When everyone is given a voice and that voice is valued and heard then great contributions are made. A couple of weeks ago Sharon from Community Circles reached out to St Judes Primary to ask if they would like to come and be part of a varied range of Circles happening at Eliot Gardens. She received a warm and excited response to say the school would love to explore this connection further

So, Sharon and setting manager Andrea visited the headmaster of the school, list of ideas in hand, made up of both existing and imminent Circles. Upon speaking with the head, it became apparent that he had also been thinking carefully about potential ways to connect and suggested a few coherent ideas that reflected the wishes of people and children alike. We talked about gardening, food preparation and, of course, eating together. We all agreed that an integrational choir was an absolute must! Indeed, one of the ladies resident at Eliot has a daughter linked to a local choir so the potential to include our wider community was there too.

An idea surfaced to bring together a group of children who are members of the school council and a group of willing residents to discuss ideas further. So, a date was set when we would unite brains of different generations. Andrea & Sharon advised they would look at ways to help both groups interact. There were such an array of ideas and many that were interactive which they felt would be appropriate for the session. In addition, Andrea had invited along a very special guest, a gent named John who is supported by CIC but whom has had the opportunity for employment with the organisation. John is involved with a recycling incentive to encourage residents to recycle more. Therefore, it felt appropriate that the planned ice breaker should have an eco-theme and Andrea sourced a fantastic resource to accompany the session.

John and his support worker started us off talking about recycling and showing examples of what can and can’t be recycled. Shortly after we were joined by 8 children and two teaching staff. The children took off their coats and formed an inner Circle sitting quietly as the two men spoke about recycling. Children and adults were encouraged to think about how and what can and can’t be reused and recycled. After John and his worker had finished speaking it was time for our ice breaker. The children had a quick drink of juice and eagerly joined two team members, Julie and Anne Marie, along with Sharon to begin. Sharon read the instructions and Julie and Anne Marie provided the actions. All were encouraged to join in and we experienced some amazing animal impressions. Children moved from standing to lying down to the hum of a buzz to demonstrate a healthy and an unhealthy bee. They swayed up tall and swooped down low to animate trees in life and death. They all did their best monkey impressions to show happy and sad animals. As I looked around the room some adults emulated the actions and others sat beaming watching the children belly laugh as they memorised the actions, getting gradually faster with each round of the activity.

As this activity came to an end Andrea called the children over and after the excitement of earlier a calmness joined them. They spoke of future activities and Andrea asked if the children had any ideas of what they may like to do with the adults in future sessions. Yummy food ideas were the first to leave the children’s lips, they spoke of cupcakes flavoured with vanilla and strawberry, one lady added a suggestion of banana and another of carrot and these ideas were met with many ‘Oohs’ and ‘Yum’ noises from their young counterparts. One of the team members, Rachael, whom is a keen baker said how she would love to lead this session, bringing her gifts and talents to a new Circle. They spoke of gardening, of growing fruits and vegetables together then cooking them and eating a meal in each other’s company. Children and adults wanted to stretch their vocal cords and come together to form a choir. The teaching staff confirmed that adults could join them at the school for mass at Easter where they could sing holiday songs together. At this point one lady burst into song, a tune she recalled from her youth, ‘Ride on, Ride on. Your Majesty’ she sang and the headmaster joined her in recognition of this tune. She added that she used to be a teacher and told Sharon of how much she loves children. Howard, one of the gents on the adult council added that his sister was a teacher and he happily chatted to the head telling him more about this.

Then one little girl spoke up and told of how she wanted to learn to sew, Andrea added knitting potential to this and all the children chatted excitedly at the prospect. One lady, Maureen, whom has sat quietly but happily observing said that she would like to show the children how to get going with needlecraft.

So, the importance of being heard was recognised here today. People were given the opportunity to speak and contribute in their own way. Some brought fun and laughter, others life experiences and some new skills to the table. There is so much potential for residents and pupils to become teachers of each other, demonstrating that tutorage extends beyond academia to allow all involved to become educators of the future.