The week before last Abigail Melville (Collaborator INTOPOLITIKS WORKSHOPS UK) and I Antonia co-founder INTOPOLITIKS) had the absolute pleasure of conducting three INTOPOLITIKS workshops with the the year 6, 2016, classes at Hitherfield Primary School in London. Inspired by what we saw in Zurich earlier this month and also drawing on current National Events (our workshops were scheduled for the week after the EU Referendum) we decided that rather than create a ‘commercial’ for their island societies we would invite the children to chair a debate, the topic of which would be; ‘would you rather work together in a union of countries or remain separate?’ we didn’t refer to the referendum, or the result and never mentioned the word ‘Brexit’.
We started the week with 6KB. It was a beautiful day and after warming up with some role play and word games we went outside to build our islands in the Sun. The children made some beautiful structures, wrapping fabric around the poles to make tee pees and so forth. But there was discord.. People were stealing each others resources from quite early on. In order to avoid a war Abigail and I decided to create a UN prison where people who were caught stealing were sent for a bit of time out.
Charlie had written a constitution the night before which he was able to share with his group, it was great and really gave them a head start. They spent a long time debating whether or not they should have to right to bear arms. Listening to both sides of the argument was enlightening and made it harder than I thought it would be to choose..
I was struck by the loyalty of another group where it really did seem like the girls were doing all the work; when I suggested they should berate the boys for not being more helpful they rushed to their defence; bonds of friendship are important and very strong.
After lunch it transpired that some of the islanders had sabotaged some of the structures. We decided to have a group debate to determine whether or not the saboteurs should be allowed to continue with the workshop; it was amazing! Thirty children sharing their feelings in front of the class, kids taking responsibility for their actions and their peers unafraid to admit how they felt and furthermore to ‘sentence’ them. We were so impressed with the class and how they conducted themselves; politics at its best!
On Wednesday we worked with Class 6N .. And ‘pasta politics’ was invented! In the morning we always play a form of articulate with the children, they have to explain/describe a political word or term to their team, they can say ‘rhymes with’ or ‘sounds like’, really they are just supposed to waggle their ear! Anyway some of them struggled with Manifesto and I had the, not so clever, idea of suggesting they say ‘rhymes with Pesto’ By day three of the workshops ‘Pasta Politics’ was a thing!
We saw some incredible gymastics in 6N and heard a lot about pigeons..We also observed more stories of friendship and some serious building work. The children are split into groups of 5 or 6 outside of their immediate friendship groups. In some groups we observed children splitting within the groups.. Often a girls versus boys scenario.. But each time this happened, by the end they chose to come back together; strength in numbers, co-operation in communities. When two of the islands were destroyed by natural disasters it was brilliant seeing how the children worked together and supported one another. Ahmed, who was the elected leader of his country was devastated when his country was destroyed by an earthquake and ran. I saw him and reminded him he was the leader. He returned immediately and made sure all his people were safe.
The debate was great.. Not everyone did want to work in a union as they didn’t like the way some of the other countries did things; the defence policies were particularly contentious…
On Thursday we met 6T. We had hoped to go outside again but the rain on Wednesday had left a muddy gloop in its wake, so we stayed inside. 6T were pretty clued up. Possibly because they had been chatting with the other year 6 classes in the playground or possibly because they love politics. When we asked each child to tell the rest of the class what they would do if they ruled the world we heard 30 amazing ideas and decided that perhaps 6T should run the country! It always helps to have the benefit of history, (i.e. 6KB and 6N) But kudos to 6T for listening and learning from it! What really struck us about this class was how even when they were split into their 4 groups they kept working together, supporting one another. One group decided each member would be a leader. Each leader was responsible for a different department. One of the inhabitants was unhappy with this though as he didn’t feel he fit into any group; he was of course allowed to emigrate and was welcomed elsewhere. There was a real feeling of ‘community’; we are all in this together. Perhaps that is how they are as a class, perhaps they were responding to the nations confusion about the referendum which was mentioned, for the first time that week, that day; by the kids I hasten to add. It seems that their natural instinct was to work together; inhabit their own cultures, but save the world as one .
We especially enjoy the children’s feedback after the workshop. Some of it was printed in the Hitherfield Herald;
“Politics isn’t always just about government; the public have a big part in politics”
This feedback is from Tom who teaches 6T..
“I thought this workshop was the best I’ve had as a teacher! the activities inspired a creative side in the children that they often don’t know they have! It was also fascinating to see how they responded in a crisis and I felt I learned an awful lot about each of my children.”