Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Week 2: Shelters and Oyster Cards


On my journeys to Orsman Road I have come to realise that what was distinguishing me: a naïve, nervous Kentish 17 year old schoolgirl, from everyone else: confident London commuters, is the fascinating concept of an Oyster card. For those of you who don't travel to the City often, this  travel-card is a magic pass to all your London travel needs. When you step onto a bus or train, simply place the card against the scanner, and your payment is registered. It's a bit like a pay-as-you-go phone package only for buses. (Note to self: purchase an oyster card for a more 'city slicker' look.)

I began this week by updating my blog, before collecting my pile of maps and heading to meet Lizzie, the Building Exploratory projects officer to observe one of the 'Shelter: What From and What Form?' workshops, to a class of 30 Year 1 students at Bethnal Green Primary School in Hackney. Although I had previously examined the maps, I wasn't 100% sure on where I was going. I got on the correct bus without a problem, (well, still faffing for change of course)  but getting off the bus in the right place was a different matter entirely. In the end I just got off somewhere, and attempted to use the maps to try to establish where I was in relation to the school. In the end I had to ask an elderly man, out walking his grandchild in a push-chair. After listening to him babble on for about 5 minutes I was convinced I knew exactly where I was, thanked him and power-walked off, glad to be free. Embarrassingly I met a crossroads which confused me, and after 5 minutes of standing at the corner examining the maps, the man managed to catch up with me and told me exactly where to go. This time I listened intently and was successful in navigating my way to the school. Lesson 1: Listen properly the first time to remain professional and avoid embarrassment. Also learn how to read maps.

When Lizzie began the workshop I was struck by how different their schooling was from my own. They were a very ethically diverse group who wore their own clothes and addressed their teachers by their first names. Their classroom was full of computer technology, which Lizzie used to carry out the workshop. They were given pictures of a range of different environments and shelters and had discussions on each of them, e.g. what kind of things they might shelter from in that particular environment, or what was the shelter made of and why was this a good material to use? Some of the answers to questions were highly amusing, including: "I would use a shelter to hide from a big, big, big, BIG storm!" 

They were split in to groups in order to design their own shelters for a particular environment. I was allocated to assist a table where the girls had decided that they absolutely did not want to work with the boys, no matter how encouraging I was. The environment photo they were given was on the surface of the ocean, and we discussed that they should build a house boat, so as to float above the ocean and be protected from the sun as well as being "safe from sharks eating you." We then discussed what materials we should use, which the children struggled more with. I suggested rock (on purpose) which the children laughed at. When I asked why, they said: "It wouldn't float!". We finally agreed on wood, and set about making our houseboats from old bottles and cereal boxes which the children had collected, as well as the materials we had picked up from 'The Scrap Project' the previous week. I have never seen anyone use so much masking tape so fast and immediately confiscated it telling the children that they could ask me for some tape when they needed it. The boys where more enthused by the task than the girls, though both houseboats were good attempts. At the end of the session the groups reported back to Lizzie who asked them why they had made the decisions they had. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with the pupils at the school, it was amusing if a little stressful. It was good for me to have this insight into the field of education, one I will definitely consider when making my own career choices.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Week 1: Introductions and Scary Transport

As a Kentish schoolgirl studying in her final years I felt particularly uninspired when presented with the idea of taking part in an extended work placement.

The process of selecting a placement seemed all too familiar: Fill out a form on a website and voila! – You have selected a second-rate placement, in the same area you’ve lived in your entire life, with people who seem like they’ve worked there their entire lives and be given the most inspirational job of photocopying and making endless cups of tea!

Unsurprisingly, I declined; and set about e-mailing and calling businesses and the (limited) contacts I had acquired with little hope of a response. I was referred to a member of The Building Exploratory team, and between us we arranged my placement. At the time I had very limited knowledge of how the charity functioned or how it contributed to the local community. I was also complete novice to the workings of London itself, and, if I am honest, daunted by the prospect of travelling on my own.

On my first day, however my journey was smooth and uncomplicated (as uncomplicated as travelling from Rochester to Hackney can be!). I was presented with a bright and interesting office and a small but perfectly formed team where everyone knew everyone- far away from the dull placements my friends had been forced to endure!

I was given an induction into the workings of the charity and was allocated time to wander around the website to get to grips with its purpose. I also had the chance to explore Hackney, visiting the ‘Scrap Project’, a charity who collect unwanted ‘rubbish’ from businesses and recycle them ready to be used by other charities running educational children’s art and craft sessions. We collected the materials for use in the next few children’s workshops on the calendar, one of which I was to observe in the following week. 

Despite my initial stereotypes of what work experience consists of, I have in fact felt part of a team and not entirely useless. The traveling really wasn’t half as scary as I had anticipated and I look forward to the next few weeks at The Building Exploratory with an open mind, ready for new experiences.