Open Space with Third Graders

I facilitated an Open Space with 42 Third Graders -
The theme was: What can we do to make our school a better place? What can we do to make our world a better place?

The children created the topics that they would discuss in two 20 minutes sessions. They generated 18 topics including, New Rules for the Playground, How we should be nice and kind to each other, Learning from history's mistakes, Children's Voting Rights, Try to help the environment! Not polluting any more!, and Not excluding people from anything.

We ended with a once around reflection circle in which everyone had a chance to share. Here are some of their comments.

  • What I liked in my group was that there were no debates. We were all united. There were differences about how it is, but we were all united.
  • We decided to start a fund to save the rainforest.
  • Our group went well. Kids voting rights. It was a good opportunity for discussion.
  • In history's biggest mistakes, it started as being silly with just girls there. Then the boys came in and made it better. In the second session I bonded with someone I didn't know that well.
  • Everyone agreed with saving the rainforest. It wasn't silly. We were serious.
  • I think we talked about an important issue: not excluding.
One little touch that I think helped a lot with this age group was to provide a basket of objects that hosts could choose to use for a talking stick. I saw a few kids struggling with everyone talking at once and then one of them running to grab a talking stick. I also provided a generic form for them to use for note taking.

Aside from the opportunity for their voices to be heard, to connect with one another around things that matter to them, and to experience themselves self-organizing, I greatly appreciated that students who have a tendency to wander and not participate in assigned topics (students that can often be labeled as challenges) that at the OS they actually had names and roles for their ways of being, butterflies and bumble bees. I loved that they were doing what they were 'supposed to be doing' by wandering around and trying to figure out where they belong and where they want to participate.

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