Having spent the first month finding my feet, I’m now generally feeling comfortable at HPS.
Tuesday followed the usual routine of morning meeting, then Forward Leeds and finally planning for the Thursday session.
At Forward Leeds, we continued to focus on turning the soil and starting to plant. In the process we also found an extremely smelly pond. I found that while I was leading by example and getting stuck into the digging, and I wasn’t dedicating enough time to talking with the young people. When your program of intervention is based on ‘doing’, I've found it often becomes quite hard to find time to do the more emotional/one-to-one work. Thus, I’ve started to use the break times, when people have a drink, to sit down with people and have a chat and find out what’s going on in their lives. I also overheard 2 young people discuss how this session is so much better than any indoor group session. The previous week we had also made pancakes on a rocket stove. People had seemed quite interested in them and so with Behla, we worked out that next week we are going to make smaller ‘Rocket stoves’ which the young people can make and then take home with them. One young person joked that there would be no need to make a barbeque in future.
On Thursday, I ran a session at Killingbeck on fire-lighting which overall went well though there are several areas for improvement. We had more young people than I had previously had at this session which from the outset made it slightly more difficult. Equally, the level of knowledge and ability in relation to fire-lighting was quite broad. Nonetheless, it seemed that all young people were engaged and the tasks were differentiated sufficiently that everyone was involved. Those that were less confident and/or able, focused on using a flint and steel and lighting a piece of cotton wool, while others focused on actually making the fire which involved collecting some kindling wood (we had already collected most the wood as we anticipated that they would not collect enough). Having given the whole group a talk of fire safety, they all seemed aware of the dangers of a fire and were safe around the fire. Finally, once the fire was going, I did one-on-one sessions teaching people how to whittle safely. This was followed by toasting marshmallows on the fire which everyone loved. It was good that there was an end point or purpose to the fire making and whittling. It seemed to complete the session well.
There were however, several areas for improvement. Especially as there were more people than usual, talking to everyone was quite difficult and the young people struggled to fully focus. This meant that they didn’t always follow instructions accurately. Though overall this wasn’t a problem and everyone remained safe, working out how to get people to focus more would be useful. Part of the problem is that the sessions are quite short and thus there isn’t always time to create the right atmosphere for ‘calm’ activities such as fire-lighting. Equally, the vastly varying ability levels meant that finding an activities within fire-lighting which worked for all the young people was difficult. At points, this led to the structure of the session breaking down.
Overall, the session was a success. Everyone generally remained engaged, was involved in some way, and everyone enjoyed marshmallows at the end.