“This meeting will come to order!” 10 year old Kids’ Council Co Captain Nyle shouts and slams the mallet on the desk with glee to signify the start of Kids’ Council. A dozen kids together sitting on stools or cross-legged on the rug in the gathering space chattering. Slowly they come to focus on the meeting. Snack Monitor Deidre has set up the snack table and filled bowls and cups which she is in the process of passing out to everyone. An adult facilitator provides a gentle sense of order.
The printed agendas are handed out for approval and then Co Secretary Brad reads the minutes from the previous meeting for approval. Jewel, the Microphone monitor, hands our soft spoken Co Secretary a microphone to ensure all can hear him.
“This meeting will come to order!” Nyle, Co Captain
This is a somewhat idealized view of how each Kids’ Council meeting starts. But because the kids are in charge for these once a week 80 minute sessions they are free to go off script. It’s this ‘wiggle room’ that causes the kids to seek their own unique balance so, by and large, this new found freedom is a good thing.
So even though Ms. Morrison had offered class time for Kids’ Council, the students all wanted time to just relax and class time would be over in a snap of the fingers anyhow. So we asked the kids if we could meet after school in the classroom.
This meant, though, that some kids would not be able to be part of the weekly Kids’ Council meetings. But all the officers agreed they could meet after school and about dozen students were eager to attend. And they promised the class we’d figure out a way to include everyone in decision-making. Fairness is a keyword in Kids' Council.
One of the kids raised the question, “Can kids from ‘the other 5th grade class’ come in?” This was a teachable moment where the adult facilitator simply turned it back to the kids asking them "What do you think?" The kids discussed the pros and cons and voted that that would be okay as long as they were ‘good kids’ but that they could not vote. So the main prerequisite was that kids had to come in with the right attitude: They had to be cooperative and want to improve the learning experience of the classroom.
This Must be Fun
Kids’ Council is optional. It’s a free program at PS 20. Kids have options; they can attend the general after school program held in the cafeteria where 90 kids grab a slice of pizza, hang out, do homework, play games till their parents can come get them. Or they can come be part of something they create for themselves - Kids' Council. The newness of having their opinions sought; the excitement of forming their own deeply held opinions and articulating them in a trusted group in which they have a modicum of control seems to provide excellent motivation. And we have great snacks.