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Councils for Young People

In School...

...And in the Bush

Instant Species Conversion

Council for First Graders





IN SCHOOL...  —  Rosie Emery

Well I have started doing the Council in the schools. It was fantastic, the kids were great and terribly responsive. I have included a breakdown in this letter of how I run the workshop.

I start the workshop off by showing the kids a 10 minute video called Rainforest Rap which was produced by the World Wildlife Association. This shows the children what a rainforest is and some of the animals and birds etc. that live there. After that I sing songs with the kids, each song being about a creature of the rainforest and I have pictures and information about on each creature, so after each song we talk a little about them. I also have charts of how the rainforest works, showing different layers of the forest, what creatures live in each layer etc.

I have a collage of different products which we use frequently that contain products from the rainforest. We talk a little about sustainable development and what products we can use which encourage sustainable development etc.

Then we do the "Evolutionary Remembering", however, due to religious conflict I have renamed this "Imaginary Remembering". I have written a script which is very similar to yours in Thinking Like A Mountain, and have added some new things to it.

After the Remembering they take a partner and discuss for five minutes how they felt during the process and they also discuss who they are going to be at the Council. Then they make their masks. We use brown paper shopping bags which they bring from home, trying to emphasize re-using things, and then we sit in the Council and each child (Being), speaks about who they are and what is happening to them at this time.

I then say that I will pretend to be a human and sit in the centre so they can ask me questions and see if I have any solutions. Then gradually others come and join me till we are all in the centre. We then all join hands and pledge to work together to help all creature and forms of life on the planet and to tell all those that we meet to do likewise.

The part which was the hardest was the 'lmaginary Remembering" because the kids don't have much space, then also because it can get a bit hyper. However I feel that this is an important part of the process and should stay in. You just have to be on your toes with the kids and keep them flowing.

I was amazed at how well the kids participated in the actual Council part, and it was very moving to listen to the little voices piping up with things like "I am a dandelion and I want to know why people think that I am a weed ?" or "I am a Racoon and I wish people wouldn't throw poisonous things into the garbage because I get sick when I'm scrounging for food!" I have to say that I had to choke back the tears from behind my mask a few times.

At the end of the workshop we discuss things that we can all do to help the planet. I have sheets to give them to stick on the fridge door to remind them each day, and their parents of

what they can do. I also try to keep in touch with teachers after, to give them ideas of projects to do with the kids like raising money to buy an acre of rainforest or letter writing.

I am booking Councils for quite a few of the summer camps. The response is great and teachers and camp directors are all very enthusiastic.

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... AND IN THE BUSH  —  Lyn Woolley & Madmati

Following John Seed's Council of all Beings in Hobart some of us expressed interest in doing Councils of all Beings for children. At John's suggestion we met and made arrangements to hold a one day council a couple of weeks later.

We had no trouble gathering 18 kids from amongst our friends who were keen to do it. The ages ranged from 4 to 12 and although a couple of the younger children lost interest, there were other young children who maintained concentration and interest throughout the whole day.

We began the workshop with a name game and some songs; did a trust walk in pairs and then moved into the evolutionary remembering. Following this we shared nature stories and then had a short time with nature to find an ally and moved into mask making. At this stage the heat demanded that we go to the beach for a swim so we returned refreshed and cooler an hour or so later to commence the council in the early evening. After our tea-break we gathered for our closing session, with more singing and a feed-back session. We finished about 9:00 pm.

From the kids' feed-back the most successful things were the latter part of the evolutionary remembering and the mask making. Reactions from the children in the council itself varied a lot. Some found it hard to speak and some were extremely vocal. Despite the differing contributions many children expressed quite deep feelings in a very simple way e.g, the youngest council member, Akoala spoke very clearly and strongly "koalas don't want any more trees to be chopped down."

When it came to the burning of the masks at the end, most children did not want to do this and in future we feel that the idea of releasing the spirit needs to be more carefully presented, and the burning of the masks then offered as an option.

All of the children were enthusiastic about future councils being held and felt that other kids would be interested. The energy generated by the council produced a warm connected feeling amongst the children and none of them wanted to go home. Our experience suggests that it would be good for the group to sleep there together the night before so that they have the chance to familiarize themselves with the land and each other before the workshop begins.

One of the changes we would make would be to simplify the language used in the evolutionary remembering and shorten it so that it was all acting out the different life forms and include some preparation in small groups for taking on a chosen life form before the council began. In retrospect, the children were not sufficiently prepared for the council and would have benefited from some introduction to the chosen form before beginning the council. We would appreciate feed-back from others who decide to do councils with children.

