How I Learned to Enjoy the Ride
For many parents and children, the long summer holidays can be a challenging time. This has led to many schools, charities and faith organisations responding through the provision of holiday activities for children and families. Creative English is no exception, and the end of term in July is certainly not the end of our sessions.
In London, we’re so fortunate that there are many things to do over the summer, but the problem is that, for many families, the cost is prohibitive, so we gave ourselves the additional challenge of finding fun and free activities that were suitable for children of different ages as well as the learners themselves!
Our regular Creative English sessions provide lots of opportunities for learners to practice English through roleplay and activities. The summer holidays provide a great additional opportunity for learners to further practice their English in real life situations such as making conversation, asking for directions, and asking for help. It also provides an opportunity to make new friends, visit new places, learn new things, get to know each other better, and to build community within the group.
It also became an opportunity for me to learn new things as well!
I have run many trips for families and young people, but I still felt quite anxious at the prospect of taking families to new places in a busy city. Pre-visits and risk assessments had taken place, but there was still nervousness and some self-inflicted expectations to make sure that everything was perfect!
I should have realised that all would be okay the moment we were setting off on our first trip and I heard the squeals of delight and saw the sheer joy on the faces of two boys at the thought of going on an Underground train. I couldn’t help but smile. It also made me realise that it’s possible to enjoy any journey, even if it was on a crowded Tube train at the height of summer!
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford is a beautifully landscaped park with play areas for children, who love the water fountains and climbing areas. Although only six miles away from our classes, this was a new destination for many. The first challenge was getting there! We are fortunate that transport links are plentiful, but it is not always easy to get buggies onto the train platform; several stations are still not fully accessible. We were always fortunate to find helpful fellow travellers who would help carry a buggy up or down stairs though. This is such a useful thing for our learners to be able to practice in a safe environment, as using trains and the Underground opens up so many opportunities in London. It’s also sometimes necessary for medical and other appointments, not to mention driving into London is both horrendous and costly!
The learners and their families enjoyed their visit, and shared their experience on our WhatsApp group, which then encouraged more learners to attend the next trip!
Greenwich is the home of the Cutty Sark, The National Maritime Museum and The Greenwich Observatory. It is a popular, and often crowded, tourist destination, which I must admit raised my nervousness levels about taking families with small children!
We visited the free activities at the National Maritime Museum with the ‘Great Map’ exhibit, and the ‘All Hands on Deck’ interactive gallery, which were great for children to explore. Then, as we were just going to head to Greenwich Park, one of the learners who had previously visited the area suggested that we walked to the play park. I wasn’t convinced about this as, although I knew it was an amazing play area, I also knew it would be incredibly busy. But we gave everyone a vote and off we went!
I realised later that one of the drawbacks of wanting to run the ‘perfect trip’ is that it doesn’t allow for variations to The Plan, which can limit learning opportunities for us all. The learners had the chance to share their knowledge of the area and gave a sense of ownership of their trip, rather than just doing what I thought was best. And, of course, the children loved it!
So, it really is about enjoying the ride; practically, by supporting learners to use transport systems confidently; and metaphorically, to relax and be pleasantly surprised at how your journey goes.