Erasmus+: we tested our method with a large, five-language young group
One of the main goals of our Erasmus + project is to create a nonformal, experiential learning methodology that can later be used and widely disseminated in other areas. To do this, we need to make sure that the communication activities and games we invent work in practice, live, and can be used, played, enjoyed and thought through in a mixed environment of deaf and hearing young people. In international strategic cooperation, each partner strives to test the methodology under development in its own country, among its own stakeholders.
This is how the Hungarian team of JEL Alapítvány got to the Europa 2000 Secondary School in Budapest one early winter day, where a noisy team of international students speaking four languages at the same time was waiting for us and our communication training, The Social Service for Students, as the Complex Institutional Innovative Program ERASMUS + project participants, young people from Greece, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Within minutes, the environment became even more varied, because the Hungarian deaf and hard of hearing students from the SNH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youngsters) Youth Club arrived.
At our first professional partner meeting in November, we created or transformed 18 non-formal practices, from which we selected practices for today. A team of nearly 40 linguistically mixed students soon picked up the yarn and the first warm-up or icebreaking activity was accompanied by a huge laugh. In an activity called 1-2-3-4, you have to create common elements in seconds with alternating partners, it can be a tricky handshake, a few dance steps or even a live GIF. We believe that creativity and the pursuit of cooperation are universal human qualities, regardless of the language used, and this was beautifully demonstrated in this practice as well: random couples danced a fast, then the next moment they did gymnastics with another young man, then a quick change, and already the third partner has arrived with a handshake specialty developed in no time.
We then halved the warm-up, cheerful team and continued training with our activities called Give permission and Clap Dance. These activities introduce nonverbal communication, enhance the use of nonverbal means of expression, improve self-perception and partner perception, promote group collaboration, and can only be played if we pay attention to each other. Attention has been the key word of the whole training, as in such a mixed, international and mixed hearing environment, the team can fall apart in a matter of moments without paying attention to each other. We continued this attention with Bing-bong, Chaos in the room and Move & Stop, where the young people worked together in pairs and groups. We put the world we created together to the ultimate test in a final exercise called Dolphin: here, mixed couples can communicate with just a single positive reinforcement sound and hand sign, so they have to tame their partner and get them to act - like a dolphin. The table at the end of the room, loaded with cakes, proved to be an extremely popular destination - within minutes, an army of dolphins trained to eat cakes lined up there...
It was an experience to see how wonderfully deaf and hearing young people of five different nationalities co-operate, striving on both sides to understand each other, to understand themselves and to work together in practice, regardless of hearing status and spoken or sign language. There really was no language barrier here now. It was a challenge that the participants solved together, cooperating, so that they could play and experience together. For us to see this, to participate in it, to make it possible - success itself.
The the next stop of our project SIGN LANGUAGE PLAYGROUND - Exchanging good practices in non-formal education of the Deaf will be in Warsaw in the second half of February, where we will continue to develop non-formal communication practices at our second professional meeting.