East Garston Quakers visit Shefford School

On Friday 14 July, East Garston Quakers were invited to the local Shefford Primary School to talk to the pupils about Quakers.

Chris Whichelo and I were pleased to accept the invitation and when we arrived at the school all 85 pupils aged 4 to 11 years quietly assembled in the school hall. We sat at the front and Chris, who has many years experience of teaching, started by making a joke about wearing a flat tweed cap instead of the big black hat the children might have seen on Quaker Oat packets.

We then went on to explain about how Quakers started, Quaker values, the challenges they created for authorities at the time because they were prepared to be imprisoned and even executed for their principles, and some of the achievements that Quakers are famous for. We also explained about pacifism and conscientious objectors in the world wars and I mentioned my grandfather who had been an ambulance driver in the first world war. The children were keen to contribute to the discussion.

Then we invited all the pupils and staff to sit in a big circle for a three minute Meeting so the children could experience what it was like sitting in silence. They were very good with only a few fidgets!

After the meeting we shook hands with our neighbours and Chris invited the children to share their thoughts. Several put up their hands and this is what some of the pupils said:

I was thinking about music
I was thinking about the song we were listening to at the beginning (If You Believe by Patch Crowe) and thinking about what I believe.
I was thinking about darkness and how only with darkness can you have light.
I was thinking about colours and how there are so many colours as well as dark.

We were impressed by the students’ thoughts and their willingness to share them with the whole school.

Chris shared his experience of his mind being full of jumbled thoughts like a washing machine full of clothes tumbling around together and by the end of the meeting you were able to hang the clothes neatly on the washing line. The Headteacher said afterwards that this was very helpful.

Chris then asked students if they agreed with Quaker values of believing everyone is equal, not fighting, only buying things you really need and looking after the planet. Nearly every student put their hands up for all of them.

At the end of the session, the squash and biscuits that we had brought with us were shared around the whole circle.

The Head Teacher thanked us and said it was very interesting to learn about Quakers and have a Meeting experience.

Penny Locke

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