Dog Kennels; Rough Play; Forfeit Tag
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Over the summer we dogsat a dog called Buffy. After a week we took her back to the owners and to cut a long story short they essentially said, do you know what, you might as well just keep her. And so ten minutes later we did. A highly efficient dog transaction according to my brother. And here she is.
Day One: On the first day back at our learning community we didn’t take her with us as we wanted to get consent from the whole community that it would be ok to bring a dog into the space on a regular basis; and they all said a resounding yes.
Day Two: I made the offering of building a kennel with the young people as it seemed like it would be hard for her to keep to the agreements that were required of her from the previous day, namely not going in the yurt or on the sofas, if she didn’t have her own sheltered comfortable space. We had someone who was on a trial day who was very keen to help and so we set about building a kennel. I wanted to let them drive the project as much as possible so after proposing we needed to consider location and design I asked what their thoughts were. They wanted to focus on location so we spent forty five minutes wandering the site, extended to be fair by a long sojourn by the zip wire. I wanted the answer of the kennel must be located close to the lounge as that is the hub and where I am likely to be spending most of my time to come up but as this was this person’s first day and they have no real knowledge of our space it was hard to get answers to the questions without driving them myself and that felt forced so I proposed we move to just building the thing. We sourced some planks and discussed dimensions together and design, but over lunchtime they found that someone their own age likes Star Wars and off they went for the rest of the day leaving me to saw them up to size.
Day Three: I proposed at the morning meeting that today I would be constructing and then painting the kennel and had interest from lots of young people in both stages. I should make clear that the child in the images below is mine and I only have images of him because that is to the ease the burden of permission seeking from young people and parents for photo permission. We essentially sawed some batons and then used them to screw the corners together and three different young people helped me at various stages to use the drill to build the kennel.
Three year old for scale looking particularly vacant.
More screws means more likely to hold together and more people can get involved in screwing the thing together. According to marxists and the labour theory of value this kennel should be the most expensive in the world, and to add further economic confusion this kennel production line seems to fly in the face of the marginal product of labour theory as we only ended up with one kennel.
Here it is before we let the painters of the Sistine Chapel descend upon it. Just a word about said painters. We had six young people wanting to paint the kennel. With such a small space myself and another mentor did wonder if there was enough real estate to go around. But though we discussed and considered what possible issues may arise we did not suggest this to them as we want the young people to problem solve their own conundrums. After they came back with the paint we had a long discussion about the relative usefulness of using the water based paints they had found on a kennel that would be outside and likely to be rained on. It seems they couldn’t find the acrylic paints or paintbrushes which had been taken to a festival we attended over the summer. The proposed solution was that I would help them find the acrylics so they had the option of using either paint and that if we couldn’t find them they could use the water based paints with the understanding that it would be process not product. This would allow us to practice a design and then paint it again later with paints that were more weatherproof. They all agreed and it seemed that the acrylics got abused by the festival goers so we were left with only one option. What this meant though was that there had been a long pause between getting the paints and starting the painting. Below is the frying pan pallete that they used and in an interesting turn of events whilst most people were enjoying squeezing paints into the pan the first two people who got paint on their brushes just did one big smear across one side each. In an interesting act of mimesis everyone else just followed their lead and the issue of limited real estate was a non issue. I always find it interesting what conflicts occur unexpectedly and what conflicts you think are likely just never materialise. They painted around each other for about forty five minutes negotiating the space, paints, palettes, paintbrushes, where to paint on the kennel completely conflict free. Even someone painting over where another had written DOG was deemed satisfactory as the DOG was not well done anyway, and accidental painting of each other’s clothes was considered an inconvenience worth bearing.
Below is the finished painting of the kennel thus far. For anyone from England who is 30 or over I would call this design Zap lolly. I particularly like the thick globules running off the top and over the side. Luckily dogs are colour blind and so Buffy shouldn’t have too many headaches snoozing for the whole day in this kennel.
This artist is perfectly summing up the mood of the whole painting session.
Day Four: When discussing our design on day two it was decided that the best design for ease of manufacture would be to construct a kennel with a lean-to roof. Having painted the kennel at the end of last week we came back with a need to put the roof on and let Buffy use it. We sourced some corrugated plastic that was lying around for the roof, but couldn’t find enough to cover it completely. It was decided that promptness of completion was a greater need than sourcing perfect materials and so grabbed some spare tarp and roofed it in half an hour. We were promised an old sofa cushion for the bed, but as the dog did not come in for the last two days this week that didn’t take much priority but we were aware that it would get wet sat on the decking if the water pooled and ran underneath it. So we reused the base of an old chicken shed to sit it on on the decking and lifted it into place. Next week we will make it cosy on the inside and Buffy can move in.
In our first week back rough play in the yurt came up as a topic to place on our new community mastery board. We have had agreements on rough play in the yurt before, especially around winter when the warmth of the yurt entices more people inside and boundary setting to meet everyone’s needs becomes more complicated. It appeared that our cultural practice had drifted since the winter and that there needed to be new agreements around this drawn up by the community.
