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June 2nd and 3rd, 2003 Waterloo, Ontario

At the Waterloo Reflections Meeting in June, Caroline Recollet and Lise Denis, project staff for the Sudbury SEII Project presented the following problem/question to their colleagues from the other regional projects for feedback. (For background and an overview of the Sudbury SEII Project see the Regions section)

Problem Statement: We are approaching schools to have access to a few classrooms to start the dialogue on inclusion/exclusion. We intend to present a few tools/lenses to school administration to audit different policies in order to identify who is being left out.

We are encountering mild resistance being justified in the form of following "bureaucratic procedures" before we can have access to children in the schools. We feel that there is deeper undercurrent to the resistance than just "red tape".

Question: What barriers would you put up if we asked you to include children (maybe even your own child) more actively in decision-making? And, what solutions would you propose to overcome those barriers?

Before proceeding to the brief summary of the discussion in Waterloo:

  • What questions would you ask of the Problem Presenters for clarification of the issue?
  • How would you answer the questions they posed to the Circle?

Possible Barriers identified by Problem-Solvers included:

  • School administration, principal and/or teacher fear of children's stories about exclusion/inclusion or fear about parental conclusions from children's stories.
  • Resulting expectations for change in schools or education systems that boards or schools staff may worry about not having the resources or time to do.
  • Prevailing cultural views that may exist among adults and systems that children have their place and that their "views" on an inclusive system might be unrealistic or overwhelming, what would it look like? who would it benefit?
  • Belief that children have not developed decision-making skills and adults don't know how to teach these skills to children of a certain age.
  • Concern about giving access of community groups to the school system to work directly with children under the school system's auspices.

Possible solutions identified by the Problem-Solvers included:

  • Start where people are at with their views on children.
  • Start small in areas of decision-making.
  • Show how it will allow children to participate in broader community.
  • Identify and be aware of cultural differences.
  • Find small groups outside the schools to build credibility and relationships with parents and workers who may open up access to schools in September.
  • Bring examples of how children can be included with literature and stories.

Summary Action for Sudbury Project:

After some consideration, the Sudbury project leadership decided to build some experience and credibility over the summer in helping children tell their own stories by getting parent and recreation program staff support for opportunities with children in supervised summer programs that would combine "story-telling" with fun summer activities. These connections with families would be used to gain the confidence of officials in community schools for the new school year.

Over the summer months of 2003, the Sudbury Project staff did neighbourhood "walk-arounds", introducing themselves and the Project to people involved in supervised recreation programs for children in parks and playgrounds. This led to cooperation for conducting "story-telling" sessions with the children about inclusion and exclusion, which were also graphically portrayed in colourful, wall-size murals. At the end of the summer, children from these neighbourhoods and adults involved in running these programs were invited to tell their stories at a media event, which displayed the murals. [Click here to view the report in The Sudbury Star - Oliver can this link be made? See attached story in Sudbury Star] .

The Sudbury Project also invited officials from the four school boards and community service agencies to the media event in order to hear the children report their findings. There was a great community turn-out, including representatives from two of the four school boards in Sudbury. One of the boards invited the Project staff to talk about the Project and the results of the summer's outreach to a meeting of its principals in September.

The interest and enthusiasm stimulated by this work with children during the summer positions the Project well to work in a cooperative way with the school system as the new school year starts, which was identified as one strategy in the Peer Problem-Solving Circle exercize in Waterloo.

© Social Planning Network of Ontario