Travel to a country for the day

8th May 2009 at 01:00
And learn flamenco dancing, origami, or create a Koi pond - pupils at Low Port Primary in Linlithgow do it all during their multi-cultural week

When the music stops, the children throw up their hands and shout "ole", then collapse into giggles. Denise Stephani, decked out in her flamenco dress, turns the music on and again the children stamp around, clearly thrilled to be in the hall rather than the classroom, and away from the threat of maths or language.

A group volunteer to come to the front, and with coloured scarves they imitate Ms Stephani as she spins and twists. It is Thursday and the second-last day of multicultural week at Low Port Primary in Linlithgow. Each day, the whole school has participated in activities and workshops on a different country, developed and delivered by the Language Room, a language specialist company. Today, it is Spain, and the children have already learnt some Spanish and are now picking up the rudimentaries of flamenco dancing.

"The focus of the workshops is primarily language," explains Stuart Milne, an ex-science lecturer from Edinburgh University who runs the Language Room with his wife and French teacher, Elodie. "But we bring in other cultural aspects to fire their imagination. We've been working with Low Port all week, but we also do one-day visits."

On Monday, the children studied China, Tuesday France, Wednesday Japan and Thursday Spain. On Friday they will look back at what they have learnt.

"We have always had a French Week," says Lesley Henderson, the head at Low Port, which nestles on the edge of Linlithgow Loch, close to the palace, birth place of Mary, Queen of Scots. "But this year, we decided to broaden it to include other countries, so that the children could really celebrate diversity."

Earlier in the session, she applied and received Pounds 1,500 from Awards for All to pay for the Language Room to lead the week. Money well spent, she believes.

In preparation, all eight teachers organised activities for the children. P1 made Chinese lanterns with their teacher Thea Cameron. P1-2, which includes a little boy from South Africa who had never been to school, looked at that country, collecting photos and memorabilia. P3 made African masks which are hanging up in the hall, one of a number of outstanding displays that also decorate the classrooms and corridors. P2's Aboriginal paintings are also up in the hall, as are P6's abstract images of Mount Fuji, P7's willow patterns, P5's Spanish wall and P4's Chinese dragons.

"We have always had activities which covered other countries, but this is much more comprehensive," says Mrs Cameron. "We've had the lead sessions, but we've also had opportunities to come up with our own ideas of what we'd like to do. I've had my P1s looking at Chinese letters and we had a visit from one of the parents who speaks Mandarin."

Each day has begun with presentations in the hall, first for the infant classes and then for the older pupils, led by the Language Room. These were developed following consultation with Mrs Henderson and principal teacher Lynda Stobie.

After that, the pupils have taken part in workshops with resources provided. On Wednesday, the younger pupils made Koi carp pictures, while the older ones learned about Japanese gardens and created a mural. Later, they all did origami.

"My favourite day was Japanese day, because of the origami," says Ian Laver, P4.

Rupert Eagers and Alastair Toole preferred China day, because of the paper cutting. The older children are just as engaged. "I liked that we do French Week every year," says Aaron Walker, P7. "But this has been better, we got to look at much more. It would be good to go to these countries, because we know about them and can speak some words."

For the rest of Spanish Day, the year groups are creating friezes of Spanish street scenes and plates of tapas. As they do, Stuart and his colleague move from class to class, providing language support where necessary and snippets of cultural information. But they soon realised there isn't anything quite like the sound of "ole" for effect.

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