Sheffield College Fir Vale ESOL Gateway Residential 28-29 April 2017
Between Friday 28th and Saturday 29th April 2017, 12 students from the Sheffield College, Fir Vale Centre – ESOL Gateway Programme based in the Page Hall Area of Sheffield were chosen to attend a residential at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust. The farm is located on the outskirts of Sheffield. The trip was organised as a joint activity between the Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM) and The Sheffield College.
The students were from a variety of different cultures – Syrian, Yemini, Chinese and Slovakian and was a mix of girls and boys aged 16-18. These students live in some of the most deprived areas of Sheffield, some are unaccompanied minors and have extremely troubled backgrounds, others have chaotic home and family lives and they are all vulnerable. Living in the Page Hall area means that the young people have little or no access to green space opportunities. For many of the students this was the first time they had moved outside the area they live in and been away from their parents.
During the weekend they took part in activities focussed around the food chain, the circle of life and learnt how to identify Urban and Natural Ecosystems and Habitats. The students worked together to create their own urban habitat by identifying things in their local areas The students were in charge of their own catering arrangements and prepared and cooked all their own meals and drinks, attended morning and afternoon activity sessions and had a tour of the farm which included some animal handling.
The students and staff had a fantastic time and were excellent ambassadors for the college. At the end of the visit the Farm Manager said that she was delighted the students had attended and told them she would be happy if any of them wanted to come back and volunteer. They were even on twitter!!
From the college perspective being able to take our students on this type of activity enabled us to expand their horizons and show them different careers opportunities. It also allowed them to meet new people and experience new things in a safe environment. To watch them grow in confidence as the weekend progressed was a joy to see. The way they all mixed and worked together to complete basic tasks and showed each other kindness and consideration throughout the visit was amazing. Listening to the conversations showing how they were getting to understand each other better, the sharing of personal information and seeing the beginnings of new bonds forming was eye opening and heart-warming.
These are the sort of worthwhile activities that are sometimes missing in formal education so having a link to the SEM projects is vital for us to be able to provide opportunities for our students to exceed their own expectations. We hope to undertake more activities in the future.