Weaving cultures and communities

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English Language Partners learners often head out on class outings to practice their English skills.

These outings are not only fun, but provide invaluable learning opportunities, as they learn more about New Zealand communities and culture.

Our Palmerston North ESOL Intensive class recently had a class outing to the Multicultural Discussion Group at the Library, where they listened to a talk about gemstones and minerals.

English learning through weaving

Christina Winitana, who spoke, has also studied the craft of weaving. She showed and described assorted stones and their meanings, and how they could be made into items to be worn. She showed a piece of pounamu which she had made into a necklace using a weaving technique. The students were very interested in this, so Christina kindly offered to visit English Language Partners to teach them how to make their own.

The class went to the “Inspire Me” shop to buy the gemstones the day before Christina’s visit and spent time reading about the gemstones and discussing their properties. Coincidentally, the students were also learning about Maori legends, in particular the story of Maui fishing up the North Island of New Zealand in his net (Te Ika a Maui).

The day Christina came was very exciting for the class. Before we started, she explained the cultural protocols used during weaving, and performed a Karakia. She showed the class examples she had made and demonstrated the process before setting each student up with the items to make their own necklace. The students picked up the method quickly, which involves knotting waxed cord together to make a net, and with a little help, everybody was able to complete their own necklace.

As we were weaving and plaiting we talked about how the net was like the one Maui fished up the North Island in. Some of the male students had made fishing nets, and some of the women had woven fabric in their home countries, so there was a lot of talk about different methods used by different cultures.

Learners from other ESOL Literacy classes began asking about the woven net necklaces so ELP staff decided to facilitate a class so they could also make them. The learners from the ESOL Intensive class volunteered to help teach the ESOL Literacy learners, so they were given a small group each. Every ESOL Literacy learner attending completed a necklace, and some went on to make more.

Several of our learners from Afghanistan showed a real interest, and created their own versions using variations of knotting and weaving. One woman was keen to make the necklaces and key ring clips to sell at markets, so we discussed pricing and advertising with a view to expanding on this.

From a visit to the Library that was really just to get the learners used to accessing a community facility, they have gained new skills and experiences, expanded literacy and numeracy skills, learned about different cultures, experienced peer teaching and learning, been creative and had a lot of fun. They each have a tangible reward for their efforts and the potential to expand this experience into a way to make money, should they wish to.

By Julia Potter, Home tutor and Group volunteer

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ESOL Literacy

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