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This is an evolutionary remembering I use as a micro-mini Council. I have used it so far with three high school groups and one adult group. It can be done in a fifty minute class period with time left over for a small rainforest (or other) talk and discussion. It is best done with very little introduction, then I ask the kids to put their heads on the desk and prepare for some time travel.

"Head back through time at breakneck speed, faster than the speed of light, much faster than the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Speed back until: splash! You land in primordial soup and suddenly you don't exist. Only primordial matter oozed out through all other primordial matter. Electrons, protons, atoms, and molecules sloshing around in globulating masses of earliness.

Time passes again, unmarked. Let's speed through this unmeasured time, eons and eons of it, until finally... lightning strikes the soup. Not just the average bolt of lightning striking the average portion of primordial soup though. This is that mysterious, unimaginable, singular spark of lightning striking at that critical microsecond in the endless passage of time. Not only that, but striking a particular, unrehearsed, ultraimportant combination of molecules needed to create... LIFE!

There we are! All of us and everything else, all there in that microsecond of critical meetings. The beginning of you, the beginning of me, the beginning of every species ever existing or hoping to exist in the future. Now lets speed ahead again through time. As we speed along, species begin forming, differentiating, evolving. Branches form on the path of life.

Instead of taking the routes that led to your human status, choose another branch this time. Anyone. It would not have been difficult to become another species. Pick a path and follow it in your mind, as best you can, to a non-human species of today. Remember that ALL life came from that spark, not just animal life. You might take the path to treedom, or the life of a moss, or even a stone—we have yet to prove that rocks are not alive and operating on a different, much slower time scale than we are.

Choose a being as you plummet through time. You evolve from an ancient ancestor to the being you are today. You grow wings, tails or toenails, or strata if you're a rock. Later you lose your wings or your feet change shape. You change colour or become part of an ocean. Time takes you through a dance of changes.

Finally we arrive in the twentieth century, slowing down to a gliding stop in the last decade. As we slow down, notice the changes that happen to the earth in this century alone. Now we are in 1990. You have landed in your current habitat. Picture it in your mind. Notice how you feel in that habitat as the being you have evolved into. I have everyone spend three minutes or so to draw a mask on a piece of paper, then gather into circles of ten or twelve and talk about who we are. Who are you? What is happening to your habitat and your life right now, and how does it feel to you? If you were able to offer a gift to the humans—some talent or quality which might be useful to them in taking better care of your habitat—what would that be?

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1) Five of us each made a mask the night before and then cut out 4-5 of the same mask so that the kids only had to paint them. We had drums and didgereedoos with us.

2) We went in to the class with masks on, holding hands, and said, "Today is a special day, we animals have come to be with you . To let you feel what it is to be an animal and have lots of fun. We introduced our animals and how we move. Then we invited them to follow us and move like any animal they liked.

3) We pretended to be ants and got into a line, and found a crumb (made from lots of newspaper wrapped in brown paper and labelled 'crumb' all over), then played 'pass the crumb'. We asked what ants do etc.

Then we got everyone to crawl around and get little sticks and leaves to make an ant home in the circle, talked about what you'd be scared of if you were an ant and talked bout humans. Then one of us came with huge cardboard feet and stomped on their home and tried to stomp on ants. Talk about how they'd feel if they were an ant.

4) Next is a remembering game, "can you remember what you had for breakfast, some things happened before you can remember which is why you are alive right now. Your parents' parents' parents' etc, before there were people there were dinosaurs and way, way, way before dinosaurs, there was nothing except tiny things call cells, heaps smaller than ants, you can't see them. Let's pretend to be a cell. Everyone curl up, pretend you're made of jelly, what does it feel like to have no arms or legs etc."

Then go on to worms, fish, frogs, rat, kangaroo, monkey, cave people. This is the hardest section for them to comprehend so keep it quick and clear.

5) Then we pretended to be wind, in a whooshing line, back to the art room to paint masks. We tied coloured ribbons around their wrists, to organize who will be fish, etc. They paint the masks and go to recess while the masks dry. While painting talk to them about what their animal eats, etc.

6) They put on their mask, 2 of us play drums and didge while the others lead them in a mass, moving and making noises of their animal.

7) Council: Form a big circle, then call all fish to the middle, and with the leader, all fish swim in the middle and the outside circle asks questions like: where do you live? what if the ocean is polluted and you have to leave your home, would that make you sad? what would you be scared of if you were a fish? do you have anything to say to the humans? Repeat for all animals, then back to drums and all kids had an instrument and we all tribal bashed and danced. Then we did an earth dance, being the earth, wind, water and fire. Then we said if they ever wanted to talk to the animals all they had to do was go to a quiet place in the bush under a tree and the animals would be there.

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