We have shared a bit of Shocklach Oviatt CE Primary Schools courageous advocacy story as it showcases the opportunities for children to go on a courageous advocacy journey and to creatively engage with decision makers. Interview with Finola Jackson, teacher at Shocklach CE Primary School:
Part of my job as a teacher at Shocklach Primary School in Cheshire is teaching the children about courageous advocacy. This can be a challenge because it goes beyond raising awareness or funds. We don’t want them to just buy Fair Trade chocolate or wear a red nose once a year, but at the same time we don’t want to paralyse them into fear and guilt. We want to give them a hopeful approach.
So how do we encourage courageous activism, helping children to have a voice, to speak up to say what matters to them? That was what I was thinking about when someone recommended How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett to me.
With so many angry protests, strikes and marches in the media, the idea of gentle protest is very topical at the moment. The book really resonated with me because, especially as a church school, we really want our children to engage with activism respectfully and kindly. You look at the way politicians often behave and you realise we need a better way.
Craftivism for Kids
I was very keen to see how we could adapt some of the projects and bring craftivism into school and make it relevant for the children. I got in touch with Sarah and she was really supportive and encouraging.
The first campaign we ran was adapted from the ‘don’t blow it’ hanky, which we linked to our work on plastics. At our school we used to have plastic juice containers with disposal straws delivered each day for the children. So we decided to make a hanky for the MD of our catering company.
We embroidered our school vision statement onto the handkerchief and sewed on a school logo that we’d taken from an old school uniform. Then we stitched “Don’t blow it” and the strapline that the children came up with: “There is still hope, act now.”
We invited the MD into the school and the children gave a presentation on what they’d been learning about plastics and their effects on marine life. Then they presented him with the hanky, beautifully wrapped up with lots of thought and care.
He was really bowled over and amazingly agreed there and then to offer not just our school but every school in the area an alternative! We now use reusable beakers now which we wash up, so they just provide the juice rather than the containers and straws.
Powerful and Effective
The next campaign was aimed at our local MP and was about climate change. She actually framed the hanky we sent her and had it hung up in the Houses of Parliament! We already had a school residential planned to visit the Houses of Parliament so we went to see it and the children thought it was wonderful because it showed she valued the gift.
Later she wrote and told us about the presentation Sir David Attenborough had given to the government’s Climate Change Committee. In it he spoke about how the voices of young people gave him hope for the future and how he believed pressure from different generations would give the government impetus to act.
She added: “I just wanted to highlight that your pupils have been instrumental in raising their concerns with me and encouraging me to support climate change measures which will hopefully protect their future. I recently signed up to the Conservative Environment Manifesto, you might find this a useful discussion item in future lessons, particularly to discuss whether the policies suggested are sufficient to tackle the climate crisis we face.”
I think giving a gift really leaves power holders with something to reflect on. Everyone knows about climate change, nobody wants to be shouted at, just to be gently nudged is wonderful. The beauty of craftivism is that it lets people think, “Gosh, I am in this wonderful position, I can act on that.”