Stupidly I forgot to take pictures (you could google it and get an idea of what it looks like) but a community mastery board is used in our weekly change up meetings, where we intentionally create the culture that we want. We raise an awareness. We then discuss that awareness and make a proposal which becomes something we are practicing. After we have practiced it we and feel we have got it down we can move it to mastery.
Awareness to Practicing to Mastery.
Change Up Meetings are a tool used in Agile Learning Centers (ALC) that we are going to be using for the first time this year. We are slowly transitioning to a more ALC way of working. We are also trialing a technique for facilitating proposals for how to practice things that we are aware of that comes from Hope Wilder’s work on sociocracy. Hope was at the Summerhill Festival of Childhood and gave a talk on this process.
We have three timed sections and importatly for us an element of opting out of the meeting that we have never had before in our culture change meeting, which takes place in the last hour of the week. Often this means tired minds, and we hope by shortening the discussions with structured timed sections and an opt out section we might get better responses, discussions and proposals.
The first section takes five minutes and is a quick go around the circle where everyone is invited to speak. You can pass if you wish, but the invitation is to mention what unmet needs you have noticed around the issue in hand.
Then we spend seven minutes discussing what solutions we might like to propose. This part is not mandatory and people are free to choose whether they feel invested enough in the subject at hand to want to discuss a solution. If not they are free to go and play quietly near by so as not to disrupt those left in the meeting. At the end of the seven minutes a proposal is brought together.
Everyone must then return to hear the proposal and vote for it (thumbs up), say I am ok to try this though not super enthusiastic (thumb to the side), or I see a problem with this (thumbs down). Those problems are then discussed, but if the group who stayed and discussed a solution has already considered them then you shouldn’t be able to override the decision. By choosing not to attend the discussion phase you are handing control over to those who did. It is more for highlighting things that may have been overlooked. We are still getting used to it and it will take a while before we are fluent in the process and everyone understands these nuances.
So rough play came up in week one and the proposal we agreed upon was
That we would ban rough play for one week. But also hold meetings that discuss the boundaries of what rough play are and come back to the topic.
In week two there was an incident where a mentor saw some clearly rough play and asked two young people to stop and they did. However, shortly after the same mentor saw two other young people engaging in potential rough play, but it was decided that it was 90% cuddling and 10% rough play and was allowed. We came back to this in our change up meeting at the end of week two and as promised revisited the topic of rough play.
The system with its three different sections was more fully understood this time around and unlike last time where people initially stayed despite not wanting this time everyone but one child left after the first go round the circle. This was surprising as the other two children who were invested in the discussion last week decide that they weren’t this week. So two mentors and this young person came to a new proposal. The boundaries of rough play are really hard to define it was agreed. There had been some notes taken by a mentor when the two incidents above had happened and they had initiated a discussion but they didn’t give us enough clarity.
The original winter definition of rough play was an organised wrestling match on mats in the yurt that last year had required a mentor present. One of the incidents in the first week that had initiated this discussion was the use of boomwhackers, musical tubes, as swords as it was felt not appropriate or safe by a mentor. So we proposed that we practice the following
Wrestling can occur in the yurt if there is a clear defined area and a mentor is present
Swordfighting can also occur in the yurt if a mentor is present. We will use swordfighting as a tool for us to discuss where the boundaries of rough play exist through an embodied activity that we can reflect on in the moment.
We will return to rough play at next weeks change up meeting.
These two proposals passed with little objections. One of the problems that we discussed afterwards as mentors is that the discussion was being had by people who held roughly the same opinion on rough play: one of being ok with it as a practice in general. We felt that a dissenting opinion could have driven the discussion on in ways that could have been potentially more enlightening. However, we will have to see what happens next week as we return to discussing where the boundaries of rough play exist.
I invented a game. Lots of our young people like running games: tag, capture the flag, 40-40 in. I played a really fun game at the festival of.childhood this summer that I forget the name of. It was invented by a dutch guy who wanted a more cooperative less competitive ball game. I borrowed elements to come up with my own game called forfeit tag.
There are three teams. Team 1 aims to tag Team 2, who are tagging Team 3, who are chasing down Team 1. The green arrows.
When you tag someone they must sit down but they get to give you a forfeit, say hopping, running with your hands on your head, or maybe, if you play with our young people, running around shouting “penis and balls” loudly.
You are released from being sat down by a two on the head and this follows the orange arrow. Team 1 releases Team 3, Team 3 releases Team 2, Team 2 releases Team 1. You might notice that that means that you release those who are trying to tag you. So why would you? Well by releasing them you pass on your forfeit to them and can go back to running normally. Also, they must give you a three second head start. You can also release members of your own team but if you have a forfeit then you both have that forfeit.
We played with nine people, three a side, and for a first attempt was relatively successful. We lost a few players midway who were upset that they were not being released. This was an oversight. Some people felt that if they didn’t have a forfeit already there was no incentive to release people. At the end of the game we reflected that maybe we should allow those people to release people and give them a forfeit.
We also finished in a circle and chose our joker (the person who made the game the most fun) and the saint (the persin who was most cooperative) by placingbour hands on their shoulders to vote. Doing so helps the children to reflect on what is important in play, especially infinite games such as this one.
Till next time,
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