Reflections: St Andrews Project

Ranim joined Children’s Parliament as a Project Worker at the end of February. Here she writes about her experiences of running a workshop as part of the St.Andrew’s Project.

Following our first visit to the schools, Kate, Kirsty, Rona and I visited the two schools again to introduce children to children’s rights and Children’s Parliament for a one-day workshop. We were joined by Andrew, our colleague from the University of St Andrews.

Setting up the space for a Children’s Parliament is an important element of our work and we want the space to be something different from what the children would normally experience in their school dayWhen we set up the Children’s Parliament’s environment, we create a space which is not only different and special for the children but is also fun and welcoming. In our space in Glenrothes, we set the classroom up to look different to norm; the desks and chairs were pushed to one side, bunting was put up to create a festive atmosphere and resources were laid out to show we were going to do something creative. This set up is important to our approach to ensuring a supportive physical space so that children can bring their own experiences, their opinions and views and they know they will be taken seriously. The children can share their feelings and views without being judged and without feeling different because of their young age.

When the children entered the room for their first experience of Children’s Parliament, they noticed the classroom looked different, but they were happy and excited. They remembered us from our previous shadowing visit, waved and smiled at us, eagerly waiting to see what new activities we would do today. Using their names, we warmly welcomed them to join our workshop.

We began with a gentle start; all adults and children sat on the floor in a circle to ensure we created an equal space where everyone can make contact on the same level. We set a slow pace without any rush to ensure that children took their time to be present with us today and were ready to learn and engage in the topic. Creating an emotional supportive and relaxed space is also a significant factor in our approach.

We started our workshop by giving each child a Children’s Parliament’s ID badge to write their names on it and decorate it. They are all now officially members of the Children’s Parliament (MCPs). After that, we introduced the children to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC). We do this by building a big jigsaw puzzle that presents all the articles of the UNCRC. The children worked in teams to build separate parts of the jigsaw, with the room filling with the sounds of their conversations and laughter. They were not just concentrating on completing their individual jigsaws, but they were also invested in making sure that the final puzzle was coming together and complete. It is always important to introduce the UNCRC in a fun way as it is a big weighty topic that might feel heavy for some children.

Once the jigsaw was completed, we allowed space for reflection and processing. Children reflected on their own experiences and discussed how they relate to the UNCRC. We made sure that we answered all of the children’s questions and emphasised that all rights are equally important and that no one can take away any of them. Then, the children went out for their play time.

When the children came back from their break feeling fresh and energized, we sat again in a circle to introduce the concept of dignity. And to make it simple, we explained that we are all born free having the right to feel important, special, and respected as human beings, and that’s called “human dignity”. And no one has the right to make us feel less important or take our dignity away.

Immediately after introducing the concept, the children started sharing their thoughts and own experiences on what would enhance their dignity and what would make them not feel important or special. It is a deep concept that touches our hearts, and it relates to every human being. They mentioned being praised, listened to, having a cuddle; and playing, as things that enhance their dignity. While, being shouted at, hurt, or bullied as things that undermine their dignity. As we deepen our understanding about children’s human rights, both children and adults begin to understand how relationships would build, uphold or obstruct their human dignity. All that highlighted the importance of treating others and being treated with respect and kindness.

To show what dignity means to them and how it makes them feel, the children made their own “Dignometers” which are creative and colourful measuring scales that help children to reflect on what would bolster or undermine their dignity.

After that we explored children’s perspectives on food in both their schools and the communities by using a mapping exercise. Children had fun drawing and writing on a big map that represented their school and community. They reflected on the time they have food, what food they have, and with whom they have food in school and outside school. Some of them said, “at Christmas we eat together at the table in the kitchen”, which was special.

Throughout the workshop, the space was filled with creativity, dynamic energy, and children asking questions and sharing thoughts. And as the workshop drew to an end, everyone gathered again for a final circle. The children reflected on the day and one of them gave very lovely feedback saying, “time goes so fast when we are having fun”. We finished up the session, thanked the children for joining us, and made sure that they were ready and happy to transition back into their school environment.

By the end of the day, the team and I were so tired but at the same time we were so happy and satisfied with all the great vibes and nice impact we had on the children. I was especially impressed with the important topics that Children’s Parliament presents to children. And enjoyed seeing children learning about human dignity and developing a deeper respect and empathy for themselves and others. I am excited to see how this project will grow and the great learning and impact that will come from it.

Ranim Asfahani
June 2023

Date: 5th June 2023
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