8 Tips for Exploring Conflict and Resolution in our Educational Content
It seems to me that when we talk about conflict and resolution in CISV, it is almost too easy. We say we must use dialogue, observe from different perspectives, understand the context, and move on from there.
Creating educational content about conflict and resolution can be challenging. Do we ask the big questions in our educational activities? Do we have a good enough understanding of what conflict is? How can we recreate it in a safe way and give the participants tools to resolve it?
So, there are several tips I would like to share with the CISV community regarding how to include conflict and resolution in our educational content, from Villages to the upper ages in Junior Branch.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions when you create an activity regarding conflict and resolution
When we explore conflict and resolution, we often focus on war and stereotypes. How about also talking about topics such as: gender, sexuality, gender violence, drug addiction, family violence, the effects of bullying on a person’s psychology, violence in relationships, and more. These are all very important topics, regardless of where you live or who you are, and they are also common areas of conflict. These are difficult topics and many different cultures approach them in different ways. As a multicultural and inclusive organisation we have many different perspectives. This shouldn’t prevent us from discussing all these different subjects in an open manner. We should be pushing the educational boundaries within our organization by talking and creating educational content regarding difficult and relevant subjects.
2. Use everyday experiences within your camp and communities to create educational content activities
Two key aspects of experiential learning are emotions and Doing. CISV camps are an incredible space where emotions are all over the place, and many things are happening. Our camps are so diverse that the interactions between people often lead to conflict. As the ages go upwards, it’s even more obvious. Use these situations as a base of opportunity to create an activity. If there is bullying in your camp, make an activity about it! Use the bullying in camp as an example! Make it clear that these things are wrong and that they have consequences, and explore ways of solving these situations.
Even within local CISV communities, conflict always arises. Exploring these situations allows you to find resolution, but also to explore this important content area. Also, explore why these conflicts exist in the first place. Is it because there is something inherently wrong, or is it simply a case of misunderstanding?
3. Be safe, plan safe
Safety is very important, and we have to make sure that even though we are dealing with strong emotions, our participants and volunteers are in a safe environment. If you are going to deal with a difficult theme, talk about it beforehand with the leaders and staffs, and also with the children. You don’t need to tell the participants the purpose of the activity beforehand, but you need to make sure everyone knows that the activity is a safe space for people to express themselves.
Talk about expectations with both the adult volunteers and participants. Let everyone know beforehand what sort of educational experiences we will be having at camp. For very emotional activities, such as a simulation, or longer activities, have an adult volunteer that is not participating and keeping an eye on the activity. Remember, safety is everything.
4. Make sure the topics are relevant and well designed
Many activities are designed to take participants out of their comfort zone and achieve a certain educational purpose. We need to make sure our participants know that they are safe to express themselves and safe to think for themselves. Take into account the age-group and cultural sensitivity. Allow for different types of debriefings and ways for the participants to reflect and generalize on what they have learned. Always take a look at your activity and ask yourself: Is this activity relevant? Are the topics presented without bias? Am I creating an educational space where participants can share their thoughts and what they have learned?
5. Give them a chance to learn from their mistakes
Children make mistakes. All the time. Especially in their interactions with other children. Sometimes as the adult volunteers in a camp we have to take a stand when it comes to these mistakes, and we need to be sure that even if we are tired or stressed that we are dealing with the situation correctly. Speak to the child first and explain what went wrong Let them learn from the experience. Give them a second chance. If a kid was a bully in the first week, make sure not to label them as a bully. It doesn’t mean he can’t be one of the kindest kids by the end of camp.
This also applies to the adult group. If someone did something wrong, it doesn’t mean that they can’t do better in the future.
6. Always have a diverse set of perspectives within your activities
In CISV we want the children to learn from different perspectives and to develop critical thinking. We cannot do this if we only present one side of the picture of any given conflict. Yes, there are many conflicts in which history has shown us that there is a yes or no answer, but many modern conflicts aren’t as white and black as we might believe they are. Give them different perspectives. Give them different tools. Let them learn through their experiences.
7. Always talk about it and return to the routine of your camp
If you had a conflict in your programme or an activity, or there was a strong emotional situation, make sure to always talk about it. Always have a debriefing. Never let an emotional activity go without some sort of discussion. When the discussion is over, make sure that the day goes on so the participants know that it was just an activity, an educational experience, and that happiness goes on. And who knows, maybe what we have learned from the activity will shape our daily routine for the better.
8. Have fun!
Many times we look at the conflicts in our camp that are hard to deal with, and we forget to have fun. Conflict and resolution can be a fun content area for everyone! Not everything has to be serious. It is also important to have fun.
Until next time!
Gonzi, Educational content specialist of the IJB Team on behalf of the Conflict and Resolution Working Group