This summer we ran an outdoor Summer Hive School in Guildford to help displaced young people re-engage with learning after the disruption of the lockdown period, and introduce those new to the UK to the basics of English ahead of the start of the new college year.
We heard from key workers, foster carers and young people themselves that the long period of lockdown affected their mental wellbeing and made it difficult for them to engage with college work – sometimes due to technical or accessibility issues, but also because of a lack of focus and growing lethargy towards engagement of any sort.
We wanted to address this. But restrictions meant that we couldn’t run sessions indoors and the weather in the UK is unpredictable at best, so running outdoor sessions with no cover seemed unwise.
Thank goodness then for loan of a pop-up classroom from the Human Hive – an inflatable dome that has travelled Europe providing a learning space for displaced people in France, Italy, the Balkans and Greece – and the Hive Learning model. Hive Learning is an adaptive education approach tailored for emergencies which focuses on learning through activity and this provided a useful structure for our summer school.
It felt chaotic at times. Some days the heat was so intense and everyone was tired and distracted. Other days we had gales that blew away our cardboard whiteboards and threatened to take the classroom too. Then there was the rain, which came in sideways and soaked everyone no matter where they sat, and a thunderstorm, which startled everyone with the bangs and triggered memories of past experience.
But the joy of language learning is that there is never an opportunity not to learn. Claps of thunder led to discussions about different words for sounds. The heat brought about a list of words to do with exhaustion, and the importance of knowing the difference between knackered and naked. Running for cover from the rain into the multi-storey carpark provided excellent light opportunities for our visiting photographers Charlie and Austin, and gave us the chance for a deeper exploration of our morning readings on the theme of identity.
“It was great. I loved it all,” said M on the last day.
“The team have given B enormous help to further develop and improve his English, general knowledge and overall confidence. I simply cannot thank them enough.” UASC foster carer talking about the impact of the summer school.
With huge thanks to everyone who donated to our crowdfunding campaign, which enabled the Summer Hive School to happen, to everyone at The Human Hive for the loan of the classroom and their encouragement and support, to Surrey Virtual School and the key workers and social workers for supporting their young people to attend, and to Catch 22, Charlie and Austin for running activities with us.
But as always, the biggest thanks go to the participants themselves, for turning up each day (and nearly always on time) – who laughed when they had to chase lesson sheets across the park, completed their homework and didn’t complain (too much) about the final test, set up and took down the classroom each day and who maintained a collective attitude of upbeat positivity throughout. You were a joy to work with, as always.