A group of children have been busy building dens during their Home Space time and decide that they need more materials to improve and extend their construction. They decide to bring this up during the stand up meeting at the end of the day. When they describe their needs, other children also express needs for materials for their projects. Since this is a short meeting, no decisions can be taken. We vote on whether to do a Buzz Activity (initially, the facilitator may need to suggest this as a Buzz Activity, but once the Buzz Space is established, children would suggest Buzz Activities themselves.) Since this is a short meeting, we leave it at that and agree to pick it up during the next sitting down meeting. In the meantime we keep a keen lookout for wood and other scraps locally, discuss amongst ourselves what our needs may be – as different groups of children may require different materials for their projects, and with our families and our neighbours where such material can be sourced from. Someone (the facilitator if no one else brings it up) may also suggest a need to store materials safely on site and check with other site users whether such storage is acceptable in shared spaces.
At the next sitting down meeting, this issue is on the agenda. The chair invites each person to feedback what they have learnt about sourcing materials and what materials they feel they may need for their own projects. The following list may be compiled.
- The den building project needs: Wood scraps, bricks, nails, wires.
- The habitat project needs: cardboard boxes and plastic bottles
- The rope ladder project needs: rope and strong sticks
- The storage space requires: wood for shelving, brackets, screws, tarpaulin/plastic sheet
- The arts and crafts projects require: cardboard boxes, cloth, paper, bits and bobs
- The gardening project requires: pots, soil, wooden planks for signs
This list is put up on the Buzz Board. Anyone can add to this during the week. The Buzz Board is a visible space which is used to track the progress of a Buzz Activity. It sets out each person’s role to see the project through and is managed by one of the children who reviews it at every sitting down meeting and during sitting up meetings if needed. In the future, the Buzz Board can move onto an online Trello board, however to start, a physical board will be made.
Next everyone feeds back what they learnt about where to collect materials from. The following list may be compiled:
- From home
- From the road (I saw some wood on my way to the venue)
- From friends of the venue
- From a scrap yard
- From the Remakery or other community venue
Next we make a list of tasks which need to be done, including suggested start and end dates for the project. The project will then be reviewed briefly at every sitting up meeting, and more thoroughly at every sitting down meeting until completion.
Possible outcomes of this Buzz Activity include:
- Every child brings certain items from home which are ‘needed’ by themselves or other children.
- A neighbourhood walk is organised as a Visiting Space activity where scrap heaps and skips are identified and examined.
- Discussions and agreements around health and safety when out and about.
- A local scrap collection service is contacted – maybe a (wo)man with a van – who is invited to the venue during a Hosting Space. Children can examine items from a daily collection and hear about his/her work. This contact can also be hired to collect items from local sites which have been identified.
- A visit to a local community recycling centre such as the ‘Remakery’ is organised as part of the Visiting Space.
- An outdoor dry storage space is created for recyclables and scraps on site to be used for children’s projects.
- A hosting space is organised where a DiY expert is invited to demonstrate appropriate use of tools and support children with trickier parts of their projects.
- A display board, article, blog, photo-book, or other material is produced to document this process and share it with the community.
- And, most importantly, a super cool den is built!
This scenario could take a full half term to materialise. Its success would be in the drive that the children have to procure materials and get their projects done. If children lose interest in the den, they may indeed lose interest in the Buzz project. Likewise, if the Buzz project is too cumbersome, they may lose interest in the den! The key to successful Buzz Spaces is for them to be child initiated and led, versatile and quick. This may take some practice to perfect!
One possible scenario is that a subset of children are uninterested in a particular Buzz project. For example, with the project above, one or two children may say that they don’t ‘need’ anything. The idea with the Buzz space is that it’s a community led project, by the community for the community, to improve our space. Ideally, everyone would be involved. Several roles can be imagined for individuals who are not interested in the core of the project, such as managing the Buzz Board, or documenting. Yet still, it would be unfair to force a child to be involved if they are not interested in any roles. Once this situation emerges (which it is likely to), then we can arrange a ‘major discussion’ to decide on the rules for Buzz Spaces.
Another scenario which might emerge is that a child asks why we don’t just buy the wood rather than go through all this effort. Ideally this question would be answered in the meeting by other children. Failing this, the facilitator does have a role in asking ‘leading questions’. E.g.
- Where does wood come from?
- What happens to old pieces of furniture which are thrown out?
- Did you see the wood at the corner of the road on your way to the venue this morning?
The reason such an intervention may be deemed necessary is to be intentional about our vision, that children grow “socially competent and ecologically mindful”.