So we had our little learning village today with the kids at Aine’s learning centre which my partner, daughter and I designed. We explored these questions of what kind of inner climate is needed to engage around questions of climate change and the kids followed the energy. They got really interested in what kinds of things they could say to the global leadership meeting in Copenhagen. They wanted to convey a sense that, yes this is a serious issue, but how you choose to meet together matters. They were dismayed and discouraged by the prospect of a lot of angry and worried people sitting around for a few days trying to reach a creative agreement. One kid said that she doesn’t work very well if she thinks there is a tiger behind her about to eat her.
So we had a little circle and talked about what we know about principles of meeting together. The kids generated this list:
- Be serious but not bitter
- Not grim
- Respectfully, without insulting each other
- talk with civility
- consider the whole planet
- Be calm
- happily and confidently
- include everyone and make sure everyone has a voice
- be positive and useful
- get different opinions
- have fun
- break into groups to get more ideas
- make sure groups get mixed up.
- no shouting
- come with an open mind
- talk nicely and treat everyone as if they were a relative
- make sure to move. maybe dance together.
- have music and entertainers, and hire a jester to make fun of yourself.
We even took this advice, and broke into groups to see what kinds of things we could brainstorm around climate change solutions. The kids worked for 40 minutes in a world cafe, and then we shared some ideas (“Someone needs to develop shoes that massage your feet while you walk.” “Busses should be free”). We discovered that if we practice some of the principles, they really do result in creative thinking, and a more civil tone.
So the kids were pretty clear that they didn’t have answers about climate change, but they did have recommendations about HOWthe leaders should meet in order to find creative and sustaining solutions. We made four videos (the kids chose to do sketches) which we are editing and will get quick parental approval before sending off to Copenhagen through various channels.
My takeaway on this is that there is a lot of science and highly technical information that is required before you can make useful contributions to the global warming debate. Very few of us have access to that level of understanding and while we might have some good ideas, we don’t really have the ability to engage at the level of understanding that results in concrete solutions.
We do however all have experience of conversations that work. Youth are very clear about ways in which learning takes place. I was delighted when they began naming principles of participatory process and conversational leadership, which are just fancy terms for what we already know about how to collaborate. Twelve year olds CAN make a contribution, and can learn and reflect on process as they share their own experience about what works.