Learning happens inside and outside the classroom for our LINC students. The instructors like to give them as many opportunities as possible to link their learning to real life situations and consolidate their integration into Canadian society.
SOICS is lucky to be situated in the middle of town, which has many art galleries within blocks of its office. A couple times a year a few of the galleries such as Tumbleweed and Saint – Germain Café and Gallery get together and have a large art exhibit. This is the perfect opportunity for the evening class to mingle and be part of this community event. Students are able to take in the beautiful works of art and practice their conversation skills with fellow art lovers. It enables them to meet new people that students might not normally come in contact with. Penticton has such a vibrant art community; it is wonderful to expose students to it.
Newcomers to our community are often unaware of the recreational activities that are available in Oliver year-round. As part of our unit on healthy living and staying active the LINC class tried out different forms of exercise that could keep them fit and healthy all year long. The students were introduced to the local bike & hike trail and went on a bike ride beside the river. For many it was the first time in years that they’d been on a bicycle and they enjoyed being reintroduced to cycling. Later in the year the students went down to the Oliver arena and tried skating. It was the first time on skates for everyone in the class and even though they fell down a lot, they kept getting up and trying again!
Several students got involved in Bike to Work Week 2015. Some students attended a bike safety workshop to prepare them for the week of biking. They learned the rules of the road, tips on safety and had helmet fittings. Others attended morning celebration stations and enjoyed a free breakfast and even won prizes. At the end of the week there was a community BBQ to which many of the students came. All had fun and, more importantly, they were participating in a community event outside of class on their own.
In December 2014 some of our LINC students wanted to make a difference in the community. With guidance from their teacher, they decided to volunteer with the Cancer Society. The students were paired with Canadian volunteers to wrap Christmas presents in the Cherry Lane Mall to help raise money for the Cancer Society. This was a fantastic opportunity for the students to make small talk with customers and to practice conversation skills with other volunteers. All of the students had a great time and some made new friends.
As part of a unit on shopping, the LINC classes went to visit one of the thrift stores which is in the same block as PDMS/SOICS. Second-Hand shopping is not common in many countries, so students were very excited to find an affordable source of household items and clothing, especially for their fast-growing children. Since the visit all of the students in the Literacy class have returned to the Care Closet to shop and they have sought out more thrift stores in Penticton and the surrounding area. As all of our students tend to be on a limited budget, learning that thrift stores are an option when furnishing their homes and finding clothes for the Okanagan’s distinct four seasons has been very enlightening and helpful.
The Oliver LINC class attended the Mayor’s first coffee and chat of 2015. They met in council chambers which is the area where council meetings are held. The group asked questions about traffic and improvements to Oliver’s Main Street, and discussed the reasons people move to Oliver. Other topics the mayor talked about were economic development and policing. Geody Amaya, LINC teacher noted it would be nice to see police patrolling the Hike and Bike Trail on bicycles.
For the first time ever the Oliver LINC class has its own box at the local Community Garden. In April the students visited the garden to clean up their plot, prepare the soil and plant early crops like potatoes and lettuce. Back in the classroom, they planted tomato, squash and melon seeds to be started indoors. They also created their own garden diaries so that they can record their activities and made garden dictionaries. We’re all looking forward to the many learning opportunities that having a garden will provide, including learning about gardening in a northern climate and the many benefits of growing your own food.
- The Oliver LINC class planting tomato seeds and getting ready to go to the Community Garden. We learned about starting seeds and different types of potting soil.
- Some of the students display their garden diaries and the seed potatoes that one of the students brought in for the garden.
As a way to participate in the fall harvest, all of the Penticton English classes had a field trip to Covert Farms Organics south of Okanagan Falls. Covert Farms is one of the oldest farms in the South Okanagan, growing wine grapes, fruit and vegetables, raising cattle and making their own wines. We were given a tour of their extensive property on October 27th. First, we visited the cattle pasture and learning about biodynamic farming and how they use animal and vegetable crops to benefit one another. Next we drove out to the tomato and strawberry fields. Students were given time to explore and pick delicious late harvest strawberries to bring home.
When we were out in the fields, students also had a chance to meet Covert’s crews that were picking the last tomatoes of the year. The farm employs a mix of Canadian Citizens, Permanent Residents and Temporary workers that return each year. This was great for the students to see people from all over the world working in a crew together. The man in charge of our tour, Derek, is the vineyard operations manager. Students really enjoyed time spent with him as he is fluent in Spanish and Panjabi, which they thought was both amusing and amazing!
