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Cederberg Stories One: September 2013

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The first in a series of ten workshops planned for the Cederberg area got off to an amazing start with great support from the community and, most of all, the children!

An hour before the workshop started there was already a buzz as children arrived at the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project for the first day. Word had been spread through school and library visits and the very capable librarians handled registration. Twenty-five permission forms had been handed in, duly signed by parents or carers … but there were definitely more than twenty-five children, even at a quick head count. – and more were arriving. We compromised by inviting the extras to participate in the general activities. It is a lovely problem to have. Children came from two schools, Sederberg Primary in Clanwilliam and Elizabethfontein Primary School over the Pakhuis Pass.

The workshop was planned with three venues, three facilitators and three sessions so that each group had a chance to experience different approaches to the theme – Home, Landscape and ME! Before and after each session there was a Books and Stories session where some challenging and significant texts were read and discussed.

Facilitators included award-winning youth novelist Peter Slingsby who is also a cartographer who has walked, and mapped, the Cederberg over many years. Performance poet CrocE Moses delighted the participants with his unorthodox approach to words. Lesley Beake worked on the postcard project, the self-portrait project and writing about friends and family.

Each facilitator had a volunteer helper – Rosemary Bangham, and Sarah Chaimowitz came from Cape Town to help. Natalie Leens (Senior Librarian Cederberg) and her colleagues gave up a public holiday to be with us. The Living Landscape team handled catering. Entertainment was provided by the wonderful Betjies from Betjiesfontein (Elizabethfontein School) who danced their famous storytelling reel dances for us before joining us for lunch and the final story session.

The venue is perfect for this kind of workshop. There is a hall where a museum exhibit around the theme of Time is on permanent display. The décor consists of an enormous photograph of the Clanwilliam area – perfect for our theme. There is also a well-appointed classroom and we made use of Lesley’s view from her deck for the artwork of the mountains. Meals were served in the restaurant area.

A huge amount of work was generated over the two days of the workshop. (Have a look under Children’s Writing on this site.)

Activities included:

• Drawing and mapping the mountains
• Making a map of Clanwilliam with chalks
• Making house-plans and fitting homes onto maps

• Unstructured writing on Home with the hand not usually used for writing
• Writing for three minutes without stopping to think
• Writing for the future – recording the most important life experiences for future generations

• Self-portraits and thinking about the idea of ME
• Postcard project – summing self for another child in another place
• Writing about friends

Each child also had the chance to decorate their book-bags with fabric paint. (A good deal of decoration of themselves went on whenever any glitter or adhesive labels turned up!)

Feedback form those facilitating suggested that the sessions be shorter, leaving more time for assessment and data capturing afterwards. We certainly packed a lot into a very short time. The participating children worked very hard although they maybe were not as tired by the end as the adults!

Most heartwarming was the number of children who came back after the workshop. A little girl and her mother were waiting at the gate on the Saturday morning to see if there was, ‘any reading today’. Eight others popped past on their way home form church to remind Lesley that more workshops were promised. But perhaps the most significant were the four girls who arrived at the end of the first day. ‘Can we have something to read?’ they asked.

Of course.

Lesley Beake
Clanwilliam 30 September 2013