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Founded in 1998, CRJI aspires to build a tolerant, responsive and inclusive community by providing restorative justice services to local areas. 

How can we explain restorative values to children?

As Practitioners the foundation of our work is our values; respect, responsibility, commonality, justice, reparation and restoaration of relationships.These concepts are something that adults can learn, adapt to and understand, either via education, application or experience but how do we expect very young children to conceptualize ideas or theories that are not visible? How do we achieve lifelong learning outcomes and teach values to our children which they can use through junior & senior school and out into their adult lives?

First and foremost, when delivering soft outcome topics, it is important to choose your vehicle for delivery and I choose to deliver restorative values to some of our various projects via The Restorative Garden Project. I am currently working with St John the Baptist Primary School on their school theme which is “Our Common Home”. This motto is a great format to land restorative values and the Teacher and I have agreed on a selection of values, themes and projects that will imbed the school motto and the restorative values in their day to day experience at school. Our goal is to connect the agreed values to their actions and choices, this week our session was centred around discussions that would encourage them to think about these values and to show them what that value looks like in reality.

The first value and “word of the day” today was resilience – this was a fairly simple value to illustrate to the children as we had planned to go outside to do part of our project in the Nature Garden but now it was very cold, it had been raining and it was turning to snow. As a team we discussed whether this was something that we wanted to do and we quickly discussed our options – stay in or go out? We talked about the weather and what a challenge it was, but they decided for themselves that if everyone prepared themselves properly, and we used the Nature Hut, then we would be able to complete our next task… so, off we went!

This task was based around the environment and we talked about issues such as the importance of recycling which is not unusual but it also brought the conversation around to the issue of community… how did I do that you might ask? I started the conversation by asking them if they knew what “community” was? There were admittedly a lot of quizzical stares but eventually someone piped up that it is where you come from – so began a conversation about Ladybrook, Trench and Riverdale. We then began to talk about other things that could be a community… after a bit of conversation responses included school, family, dance club and the GAA, they began to understood that community can look different and come in many forms.

I had brought with me an old file box and in the box was recycled shredded paper, a few scraps of fruit and 1,000 red wiggler worms! After a few dramatic squeals and yelps from the children, I asked the children if they thought that the worms lived in a community – the response was a definite Yes! This began a wonderful conversation that illustrated that their minds were open to developing this theme further in the weeks to come.

To set us up for the next session we talked a little about how many people don’t like worms – so I passed the worms around gently and let the children hold them in their hands, they discovered during the task that once you hold them and get to know them they are really soft and gentle and not as bad as they first thought. I also introduced the topic of what the worms might need, for example, is their temporary accommodation suitable? What do the children think they need to do to look after their new responsibility?

So, at the end of the session, as they made their way back to class, cold but happy, they were going back to class with the teacher who would reinforce our joint message about Resilience and Community. I, also cold but happy, went back to work to plan the next session which is about Responsibility, Tolerance and Equality – learning outcomes all centered around an old box of worms – imagine!

Paula Kerr CRJI

10 February 2022


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