Sometimes a whole dream fits into a shoe box. Children from the LERNTAFEL SIMMERING enjoyed a workshop which enabled them to design their own living space: 2-storey houses, underwater worlds, automatic garages, blooming garden flats – in shoe boxes the children could realize their dreams and transform them into lively environments, using modelling dough, coloured paper, newsprint and packaging material. Without being aware of it, the inspired junior architects developed 3-dimensional visualization skills – a valuable aid to understanding mathematics. Within three afternoons a magical collection of box rooms was created – as versatile and playful as the Simmering children themselves, full of colourful imagination and lively dreams.
Abshir has been a regular WIENER LERNTAFEL visitor since 2013. He began on a regular basis at the homework table in Simmering and received some additional, individual tuition. Shortly before the opening of the centre in Kagran, he and his family moved to Donaustadt. So he now attends the homework table there. Abshir offered to spend his “professional practice days”, which are part of the school curriculum, working at the WIENER LERNTAFEL in Simmering. From the 15th to the 19th of February he provided us with valuable help in the administration and supported some of the younger children at the homework table. Abshir comes from Somalia and will be 14 this summer. He is in the 4th class of a “New Secondary School” (an official, broad based education experiment).
What did you like particularly about your practice week at the WIENER LERNTAFEL?
I enjoyed helping the children with their homework. And I learned a lot of new skills, such as the Office programmes. I built up an Excel table without help and designed a cover sheet myself. Best of all, I realized that I am a good advisor. A man, whose German was not good, came to us for advice, which I provided in English. I was the only one in the office who knew where to go for free German courses. I discovered personal talents of which I had been totally unaware!
What did you like less?
I had to log all the email addresses and telephone numbers into a list. That was demanding because one has to be careful not to make a mistake. I found it exceptionally boring.
Can you imagine working one day in some administrative area – or do you have other ideas for your future?
I would quite like an office job. As a child I dreamt of such a career! But in the meantime I have come to prefer the idea of becoming a pilot. Sadly, I cannot do this in Austria because I am not an Austrian citizen and the training is very expensive.
What are your plans for the future? What will you do after leaving school in six months?
I have put my name down for TGM (a major technical school in Vienna). I hope they accept me. If not, I would like to attend a school for social professions and later work as a civil servant (as long as it is not too boring!). I could also imagine diplomatic service, becoming ambassador somewhere. I could also attend a fashion school and become a designer. Or a geography teacher – I have always achieved top grades in geography.
You have been a WIENER LERNTAFEL pupil for some time – what do you like about us?
That you help the children with their homework and that it is free. I have improved at school, particularly in German. And I have learned a lot of German from the other children at the homework table. I did not come to Austria until 2011 and have attended the LERNTAFEL since 2013. First I was in Simmering, where I experienced super festive events and was able to help out, distributing name cards, preparing glasses, clearing away etc. I always enjoyed that. I now attend the LERNTAFEL in Kagran, having moved to the area with my family. It is quieter and there is less friction between the children, which is beneficial for the learning process, but somehow I do miss all the other children. Everything has advantages and disadvantages.
What would you change at the LERNTAFEL?
It would be good to have more tutors at the homework tables, so that children in desperate need who have to be turned away can still come and receive help – with their homework at least – until there are 1:1 places at the LERNTAFEL for them. A mother came this week to register her child, but there was no place free. She was very unhappy about this!
Could you imagine doing something an an honorary basis, as our tutors at the LERNTAFEL do?
Certainly. As soon as I have acquired more knowledge, I would gladly work for the LERNTAFEL. I would also like to fight for fugitives’ rights. It is important that human rights are respected.
The second WIENER LERNTAFEL location in Kagran has now been open for six months.
We were able to support about 100 children in the first semester. More than 50 learning helpers, mainly female tutors, worked 1:1 and at the homework table, even putting in extra hours during examination phases. It was worth the effort: an analysis of the half year school reports showed that the children either maintained or improved their grades. A lot of schoolteachers have confirmed that motivation and performance have grown since their pupils attend the LERNTAFEL. Beyond the encouragement of making learning fun, we sharpen the children’s senses and awaken their curiosity – by providing a programme of various cultural and free time activities. We have visited the Children’s Opera, the Winter Palace and the Institute of Geophysics. Such excursions are very popular and soon fully booked. Further activities are in the pipeline!
Our hearty thanks are due to all tutors, without whose help this good start in the new learning centre would not have been possible. We are especially grateful to 4 girls and 2 boys, all pupils of a nearby college of economics, who are absolving the “professional practice” required by their school curriculum by helping the children in Kagran with appropriate learning support.
A happy games afternoon during the semester holiday
Children love everything that shines, glitters and sparkles – and they had plenty of that when they visited Prince Eugene of Savoy’s Winter Palace, a dépendance of the Belvedere Palace, where Olafur Eliasson presented amazing room installations. This was the second excursion of the LERNTAFEL KAGRAN and took place during the semester break. The magnificent State Rooms, full of gold, walls of mirrors and chandeliers, had their baroque character “doubled up” with special lighting and objects which seemed to float in space. The children enjoyed the shimmering surfaces and lights, playing with their spectra and shadows, a glistening festival of colours!
One of our tutors is studying at the Institute of Geophysics and took the children from the LERNTAFEL KAGRAN to “his” institute on the 2nd of February. There the children learned a lot about the planets. By positioning model planets by hand in space they developed a feeling for the planets’ different sizes and distances from us. They were fascinated to hear that there are planets on which space robots move around and send photos of their environments back to Earth. Fragments of meteors could also be studied! The children return with a smile and a rhyming quote on their lips: “My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming”.
It was a première for everyone: the WIENER LERNTAFEL KAGRAN enjoyed its first excursion and the Theatre MuTh in Vienna’s Augarten invited us to the very first performance of Snow White – a children’s opera produced in cooperation with the primary school of the Vienna Boys Choir. It was a memorable experience for the children – partly frightening and partly delightful. Those of them who knew the original fairy story noticed that there were some significant differences. But they were all thrilled, particularly those who had never seen a stage performance before!