I was overwhelmed by my own excitement when the box arrived. Although aware of the power of its mechanism, it influenced me and Ilan all the same. It arrived and immediately I sent Ilan an SMS “tell them the box is here”. I had to leave home and an hour later received a call from him, “where are you?! I’m walking around your house trying to find a window I could at least see the box through!”
Ilan had to wait until we met again. I peeked in, to find a fabulous surprise – a hand-knitted box from Yellow Springs Ohio. It was packed to the lid. I found the binder with instructions inside, moved some stuff around, read some stories. Eventually I decided to wait until Friday too.
I got to school early, some of the kids spotted me carrying the box, “but I thought it would be special” they said. “This is just the cover you are seeing, wait for the bell,” I replied. The other teacher wanted to bring all the kids from both classes in. We agreed. Knowing some of the material might get messed up we gathered tables in a long row for the participants to sit around and all the rest were standing behind them. Material could not leave the table and needed to get back to its original binder. Ilan, being a performer, spotted the tension of anticipation. He went for historical drama style and after a few opening words asked for tremolo…. He got a massive tremolo from the kids and dramatically pulled out the box and placed it on the table in front of him.
There was silence and then this kind of “duuhh” reaction. The boy sitting next to Ilan said, “This is hand-made!” “Yes,” said Ilan, “someone took this seriously….” He opened the box and started pulling out stuff. Second after second, the room was changing as material passed along the table. After a couple of minutes they were engaged, looking for signs for themselves. If I can try to guess what it was, it was evidence about the reason to participate.
“Wow, look at the investment,” said one, “this was written by a group of 5-6 grade students, this is for babies,” said another. I spotted out a batch of stories created by older kids, “listen to what this young woman says here,” I started reading. They realized she was older than them. The matter of age was settled. The CDs attracted them and they ran to the computer. Most of it was adult work which dropped their interest in a second. They were looking for kid’s work. A few minutes later some of them were engaged reading stories out of the various packages. Those who are fluent with English were reading to others.
I watched the group that was standing around the table. They were silent, observing. None of them walked out, they just stood there. “I’m not sure this event makes you want to step out of your decision not to participate,” I said, “but if we will decide to create a local box I’ll remember to re-invite you.” This was the right moment to send them back to the other class. A couple of them asked if they will be able to join in their stories later. I agreed under the condition they will walk through the process with Ilan, myself or one of the participants that will agree to help them.
We collected the material back into the box and it was time to start working on their stories. Ilan gave them the printed guiding documents and we set off. “But I can’t” “but I don’t” there they were again, singing the same song… I told them again of my impression – this was getting boring. I asked one of the kids to work with me, face to face in front of the entire group. Using the guiding document and prompting questions, he had a basic pattern of a story and an idea in less than 3 minutes. They got it. Pencils met papers and off they were into their imagination. Occasionally someone was stuck. Ilan and I moved around the table, sitting next to them and helping out with questions that guided them to the next answers.
After the first round we asked them to walk deeper into the stories, finding more details and motivations for the characters, realizing what exactly the drama in their stories was about, assuring them that the weirdest characters can make a great story if they only have a reason to strive meaning they are alive. The room became quiet as they were all engaged in writing and Ilan was shining, “I’ve never seen this sight in this class. Let’s not disturbed them, stay a little longer if you can …” occasionally one of them said, “we’ll, I don’t have any more,” and we had to make them understand that yes, this is work. It takes time to create and write down your ideas. They wanted to make sure they were not asked for a final draft, “no,” said ilan realizing we might get that song again, “just the ideas the way you see them in your imagination, as they happen.”
The bell rang. It was the end of the day. Ilan was greeting them for the weekend while happily packing 15 stories into a binder, almost not believing his eyes. We decided not to let it wait for a week. He will go through the material to see if the stories really needed some help and we’ll meet again on Wednesday. The shorter part of the session will be about eliciting the main creative idea – that will be attached to the written material. The longer part will be a storytelling session. They are about to tell their stories in front of the group and we will be teaching them some techniques.
Since the box is packed and heavy, and still needs to travel quite a lot, I’ll be sending Kevin some of the material. After observing their behavior with the material I have some guidelines:
Mass is important but 10 binders or 6 binders are the same for this purpose.
Media grabs their attention. Yet, they are looking for kid’s work not professional stuff, especially if English is not their main language.
Creative expressions are great.
The photos in the binder are important. Place photos of people too, not only story boxes. They are curious to see the people involved – kids, adults, anyone.
Age counts. If they are young teens they want to know the work is for big guys not only for young kids.
All for now, more to come.