Bethany Caldow and Allison Beaudoin, two Education students at the University of Alberta, engaged in a community service-learning placement with Skills Society in the Winter 2015 semester. On February 4th 2015, Bethany and Allison hosted a workshop at the University of Alberta for Project Citizenship. The workshop focused on the theme of pride and celebrating accomplishments. Over twenty people from the Edmonton community came and participated.
The workshop began with Bethany and Allison sharing their posters about what they were proud of, in order to provide an example to participants. Time was then given for everyone to work on individual posters. It was fun to walk around and talk to people about their proud moments as they clipped out pictures from magazines and coloured their posters. During the sharing time, when everyone was given an opportunity to present their posters, Bethany was surprised by how open people were with the group.
Lana shared a story about how when she was volunteering with the SPCA, someone dropped off a box of kittens in the parking lot and she had the opportunity to rescue them. Tyler talked about how when he was eleven years old, he was run over by a car. It changed his life forever. He told everyone that he had been pronounced dead but somehow miraculously ended up surviving. He also shared with the group that he is the first member of his family to ever graduate high school and brought a framed letter to show his proof of graduation. Another participant brought in his bowling trophy and was eager to show everyone and talk about his bowling accomplishments. One woman shared her passion for fashion design and talked about being proud to have three sisters. It was interesting to see the vast variety of what people were proud of. Something that really stuck out to Bethany was how great at listening everyone was. The focus always remained on the individual speaking and there was a genuine sense of interest and respect for what was being shared.
The dance portion of the workshop, which involved learning choreography for the song “I Feel Good” (in anticipation of a potential upcoming flash mob event) was so much fun. All but three people participated, and those who weren’t dancing enjoyed watching the others. Even though two people were in wheelchairs and had limited mobility, they seemed to enjoy being right in the center of the action. After Bethany and Allison taught the choreography, they asked everyone to break up into groups of three or four people. They asked participants to create frozen tableaux with the theme of community engagement. Bethany and Allison later remarked about how surprised they were with how quickly everyone picked up the choreography and came up with ideas for the tableaux. The whole event really seemed to give people a sense of belonging. Going into this project, the students’ focus had been primarily to host a workshop that truly celebrated accomplishments, no matter how simple or how grand they might be. The focus was not on the finished product of our flash mob choreography, but rather on the entire process. From sharing posters and hearing inspirational stories to beginning the early stages of the flash mob, the goal was met. Bethany says “I am grateful for my experience working with members of this community and am honoured that I was able to hear their stories.”
Written by: Bethany Caldow, Allison Beaudoin, Ally Duncan