A4kids workshops are located in different towns and in different countries.
Usually, 5 to 15 people participate in workshops, but once in Iceland, we had a workshop with 100 kids. It was fantastic!
Each workshop has its own facilitator —a person who organizes meetings, helps distribute materials for the workshop ((books, printed pages, public art projects, or lectures) and develops and asks questions. Workshops may be linked to each other because it is a way to communicate, share ideas, make friends, and help each other out.
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Classes at A4kids are based on printed materials—books with folded pages, tablecloths, posters, packs of cards, and more. Depending on the topic, we offer mediators PDF files for printing. Pages are usually black and white with one additional color. Ideally, each workshop should have access to a color printer. Kids will write and draw, comment, and think together on these printed pages.
Each topic is designed for the cycle of workshops. The pages of the book are filled in gradually, 1-2 pages per session. The number of copies corresponds to the number of children in the group x 2 (at least), so each child can make two versions of their pages. Some children will slowly finish one page, carefully working through the details, while others will want to work on their page with a friend or a group of kids, and some children will have time to draw 2-3 or more different versions.
We recommend using black markers with a thin tip to draw and write comments or draw on printed pages. These pens always look beautiful on the pages because the background already includes an additional color. We suggest that you should, if possible, buy a lot of black markers and distribute them to kids along with the printed copies of the pages.
Often kids like to add bright colors to their work, so it would be good to provide them with colored crayons, pencils, and pens—so some kids can start coloring, which is also fun.
Preparation of the room
A4kids workshops are above all about conversation among the people involved. It is very good if each A4kids workshop has a big table surrounded by chairs. If this is not possible, move the tables together so everyone can see each other. Place printed materials on the tables. A4kids workshops are always fun, and we recommend that everyone freely move around the room.
Water or juice, cups, cookies, and fruits on a separate table are almost mandatory! If someone is tired, bored, or hungry, he or she can always sit at the table with cookies and juice. Workshops are meant to be sweet!
The workshop lasts 1-2 hours. If the children in the group are under 12 years old, it is worthwhile to arrange a break so that the children can have a snack, drink, chat, or go to the toilet.
During the workshop, a facilitator shows to kids photos from other A4kids workshops and videos from other countries. Skype or zoom interviews with experts could be interesting. Because the group is small, a simple laptop is enough to make a Skype call, but if a group has a screen that can display the image at a larger size, the online chat with fellows from other A4kids workshops or with anthropologists from other countries will look even more impressive.
The workshop begins with a facilitator’s introduction. In the first pages of the A4kids book, a facilitator will find texts on the topic, stories, facts, and questions related to the theme. These can be described during the introduction.
The facilitator does not need any in-depth knowledge of the material. The task is to provoke the interest of the children and to ask questions. The facilitator is not a teacher or authority figure but a curious person, who will show how wonder and inquisitiveness lead to research, and research to the invention. This is an adventure that a facilitator should make together with the kids. If a child asks a question, the facilitator does not answer it but offers a response that will lead to new questions.
The facilitator does not tell a child that he or she is mistaken since a facilitator is not an expert. However, the facilitator can question the correctness of the judgment and help formulate questions.
Work with book pages
Books have an internal logic and often should be filled out in order.
For example, the book “What is nation” begins with a child writing her or his name, then coming up with a name for their country, and then drawing a map.
But the exact page order of a book is the personal choice of its new author – a child participating in the workshop. Some children need more time to enter the project; once they find their entry point, they feel free and begin to come up with their own version of the book.
One of the facilitator’s goals is to help children who are shy or confused find that point of entry.
I once conducted a workshop on the book “What is Nation.”
A 10-year-old boy was apparently always playing the role of a mocker in his group and decided to disturb the class.
He commented rather angrily on what was going on and refused to draw or write during the entire first day of the workshop. At one point I offered him a page with the words, “Think about how you will punish criminals in your country. Will there be criminals? Will there be prisons in your country?”
Suddenly the boy got curious, drew several versions of prisons at once, described what was considered a crime in his country, and, having found his “entry point,” began to draw and write with even more enthusiasm than the other children.
Even more, other children also decided to make a page about prisons, some in support and others in opposition to the ideas suggested by the stubborn boy. I was so glad to have him in our group!
A facilitator always begins by trying to draw one or two children in the group into the conversation, those who can inspire others. If the facilitator can find the potential viral power in the words and drawings of these first kids and show them how the ideas can be built on and varied, there will be energy in the group. It is very important to create an environment in which “meme spreading” or idea sharing can begin to grow.
A “meme” is an idea that people quote, play with, twist, or invent their own versions of. Usually, one of the participants starts the meme. This is not necessarily a child, it could be the mediator of the workshop or a child from another place with whom they talk on Skype or Zoom.
For example, one girl drew a school in her country. She came up with the idea that before entering the school, the children would go through a giant wardrobe and would be allowed to exchange their clothes for carnival costumes. Then, no one would recognize the child in their school. It will be hard to grade these kids or ask them for homework. The dressed-up students can choose their own interests at school. They can stage performances or improve their pronunciation of French texts. As soon as this meme appeared in the group, the children began to draw their own versions of what could happen to the students before they enter the school building. Someone came up with a portable zoo: in front of the entrance, children choose an animal that they will take care of and spend the entire day with. Someone came up with a library where students can pick up a book or a movie, or listen to music that “organizes the student’s school day around itself.” And someone imagined schools where the police stand at the entrance, where children are searched like at the airport and their documents are checked.
The birth of a meme is the most desirable situation for a mediator. Do not be afraid of repetition and imitation; kids always add something new to the original idea while retelling somebody else’s story.
It makes sense to spend the last part of the workshop preparing an exhibit of the works that were done by kids. The facilitator can help children hang their works on the walls, ask questions, take notes about the children’s ideas, and document the exhibit by taking pictures or a video.
It is important to show kids that their time was not wasted and their work really matters.
After all, they were real collaborators and fellow creators in a сollective research project.
Usually, children draw so much and their doodles are so sincere that it is very rewarding to show and comprehend the results.
It’s truly exciting to observe children’s ideas being born and developed. Usually, kids are happy that they and their work are being filmed and documented. Children are eager to comment on what they are doing. It means that they are doing worthy and significant things.
If the facilitator drafts notes about the workshop, the kids might really appreciate it! The notes can consist of pictures, descriptions of ideas, references, highlights, and sparkling moments. It should include the names of the children who came up with a particular concept. Notes could include questions that emerged during the discussion and describes the context in which they developed.
The facilitator might talk about the difficulties encountered during the workshop and express first-hand experiences.
Let’s make the notes public! It’ll help others in preparing their workshops. Drawings, memes, and inscriptions can help. Children from different countries can develop questions for each other.
Contact the expert
It сould be interesting to invite an expert at the end of the workshop. When many questions are already thought out, pages have been filled, inventions and discoveries have been made it’s a perfect time to share all of this with someone who can turn a discussion in an unexpected direction so that it might continue into the future.
An expert can be reached through a mailing list. Send your questions to us and we will try to help.
If you are lucky to have an expert come to your workshop, it is better for the children themselves to ask him/her questions. The task of the facilitator, as always, is to help those who are feeling shy.
Let’s join forces!
Education is a collective process. We want to make it more horizontal: not only do children learn from adults, but adults actually learn a lot from children.
We plan to hold roundtables and post video interviews with experts on the topics of our books, and we would love for you to send us questions from the children and your own that arose during the workshops.
And here are some of the interviews we already have!
And here are some of the interviews we already have!
This is David Graeber, Illona Otto, and Frank Ingster talking about What is Wealth.