Volunteer Experiences: Dancing your way into comics

Little Victories

One of the most beautiful realizations when working with children, is understanding that you are part of an environment they trust. While this semester at Horace Mann has fluctuated–there are always kids flowing in and out of the activities– my group and I have still managed to offer a level of comfort to the ever-changing face of our “class.”

This past week we worked on comics, but we started off with a physical activity like always. We circled up and one person went to the center and did a “dance move” that we all had to copy. Then the next person in the circle repeated the previous move and added his or her own, everyone mimicking in the mean time, and so on and so forth.

Although we had to keep the noise down because other activities were going on, it loosened everyone up, and it was a joy to see the children’s enthusiasm. We might be a writing program, but there is something so personal about movement–even the silliest of sorts–that really heightened our connectivity.
Next we passed out dinosaur comics that the children filled in before moving to a group comic activity. For the group comic we started off with a sentence, one of the children eagerly offered, “A random guy shouted out from the crowd, ‘This is not Sparta!’,” and it quickly moved to pies-in-the-face and alien invasions as we went around the circle.

After we each contributed to the story, we all sat down to draw a comic of it. It was great because originally we planned for each kid to draw one panel, but everyone was so excited about what we had created that they all wanted to draw the entire thing.
What was amazing to me, though, was not their excitement or their warmth towards us, but their warmth towards each other. For these past weeks, we have had two boys who cling to each other–barely registering any one else’s presence–and they were still just as cute and clingy this week, but they were also interacting with their peers more.

One of the other boys, Max (a riot who was unashamedly singing Miley Cyrus as he drew his cartoons), leaned over the table and said, “Look at how I colored in the dinosaur,” and one of the usually-reclusive boys looked and guffawed clearly and wonderfully.

It was such a simple moment (and another one occurred later), but I was so excited by it. With the group comic and the dancing (and of course, with our previous meetings) we had provided a community environment for the children. They were comfortable to share their work with each other and comfortable to respond authentically, and none of the coordinators had to initiate it. That is probably one of my greatest-little victories.

~ By Catherine Shook

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