum seekers and have suffered trauma in the past, the surroundings of the Skip Garden and the activities they took part in, were very therapeutic for them."
Thank you to Age Unlimited for making this work possible and we are looking forward to the next phase of the project beginning in the new academic year. In the meantime, watch this space for news about the CONNECT + CREATE summer programme.