Date: 06/03/2020
Type: Online Ecobrick Course
Location: Swindon, Wiltshire
Trainer: Fran O’Flanagan
Participants: 6

This workshop was part of my trainers course. It took place before social distancing rules were relaxed in the UK which meant that I was not able to physically handle the bricks and visibility of my making (and modelling) was limited.
I presented to friends over Zoom. One lady does not have a camera on her phone so participated with audio only, although she could see what others were doing.
I have known these ladies for nearly 30 years as we met when our children were infants, consequently our friendship meant that they were already familiar with the concept of Ecobricking and all have been thinking about how to reduce the amount of plastic they consume. We are a mixed group and some are further along their journey than others.
I decided to split the training over 2 weeks as it is hard to concentrate for a long time when using virtual methods. The first week I presented the Powerpoint and held discussions, the second week we chatted whilst packing our bricks. The participants were well prepared with materials and had already asked quite a lot of questions about what could and could not go into the bottle.
By the end of the workshop one person had completely finished a 1 litre bottle at 464g, three others were very close and two are still working on theirs.
Friends were subsequently able to drop off completed bricks to my doorstep. Nobody felt ready yet to open a GoBrik account so I logged them. They have all been validated.
One participant who is a keen knitter said she should not make another as she likes to use her hands to knit. Another participant was stuffing her second brick as we met for our weekly online chat. Everyone was proud of what they were able to achieve and felt confident with their technique. Most commented on how it had opened their eyes to the volume of plastic they would normally have put straight into the bin.

When I was considering signing up to the trainer’s course I asked my friends if they would be willing to participate in my workshop. From that moment on, I was able to help them prepare their choice of bottle and the plastic they would need to collect. This was very useful when it came to actually making the bricks.
Because of Covid 19 restrictions, I had no choice but to conduct both parts of the workshop on line. In more usual times I would have invited friends to my home.

Highlights of the workshop were:-
a) All participants expressed concern at the volume of plastic they would have put into general waste and were beginning to voice ideas on how to change shopping habits.
b) Everyone was able to make a good brick with a solid bottom and was proud of what they had achieved. This was due to the trial and error of my own experiences and emphasises how valuable workshops are to promote positive “can do” attitudes and ensure quality standards.

I found presenting the Powerpoint via my free zoom account was quite frustrating as my inexperience with the technology meant that I could not see the participants whilst sharing my screen. This posed two challenges for me, as it meant that it was more difficult to gauge the reactions of my audience and (as an ex teacher) both this and the fact that I was not stood up in front of a screen meant that I was not in my usual presentation mode.
Despite having rehearsed half the presentation on the course, I feel that I am still developing the deep understanding of the message presented by some of the slides. I feel that this is needed to present them with authority.
(Again my professional persona gets in the way here as I am most used to delivering presentations I have made and understand exactly what each slide is meant to do and the purpose for all the images I have chosen ) When gaps in my course notes failed me, I was not able to find clarification in the notes section of the PowerPoint.

It is definitely valuable to allow a good period of time for participants to gather and begin to cut up their plastic before the making part of the workshop. Being able to answer questions ahead of the actual workshop itself gave the participants confidence to get stuck in on the night.
When I start working with young people I would envisage a series of short meetings (which lends itself to after -school or lunchtime clubs)
Presenting to friends also meant that I was hypersensitive about not leaving anyone out and I think the Q&A slides went on a bit long. In a face to face situation it is much easier to see how engaged the audience is to the material.
I should not have been reluctant to seek help or clarification from my trainer on some of the content of the slides. ( Professional pride getting in the way!)
Before I am ready to present a workshop to a group of informed ( but possibly hostile) adults I need to feel more confident about explaining the slides on the drawbacks of UK recycling chains along with ecobrick philosophies of cradle to cradle and ayyew. To do this I need to continue to engage in conversations with experts on Ecobrick forums and reread the information pages. I would also like to join another training course later in the year.


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