I just finished five amazing workshops at five inspiring primary schools in the Far North Coast. While the one hour inclusion program, based on my book Fergus & Delilah, was delivered the same at each school each experience was unique and exciting. The students danced, drew, brainstormed, created and shared their thoughts and ideas about being more inclusive.
We started the sessions brainstorming what inclusion means to the students. There was usually a wealth of answers, “playing together, including everyone, being nice.” But when I asked ‘why should we include people?’ the only answer I received was ‘because it’s the nice thing to do.’ And the students are right it is the nice thing to do but it goes beyond being nice. Inclusion doesn’t just benefit the child that is excluded, inclusion benefits everyone. Welcoming differences makes life more interesting. It's a new adventure, a new way of thinking. Students get to experience the excitement of trying things differently throughout the rest of the workshop.
They learn how we are all the same and we are all different. The students show me their dance moves then we roll my super duper big dice and try dancing like some of the characters in the book. Oh the moans and groans some of the boys give when we roll the ballerina character. But the smiles on their faces as they pirouette and plie is priceless.
How does a person in a wheelchair dance? Everyone gives it a go and finds there are many new dance moves to be had.
When all the jitters are out the students sit back down and watch and listen as I read Fergus & Delilah. I have to admit the Auslan interpreter often upstages me. The sign for ‘karate’ requires a full body kick and karate chop that leaves the kids in stitches.
With little mini cardboard cut-outs we compare the differences and similarities between some of the characters. Is the tall girl the same age as the small girl? This question often starts a class debate.
Finally, depending on the year level of the students, we would break out the glue, scissors, colouring pencils and our imagination and make their very own, yes they can take them home, block heads-complete with wiggly wires.
No two blocks were ever the same!
And of course I could not have done it without Misa Alexander‘s amazing illustrative skills. The students always leave with a new obsession of drawing chickens and Ali always ensures they have mastered a few new signs.