As the Okanagan is an agricultural centre and many of our clients own farms and have jobs in agriculture, this trip was very beneficial to see how Covert is run and the many possibilities of farming in our area. They were also very interested in the organic and biodynamic principles that Covert follows. These are terms we see at the grocery store and farmers’ market every week, so it was nice to see them explained first-hand.
Corporal Jas Johal was invited as a guest speaker to inform LINC students about biking laws in Canada in preparation for Bike to Work and School Week to be held at the end of May. Cycling is a fun and healthy activity, it’s a low-cost way to get around, and it’s good for the environment. Before we encourage students to head out on their bike, it becomes essential that they learn the rules of the road, helmet information and safety tips for cyclists of all ages.
Some students have been here for years, other for a few months, but all learned something new about biking rules in Canada. The corporal educated students on helmet laws, where to ride on the road, safety tips, and possible dangers. There is a lot of misinformation around biking laws and what is legal or not. The corporal set the students straight on the rules of the road and safety precautions such as flashing lights, passing laws, etc. Our students appreciate being able to ask questions about any police matter when meeting with the RCMP and always express gratitude for the policing system in Canada.
Later in the week students from all Penticton LINC classes had a fieldtrip to the Penticton Safety Village, in partnership with Bike to Work and School Week. They first attended a presentation on bike safety and learned how to properly fit a bike helmet for themselves and a child. Afterwards students comfortable on bikes practiced on the outdoor mini city using their hand signals and obeying traffic lights and signs. Students new to bicycles practiced on the lawns to gain confidence. Shaw Cable came and spoke to a few of our students about returning to bicycling after many years and what it’s like to ride a bike in Canada.
The LINC class had the opportunity to go on its first big field trip of the year, laser bowling in Penticton, in November 2015. Attendance for the field trip was high, with most of the students choosing to participate. In the cases of those not able to attend, feeling uncomfortable with driving long distances at night and conflicting commitments were cited as the reasons for not attending. The field trip was beneficial to the students in a number of ways and allowed them to use some of the skills that they have been learning in a real world setting. It highlights the need for continued funding of field trips, as classroom instruction can be greatly enriched if students have the opportunity to put their language into practice.
For instance, we have been learning how to give and follow directions. Since they travelled in their own vehicles and had to take directions beforehand and use those directions to reach the bowling alley, the outing gave them a chance to apply this skill to a real task. Some of the students did get lost, which meant that we were able to practice another skill learned in class: following instructions given over the phone. Everyone had exchanged phone numbers prior to leaving so the students were able to phone for further instruction when they became lost. Once everyone arrived at the bowling alley, there were numerous opportunities to practice some of the ‘soft skills’ that have been introduced in class, such as making polite requests (getting bowling shoes and ordering food) and making small talk (chatting with their classmates while bowling). An additional aspect of classroom instruction is healthy living and the students were introduced to bowling as a fun, inexpensive form of exercise during the winter months. Finally, bowling was chosen as an activity that is family friendly, since many of the students have children but often lack the opportunity to participate in family activities due to finances and work commitments. This outing gave the parents the chance to play with their children in a way that is frequently not possible for many of them.
Exposing students to new Canadian experiences is something SOICS tries to do regularly. For example, the evening LINC class in Penticton attended the first event in four in the process of competing for the title of Miss Penticton. Beauty pageants have a long history in Canada and North America. Today these competitions are more about community involvement, academic skills, and public speaking than beauty. The first event involved pageant contestants performing a 10-minute speech, which they prepared, memorized and presented to the crowd about their sponsor. They were poised, well spoken, and engaging as they delivered their speeches.
Students were given the opportunity to tour the museum and were particularly enthralled by the local animals exhibit, especially the moose head. The museum tour guide provided an interesting and informative tour, which encouraged discussion among the students.
Oliver LINC students periodically visit their Community Garden. They began visiting in April to clean up their plot, prepare the soil and plant early crops like potatoes and lettuce. Back in the classroom, they planted tomato, squash and melon seeds to be started indoors. Students have also created their own garden diaries so that they can record their activities and made garden dictionaries. These visits provide many learning opportunities, including learning about gardening in a northern climate and the many benefits of growing your own food.
Additional benefits include developing new vocabulary, introductions to cultural norms around joining community groups, use of and respect for public spaces, teamwork, planning, volunteering, connections with other garden enthusiasts and, of course, enjoying the fruits of their labours.
