Feeling a sense of belonging
In VIVISTOP Telliskivi we see children coming to the studio with such excitement, full of energy and new ideas. However, so far we have not seen any big group of children working together on a project in a long term.
That is why VIVITA Estonia launched a completely new concept: children's initiated workshop series called Social Club. As the first initial idea came from us, adults, it was very important to start the series with a joint ideation session to map out what Social Club could be in the eyes of the children…
And they answered without any doubt “VIVITA community”, “meeting place”, “closeness”, “friends club”. It turned out we did not have to explain why this event series got started — it was crystal clear to them already. After this, the only job left undone was agreeing on how Social Club would function. We started by setting the guidelines that would help create the atmosphere, such as “smiling”, “respectful”, “right to speak”, “creative thinking”.
The most important conversation, however, became creating the principles for decisions. To our surprise the children were really clever about this topic, they knew exactly how unity among a group can be achieved. Here is the Social Club's decision-making process, written by children themselves:
- Meeting: all starts by coming together and being in the present
- Thinking: start with thinking independently
- Sharing ideas: together we can conquer the world
- Explaining: everyone has the right to express their ideas, others have to listen without interruption
- Voting: everyone has to agree on the activities
But what happens if people disagree? If the reason is laziness then the person does not have to participate. However, if the person has valid arguments, then we need to continue explaining the idea and reforming it when necessary. Children also highlighted the need to resolve conflicts — if the atmosphere is disturbed, we need to assign mediators. It is also important to keep our sense of humor, it would help save quite many occasions :)
After a long ideation and creating an agreement among the group, the only thing left undone was deciding on the first event to host. Drumming and the result turned out to be EXIT ROOM!
Ready to tackle the challenge
To start planning our first event, we proposed to meet regularly! Many children responded to our biweekly call to meet. Due to the pandemic, most of the meetings happened over Zoom, however, it did not reduce children's excitement. Although the participating children and the number differed strongly from meeting to meeting, it did not interfere with the community building — a common idea became the glue of the group.
After long discussions and hundreds of ideas, the concept behind our first Exit Room came together. Now it was time to realise the idea — luckily from this point onwards, we could meet again physically in VIVISTOP. At this moment, the adults had to take a more active role and show, where we could start building…
After the first furniture pieces got moved, something magical happened — all the children were running up and down the studio to find building materials for the Exit Room. Boxes, pillows, pianos, and screens — all became materials and were turned into walls! And to our surprise, all the other children present in VIVISTOP at that moment jumped in and helped out.
Next, we started prototyping all the attractions. We created very many word games and codes for decoding. Some were necessary to get out of the room and some were created to make the escapers confused :) Of course, we also hid hints in the rooms to help crack the code.
After crafting the newsletter and sending it out to all the VIVITA members, it was time to host the Code V Exit Room workshops. Groups of 3 were blindfolded and guided to the last corner of the robotics space from where they had to start solving different puzzles in 3 rooms. And it was not that easy at all! Some groups needed additional hints to get out. For example, decoding the morse code and putting a paper puzzle together turned out to be very difficult. Nevertheless, all groups got out safe and sound, some with 60 minutes and some with 35!
Before organising the very first gathering, mentors agreed on what should be their role in this project. They decided to take an active role in bringing the children together but only ask questions when it comes to creating the content.
“What do you think, what should we do next?”. This sentence saved us from many occasions. There were many moments were even we did not have any clue how to proceed. Luckily children themselves knew what has to be done…
To sum it up, less is more! For children to take a lead, adults have to step back a lot of steps… And just ask the right questions at the right time!
Mentors: Steveli Säde, Kertu Ilves and Eva Liisa Kubinyi
Text: Eva Liisa Kubinyi
Photos: Steveli Säde, Elis Vilde