Chapbooking with The KidSafe Writers’ Room

An awesome reader from Queen Alexandra Elementary!

Last night Michelle Burtnyk-Horn, Alex Grant and I took in a fantastically edutaining (education + entertainment = awesome) literary wrap-up for the KidSafe Writers’ Room readers and writers from Queen Alexandra Elementary School. The very awesome Sarah Maitland hosted an evening of storytelling starring several young readers, writers and performers from Vancouver elementary schools.

About a dozen kids proudly – sometimes nervously, always awesomely – read aloud their work to an audience of peers, parents, teachers, and volunteers with rave reviews from all in attendance.

Truly, it was a wonderful celebration of a community in which you can be involved over the summer (and beyond) as a volunteer or donor.

Stories from the Writers’ Room: Kids, Creativity and Careers

A burgeoning superstar being tutored by a gentleman in a plaid shirt who needs to do a better job of knowing when the camera's on him...

Last week I was lucky enough to work with Sarah Maitland and the Kidsafe Writers’ Room team to create and deliver some superawesome – and super educational – literacy programming for kids from East Vancouver during their Winter Holiday Break. The program content was career-related – Wait, where are you going? No, trust me, it was fun and not serious at all and you will enjoy reading this!- and it was absolutely inspiring to work with over 160 kids as they invented their jobs of the future.

Fun fact: a student who enrolled in college or university in September 2011 will probably work in a job that does not exist today. For this reason, I often encourage post-secondary students who I meet to imagine and/or create future work that will address future challenges/opportunities and to consider the skills that will be needed to tackle this kind of work. It’s not my idea, but one that stems from guru/personal-hero, Jim Bright, who teaches the aptly-named Chaos Theory of Careers to students, practitioners and job seekers the world-over.

Needless to say, I was extremely curious and very excited to see how the kids, who ranged in age from five to fifteen, treated this exercise. For starters, here is a selection of some of the job titles that were created:

  • Teacher
  • Space Cooker
  • Cleaner
  • Driver
  • The World Helpers (there was a “Kids with Problems” helper, an Animal Helper, and a Health Helper)
  • Sky Welder
  • Inventor
  • Physicist
  • Super Spy
  • Star Gatherer
  • Owner of a Petting Zoo for Endangered Species
  • Poop Collector
  • TV Watcher
  • Video Game Tester
  • Fart Soldier
  • Princess
  • Social Worker
  • Toy Maker
  • Solar Plane Engineer
  • Veterinarian
  • Inventor of the Massaging Toilet

Interesting. And awesome.

So, how did the kids get here? Well, before working with some exceptional volunteer tutors to complete an activity sheet (pictured), I engaged the kids in a discussion about jobs – and work – that has come and gone over the last 150 years; the idea was that the kids needed to know what work started and stopped, and when it did, in order to get a sense of what might come in the future. The discussion was actually more of a yell-fest (there should be more yelling in school, in my opinion), as I brought up volunteers who held up a picture of a job (e.g. Lamplighter or Pony Express Rider), which I explained to the group, and then moved it along a giant time line (crafted on a huge piece of white paper), which spanned from 1875 to 2025. When they got to a point on the time line that the audience didn’t agree with, we all booed. And when the kid got to the right spot (this differed from group to group, as some of the kids felt that vinyl record production stopped in 2010) everybody cheered.

And that’s how we got to the activity sheets. Here are some examples of the great work these kids did:

I’ll go so far as to say that pretty much everybody enjoyed the group-activity (even Lucy, the intractable volunteer who experienced/put-up-with all 10 of my workshops); however, watching the kids – especially the boys – tackle the worksheets was a bit different. About half of the kids immediately took to the activity. The others, well, I can safely say – and I say it with much fairness – that not everyone became immediately super-enthusiastic about their career during the holidays…when they’re eight years old. And here’s the magical thing: as soon as the activity was framed with the questions ‘what do you like to do?’ and ‘how can you turn that into something that you could do for work?’ nearly everyone got into it. Oh, and the fact that the kids got to draw pictures as themselves doing the work was pretty darn fantastic. Especially the Fart Soldier!

Describing the very good feelings that bubbled within when the kids proudly shared their pictures and stories with me and especially when they excitedly (and some, I’ll admit, begrudgingly) commented on the value of the exercise and that thinking about a future career – or simply what careers might look like in the future – was “really helpful” or “important” or “pretty cool” is difficult to say the least. So I’ll just say that working with kids in a way that helps them to think about blending interests, talent, passion, and future possibilities in the world of work was as enjoyable as it was meaningful.

So, what’s the work that you want to tackle in the future?

All photos courtesy of Sarah Maitland