I have just started a project with Gästrikevatten (Gästrike Water Authority) in Gävle (north of Stockholm) to start up a board of children (barnstyrelse) as a way to learn more about how children learn and how they can be informed about water issues.
Instead of adults thinking they know best about how to teach children abut water this will be a collaboration with 10 children aged between 8 and 12 living in the town of Gävle, the suburbs and neighbouring villages all serviced by Gästrikevatten.
The aim is to have a mix of ages, a mix of genders, a mix of where the children live and go to school, a mix of children with confidence and children that seemed a little shy, a mix of children who seemed to know a lot and children know little but are curious to find out more. At the same time trying to create a mix that will create a positive space for interactions... a space where all children can take space, where there will be mutual respect and also where the children feel competent...
The idea is that I will present challenges and questions like a piece of gravel in their shoe... just big enough that they will notice, but not too big that it overwhelms and hinders progress... but not too small that they don't notice it at all and its all just too comfortable and no progress is made.
Through activities and philosophical dialogues the board of children will explore ideas relating to water, with the aim to try and find out optimal ways of sharing this information with others...
During the dialogues we will discover what we need to learn more about... and we will turn to experts to find out more so that the children can make informed decisions. The activities will be designed so that the children can gain hands on experiences, not only about water but also about ways we learn.
We will be exploring ideas about what is a board of children, what is learning, what is teaching, what water issues are important for us to inform others about and why... they will also learn about using philosophical dialogues as a tool to explore ideas...
Patricia, who works at Gästrikevatten, is my partner... I will be taking the 1.5 hour train journey to Gävle 1-2 times a month to met the children and hold the dialogues and then plan the next session based on what I have learned form the children. I am fortunate to come into this project with no agenda other than facilitating the children's dialogues and explorations of water... to ensure that they have access to the knowledge they need to deepen their dialogues, to ensure that it is a respectful and inclusive environment and also to provide new experiences for them to try out
Patricia does have an agenda... and that is to try to find out how a better education about water issues can be created.
It means we both have to listen... but we will be listening in different ways... and in ways that will support each other, the children and the whole project.
Children are competent... we need to give the time and space for their voices to be seen and heard (I am a visual listener) and I am so excited to be a part of this project where space and time is being given to children. That their opinions will be being genuinely valued.
This will be a year long project... and there is the hope that it might be continued beyond a year - in what form I can only think might be better or improved as we learn during the coming year.