As things have started to grow, the students have been able to identify and learn about uses of new (to them) plants such as rhubarb, dill, edible flowers. During one of the visits, students met the Garden Director and volunteered to help him and another member do clean up, planting and repairs, which was an opportunity for the students to practice their conversational skills in a different setting.
Each year the Oliver branch of the Okanagan Regional Library hosts a free Christmas party for families. This year the theme was Pajama Party at the Library so everyone was asked to wear PJs and come after dark. The concept of a pajama party was a new one for the class and there was a very entertaining discussion beforehand about whether it is proper to wear pajamas out in public under any circumstances. The students decided that people in Canada are very strange but they all wore their PJs on the day of the field trip. The students had a great time reading with their kids, making Christmas cards and having popcorn. Some of the kids even won prizes in the draw! The students had the chance to practice their speaking skills with some of the other parents and learned about the family reading programs available at the library. In the end, everyone agreed that PJs are comfy and we should be able to wear them all the time!
A group of LINC students who were preparing for their citizenship test participated in a variety of activities to help them learn about the responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen. One of those responsibilities is protecting and enjoying our environment, so the class went on a fall nature walk to learn about local flora and fauna and try their hands at identifying some common plants. The students collected leaves, pinecones and other bits and pieces that they used to create a collage banner to share what “Being a Canadian is…” means to each of them.
Involving newcomers in the community and exposing them to new experiences is a goal that the LINC classes strive for. One area that many newcomers have not been exposed to in Canada is the area of art. Penticton is lucky to have many small art galleries downtown as well as the main Penticton Art gallery. One evening the LINC class took part in a gallery tour that had them experiencing an exhibition opening, visiting two local galleries, and using their language skills to talk about art with other community members. Newcomer’s eyes were opened up to the world of art in our local community and all its beauty.
Students of the LINC class were excited to be invited to the unveiling of the welcome wall at City Hall. It was an opportunity to participate in a special community event and learn more about municipal government. The class prepared for the trip by learning about the structure of the municipal government. They browsed the Penticton city website to see City Hall services and identify the mayor and councilors in a photo. Students also learned about the roles of the mayor and councilors and current local issues. Several students talked about what they would do for the community if they were mayor for a year. All of the new concepts students learned in class came alive on the field trip. The class felt welcomed and included with the unveiling of sixteen welcome signs in different languages at the entrance to City Hall. Having their picture taken with the mayor, and a tour were highlights of the trip. Follow up class activities included a review of our fun day and learning how to say, “welcome” in different languages. Can you say, “welcome” in Punjabi, Korean, Nepalese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian or Portuguese?
The intermediate Language class enjoyed a visit to the Penticton Fire Hall. Everyone at the Fire Hall made the students feel most comfortable and welcome in explaining the scope & roles of their critical work. Our students arrived with many questions which the firefighters seemed to enjoy. These questions were prepared during the previous week in accordance to their mentor’s lesson plans. Firefighters’ responses were patient, thorough and enlightening. Major highlights included climbing into the driver’s seat of the massive fire truck and trying on some of the firefighters’ safety equipment, which students found to be “huge and heavy.” The “Jaws of Life” demonstration was truly fascinating.
The students expressed to the firefighters their sincere thanks for such a wonderful field trip. It is comforting to know that our safety rests in your highly skilled hands!
This spring, the beginner class spent a morning visiting the Penticton Museum and Library. First, we met with Manda Maggs at the museum to learn about the Kettle Valley Railway, which is celebrating its centennial this year. Students found out where the railway ran, what it carried and how it shaped BC when it was a very young province. They also got a tour of the museum’s ‘Penticton Through Time’ exhibit that talks about all the animals of the Okanagan, the Sylx First Nation and the first European settlements in the South Okanagan, we even got to sit in a tiny old-fashioned school house!
After the museum they met with Karen Kellerman at the library for a tour. Karen showed them the Adult Education section, where SOICS had recently donated a selection of ELL books. Students were very excited to see this section, as they are looking for ways to study when school is on break in July and August. They also looked at the readers in the children’s section. Students were happy to see that the library has easy books that are about science, animals and history in the children’s section, not just Fairy Tails. Six student in our class that didn’t have a library card brought ID and proof of address to get library cards during our visit. That means almost the whole class left with borrowed books, much to the delight of their instructor.
