Cultural immersion, the act of surrounding yourself in a specific culture or language, is a huge trend in education, allowing students to enrich their learning experience to give a greater understanding of a subject. Cultural immersion can open doors to a deeper understanding of the unfamiliar. Whilst the students can never know a place as intimately as the people who live there, through cultural immersion experiences they can begin to understand it all a little better. Of course, it is impractical for most to keep students immersed year-round, but there are ways in which you can tap into the ideas of cultural immersion on your home turf. When your teaching and learning colleagues mention bringing it into the curriculum, it’s great to have some ideas of how to deliver it at your particular school up your sleeve…

Create a Language Lab

You could consider giving over a classroom to create an immersive language lab. Imagine the lab itself as a stage where you have permanent ‘scenes’ in which the students can learn new vocabulary and role play through their learning. Dependent on the number of scenes you have in the room, small groups of students can be rotated around the various scenes within one class, or the lab can be visited for the second half of a class which starts in a more traditional classroom setting. In one reasonably sized classroom you can split the space into four to create four typical language scenes:

Café

Setting up a seating area for a café will give the students an end to end dining experience, from requesting tables, giving and taking orders, discussing what they like and do not like and requesting and settling their bill. Adding basic short-throw projection on to the wall behind can also help to enhance the experience. Websites like YouTube have ‘street scene’ backgrounds from most major cities which can be used either for ambience or as a reference point for what is happening in that particular scene. The use of this technology also works well for live video calls between schools from different countries when paired with a web cam.

Shopping

Creating a basic market setting is a really effective and versatile theme. Students can practice describing products, discussing what they do and do not like, buying and selling products and adding items together to pay their bill. This theme is also a great way to link to other curriculum areas such as Design and Technology and Food Technology as students can create items to ‘sell’ in the marketplace.

Bedroom

The bedroom scene is a simple but effective teaching tool as it gives the opportunity to discuss time, colours, clothes and furniture. A quick SOS to parents for any unwanted clothing items can quickly fill up a chest of drawers and a wardrobe which gives students a myriad of things to talk about in ‘their’ bedroom. Giving different forms responsibility for the bedroom each half term means they can put their own stamp on it with posters, pictures and furniture arrangement, engaging students even further.

Locker room

The locker room scene can be as basic as a set of hooks, a bench and some sports posters. This then gives students the opportunity to discuss their favourite and least favourite sports, days of the week, geography and parts of the body. A wall mounted screen can also be used to show various sporting events which the students can commentate on in the language they are learning.

With the language lab, due to their heavy use and reliance on domestic products, you should probably factor in that you will need to replace items in the sets every few years. It is worth creating an itinerary before you put the space into use so you can keep track of what should and shouldn’t be in there.

Consider a Virtual Reality Studio

Perhaps as an extension to an existing IT suite, a virtual reality studio is a super-impressive and fun way for students to learn. There are now a plethora of immersive digital content which schools can choose to teach subjects like geography, history and the sciences. Hardware such as Oculus Rift VR headsets are becoming more and more affordable as a way to step back in time to Ancient Rome or to walk the sea beds of the deepest oceans. These are teaching and learning experiences which students will talk about for days and spark imagination in ways which text books alone simply can’t.

Cultural immersion is an area which lends itself to large-scale creativity, so when you’re putting together your project team, do let the naturally creative amongst you go wild with ‘blue sky’ ideas. You’ll be surprised how many of these seemingly outlandish ideas you can adapt to something pretty practical for delivery.

TaskSpace are ideally positioned to help you realise your interior design vision. Even if you’re just at the ideas stage, the team would be delighted to talk to you.