As 2015 comes to an end, we find ourselves reflecting on the work we are doing with children and families. Why is it that we persist? Why persevere, when our work involves so much uncertainty? As I sat down to write this post and poured over all that has taken place in the program in this short month, it became abundantly clear. We need to prepare children to imagine a better world so they can create it and live in it. So how does that happen?
On a typical day this month at Triskele Rivers ALC, you would have seen:
– Students teaching themselves how to build rockets fueled by sugar and experimenting with different ratios of oxygen to fuel.
– A committee working together to build and install an exercise bar in the studio.
– One student interested in design, working with a local architect.
–Kids viewing and discussing the documentary, Dharavi Slum.
– Kids learning massage and acupressure techniques from a nationally certified animal practitioner, and watching a short film in preparation for a shelter visit.
– Students pursuing individual interests such as reading, photography, and sculpting, to name just a few.
– Children attending a 5 week Equine Workshop on leadership and self-awareness.
But the magic is not solely in the material they are learning. It comes from the experience. As facilitators, we are constantly figuring ways to support these experiences and finding connections to other areas of life. For example, whenever the kids come up with a project, most often a committee is formed. A leader is appointed and the group needs to collaborate in order to budget money, buy the materials and then share and organize their ideas. As you can imagine, not all goes smoothly. Just like in adult work spaces, the kids confront issues such as:
– Team members not following through with their commitment and
– How to lead when team members are not listening and going in different directions.
As facilitators, we plan weekly Team Challenges that connect in some way to the daily common challenges that arise with any working group. This month, we planned two Team Challenges that focused on intentional leadership and clear messages. The kids were able to dialogue and reflect on their experience with leadership and what it means to consensually lead. We kept asking them to “dig deeper” in order to solve the problems. It seems that the kids will initially look to us to solve problems, but when asked to “dig deeper” and given time to think, they always rise to the occasion.
The take away is that learning new information is just one part of the learning process. Our commitment to listening and relationship is exactly what prepares these kids to creatively solve the unanticipated problems of the future. Knowing how to share ideas, battle with different perspectives and send clear messages is necessary when trying to find solutions to difficult problems. Information alone will not provide us with answers. As we look at the issues that face our world today, it is clear to us why we are committed to the work that we do.