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Wider Learning Opportunity – Sunflower ESOL Gardening Group Summer 2022

Did you know that we now have a section for wider learning opportunities? You can support your English language learning by accessing various classes, covering topics as diverse as gardening to driving theory. It’s easy to find available classes by simply entering your postcode.

But what exactly is wider learning, and why is it useful?

Wider learning opportunities can help to develop your English language skills within a real-world context. For example, if you’re a talented gardener or cook, you’ll be able to practice your English skills in a familiar setting outside the traditional classroom.

Take Sunflower ESOL Gardening Group, for example…

The benefits of gardening to mental health have been known for a long time, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, this topic became even more prominent. But long before Covid, it was already a dream of Clare Jackson, director of Sunflower ESOL, to be able to combine the practical aspects of gardening with teaching English.

Sunflower ESOL has been lucky to develop a partnership with CATCH Leeds – a fantastic charity working in inner city Leeds. CATCH agreed to let Sunflower ESOL use one of the raised beds in their extensive poly tunnels. A second Leeds-based charity, Touchstone, was also a collaborator on the project.

And so, with the support of CATCH and Touchstone (and a little bit later in the season than most gardening projects start), the Sunflower ESOL Gardening Group began work the second week in June.

Over the last four months, ESOL learners have come together to garden and practice their English on a Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours each week (between 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm).

Clare commented: “We’ve sown tomatoes, coriander, carrots, chick peas and beans. The group has been an excellent exercise in participatory ESOL – learners have brought their knowledge to the group, and we have taught each other, gaining skills that we can use in our own growing spaces.

“It has certainly been a learning experience for me, in addition to the English skills that the rest of the group has developed. I’ve learned that:

  • Trying to grow rows of five different crops in one raised bed is too many
  • Four tomato plants in one row is too many
  • Tomatoes get really big in polytunnels –  and will block the light and water flow to the things growing behind them
  • If you don’t keep cutting coriander, it will go to seed. Then you can’t harvest it any more
  • It is possible to grow chickpea plants from soaked dried chickpeas!”

The Sunflower ESOL Gardening Group has been an excellent opportunity for ESOL learners to practice speaking and listening, reading and writing skills outside of the classroom. It is a wider learning opportunity that Sunflower ESOL will undoubtedly be repeating.

To view our full list of wider learning opportunities, please go here.

To view our local English learning class listings, please go here.

To contact Clare about Sunflower ESOL, please go here.

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