Someone to tell your stories to. Made by me for children and by children for themselves (as a workshop). Based on Guatemalan Worry Dolls but without the ‘worry’, these Listening Sticks are created to be used as a tool for mindfulness, meditation, calming, reflecting and resolving – they love to hear about happy adventures, anecdotes, big stuff, little stuff, important stuff, mundane stuff and everything in between.
As part of my primary and secondary research, I took the listening sticks and creativity pad/pod into a local school during their SATS for four afternoons as a mutually beneficial exercise – to allow me to see how the book would function, how I could tweak it and how the activity could run as a workshop but also to give the children some time away from their tests – a bit of art as relaxation.
The sessions went incredibly well and the children enjoyed time in the pod, relaxing, thinking, doodling and generally having a great excuse to be young again. The listening sticks were a huge success and after seeking approval and updating relevant risk assessments I was able to work with a old fashioned hand drill on the last day to allow the children to mount their sticks onto wooden blocks ready for exhibition. I was also impressed with the level of engagement by the children with Caputs (my creatures found in the everyday world around us), they went off on Caput treasure hunts and drew some beautiful examples from around school and even bought some in from home. I was delighted with the outcomes and have included a couple of my favourites in my RVJ. It was useful to see the book and mindfulness colouring being productively used and I was able to make a few changes to the text to change closed questions to open ones to allow for more discussion and opportunities for creative thought to evolve. The school gave the workshops a lovely write up in their newsletter and parents were invited in to school to see the Listening Stick Exhibition.
Having trialled this activity at the school, I felt confident to undertake this activity on a large scale and programmed one of the 10 days managing Hay Festival Make and Take tent to making Listening Sticks with the children. I prepared over 250 white painted sticks and approx 50 reserve unfinished sticks (we used every single one!). The day was a huge success and the younger children helped prepare for the graduation show by painting, splatting and mark making on supersized sticks.
We had hats, scarves, dresses and even the cast of Harry Potter made an appearance (genius!).
I was even able to talk about the Listening Sticks to BBC Country file, it may simply end up on the cutting room floor but just to have the experience of being filmed is one to add to my armery of bravery skills.
My favourite story to date is the Headteacher of the local school (to whom I gave a listening stick at the start of this project) receiving a knock at her door from a Year 2 child (who had made a stick with me during a play date) – the child said that his stick wanted to talk to her stick – and so a new alliance was born! Beautiful.