Many newcomers to Penticton do not have a car or only have one car per household with two adults working; as a result, they need to become familiar with our transit system. This can be challenging for many who come from larger city centres where types of transit are many and they run often. In SOICS LINC classes we help students become familiar with transit schedules, plan trips, and ride the bus. We take field trips on the bus where we plan a route, transfer buses, and catch the bus at multiple bus stops in order to give students the confidence to be able to take transit on their own.
On October 9th 2015 the Oliver LINC class went on its first field trip of the year. We visited Reid’s Pumpkin Patch in Oliver so that the students and their children could participate in the Canadian fall tradition of picking pumpkins. Everyone had lots of fun choosing as many pumpkins as they could carry and piling them up to be weighed. It was the first time that any of the students had picked pumpkins and they said that they enjoyed themselves very much. Back in the classroom, the students drew on their experiences to create a fall word web and complete a writing activity. We’ll be carving the pumpkins at our class Halloween party and the students will then be taking them home to decorate their doorsteps.
The Oliver LINC classes participated in Random Act of Kindness Day for the first time on Nov 7th 2014. The afternoon class students cleaned up the Oliver Museum garden, and the evening class students helped people carry their groceries to their cars. This was the first time some students had participated in doing something kind for strangers. The students have already begun planning what to do for next year’s Random Act of Kindness Day. In Penticton the LINC classes handed out flowers to people, left positive notes on windshields, and gave out a jacket to a homeless person.
We had a record turnout for our trip to the strawberry farm in Summerland. Students were excited to go to the source and pick big, juicy strawberries. They could be seen crouched down and scattered between the rows eagerly picking the fruit. For many I think more of the berries were going into their tummy then their bucket and everyone walked away with a pail or two of sweet strawberries and a smile on their face.
The intermediate class went to Trout Hatchery in Summerland to understand the freshwater fishing operations including learning concepts such as “egg collections stations”. It was explained how Freshwater sport fishing is an important cultural, recreational, and economic contributor to the province. Each year, more than 300,000 licensed anglers spend about $500 million in BC, with much of the economic activity taking place in rural areas. One of the important tasks that the hatcheries perform is to raise and release over eight million trout, char, and kokanee salmon into 800 lakes around the province. Many students were surprised to know that fishing requires a license.
Prior to their field trip, students learned how to operate a virtual bank machine in the classroom, using the smart board. Then we walked to the Bank of Montreal and students were given a tour of the bank, shown where customer services is, introduced to the tellers and then they had a demonstration at the cash point machine, showing the different functions etc. A couple of the students had questions, which were answered and one of them even made an appointment to come in at a later date.
When we returned to class, we had been given a website while at the bank, which we went through together clarifying how to use online banking. This eliminated some of the fears that students have when banking, as it clarified various aspects for them. It also enabled them to feel more comfortable about going into the bank.
Students from the evening class attended a business social being held at a local coworking business. Cowork Penticton is a shared professional workspace with meeting rooms, business amenities and a focus on building community amongst members. They offer a comfortable, casual work environment with amenities and social opportunities suited to tech start-ups, non-profit organizations, remote workers and small businesses.
This was a unique opportunity for the students to understand the concept of “coworking”. It also provided them a chance to network and socialize with local business people in a low stress environment. They had a tour of the business and asked questions. Then they practiced their small talk skills with professionals who were interested in their story and had a chance to make new friends in the community.
One of the students came into class on a Wednesday and told a story about meeting the child care provider at the library earlier in the day. When asked further questions about being at the library the instructor found out that none of the students in attendance for that class had a library card, and therefore could not use those resources. The Oliver library is only open until 8:00 pm on Wednesdays – a coincidence for that class, since the library is closed during class time every other day. Everyone got together the identification they needed, and we coordinated going to the library as a class in order to have teacher support if required once we got to the library. All the students did fantastically, as they individually approached the desk and spoke with the librarian in English to get a library card. The librarian then offered to take the students on a tour of the library, and therefore the students were able to learn about all the resources the library has to offer and where they could find them.
One of the responsibilities of becoming a citizen is helping others in the community. Students learned about the importance of volunteering when they spent a morning at the Oliver Gleaners preparing food to be shipped to countries in need. The Gleaners are a local organization that collects produce from farms in the area that would otherwise be thrown away and makes them into food products. The students were happy to have the opportunity to do something for others while at the same time interacting with members of the community and making new friends. Two of the students were so inspired by the outing that they became long-term volunteers with the Gleaners and continued to work there each week.