The Children’s Forum – where children explore and uphold the rights of the child beyond the classroom
First Principles of the Children's Forum:
(from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)
Article 12: the right to express their thoughts freely,
Article 13: the freedom to seek, receive and impart information,
Article 15: freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly,
Article 31: the right to rest, leisure and play.
The Key Areas of the Programme:
- Acquainting children with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,
- Nurturing mutual understanding, cooperation and desire for peace,
- Maintaining fun activities as an integral part of the Children’s Forum programme.
The Children’s Forum Programme:(key areas and thematic units)
A: UPHOLDING THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
1. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
2. The Lives of Children Around the World
3. Initiatives and Visions for Child Welfare
4. Children’s Messages to Adults
B: NURTURING MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING
1. Information about the UN
2. Supporting the idea of World Peace
3. Pen-pals and souvenir exchange
C: LEARNING ACTIVITIES
1. Children’s Games Around the World
2. Creative solutions to fun problems
3. Children’s Songs Around the World
The Children’s Forum:
- acquaints children with the rights of the child,
- spreads the concepts of peace, tolerance and cooperation,
- passes children’s appeals on to adults,
- nurtures democratic behaviour, and a capacity for democratic action.
An Overview of Children’s Forum Structure and Activities:
- Aimed at children aged 9 to 14,
- Anyone is free to join, and can stop attending whenever they want,
- All forums revolve around group activities for children, which take place in groups of around 20-25 boys and girls,
- They meet once a week, though twice monthly is acceptable,
- Each meeting lasts 1-2 hours,
- and should provide suitable space and equipment for children.
Some of the most common forum activities include:
- discussions and workshops about children’s rights,
- working groups on the topics of peace, tolerance and cooperation,
- writing ‘children’s appeals’ to adults,
- festive programmes of events for special occasions,
- exhibitions, quizzes, shows, public speaking and public performances,
- writing to pen-pals from around the world,
- creating notice boards with news from these pen-pals
- cooperation with other Children’s Forums, and preparation for the Annual Croatian Children’s Forum Summit.
The Average 'Children’s Forum' Meeting – A Rough Guide:
- Introductions, and agreement on the content of the meeting,
- A short conversation about a current or pertinent issue,
- A riddle, brain-teaser, anecdote or skill-building game,
- An educational topic from the Children’s Forum programme,
- An interactive activity based around that topic,
- A song,
- A game, or a similar fun activity,
- Agreement on the next meeting.
The basic outline above is the ideal model for each meeting – though the exact structure can, of course, be adapted to suit the mood, aims and level of interest of the children present.
The Starting Point of a Children’s Forum Workshop:
The general principles of the workshop are applied as follows:
- Joint activity and interaction should be relevant and up-to-date. Everyone present should feel relaxed and at ease, safe, and enjoy the support and trust of others,
- Circle Time: chairs are set out in a circle with everybody facing each other. During the workshop, the chairs can be moved away depending on the activities.
- The room is set up and tidied up by both the children and their supervisor, who work together to adapt it to the activities at hand as and when required.
- We foster a culture of mutual respect and inclusivity in verbal and non-verbal communication, so that children can learn it for themselves and from those around them by experience.
Typical Outline of a Children’s Forum Workshop:
- Game: An integral part of the activity is a game, or some other relaxing content. This gets the children ready to leave and in the mood for the next meeting.
- Main Section: An overview of one or more specific themes or problems. These will be presented through facts, recounting experiences, brainstorming and empathy exercises. Participants may also be asked to consider hypothetical stances and challenges, and assess new ideas and initiatives.
- Introduction: A themed conversation or game, often introductory or on a pertinent issue, to relax the participants and prepare them for the working topic of choice,
Everybody helps to think up the workshop’s activities and put them into practice; the workshops last as long as the children are interested and satisfied. The total length of the workshop can therefore deviate from what’s planned, within reason.
The Children’s Forum ‘Supervisor’: Concept, Status and Role:
Concept and Status
- A supervisor should be a mentor, an advisor, and a helping hand for children’s activities.
- This should be volunteer work – though a set fee or official recognition can be given should this provide some form of sponsorship opportunity, or otherwise, to the Union of Societies ‘Our Children’.
Supervisors must have...
- Experience working with children,
- Preliminary training (in the form of a seminar),
- Brought themselves up to speed with the required literature for the Children’s Forum scheme.
Should two supervisors be required...
- The assistant supervisor should ideally be a full supervisor at their own ‘home’ Children’s Forum.
- The relationship should be reciprocal; the primary supervisor at the given Forum should then assist at the second Forum.
The immediate role of a Forum Supervisor
- creating favourable conditions for Forum activities,
- keeping forum activities to plan,
- encouraging and directing children’s initiatives and activities, independent learning, and opening up opportunities for individual and joint work.
The long-term role of a Forum Supervisor
- To help and equip children to consider all the various solutions to life’s problems, and draw their own conclusions accordingly. Through the work of the Children’s Forum programme, they should learn to found their core beliefs, stances and decisions on this basis when it comes to active and constructive participation in a democratic, civil society.
Setting up a Children's Forum: After The Training Seminar
The first Children’s Forum meeting/workshop
- Be enthusiastic, be interesting, and get everyone involved!
- Conduct the first survey of the children’s thoughts and opinions.
Prepare thoroughly for the first meeting
- make a plan,
- make thorough notes,
- bring all necessary materials – pens, paper, etc.
Inviting children to join the Children’s Forum
- by word of mouth,
- through posters,
- through the media.
‘Our Children’ Society will then...
- Decide upon the founding of the Children’s Forum,
- Appoint a supervisor,
- Find a suitable location for it to be held.
Contact your local ‘Our Children’ Society
- Advise them of how the seminar went,
- Study the required literature you received carefully,
- Suggest how you plan to proceed.
- Inform the Union of Societies ‘Our Children’ head office of your Children’s Forum,
- Work, work, work...! Always look out for creative ways to present new material,
- Share your experiences with other Children’s Forums,
- After the first year, file a report and conduct surveys,
- Attend the Annual Children’s Forum Summit,
- Keep up the good work, keep making contacts – and strive for perfection.