By Sara Mai Chitty
Community Journalism TrainerZines

I was sitting on a set of stairs, outside my new living quarters, when a group of girls around the age of seven walked by.

I had just arrived in Kasabonika Lake a few days before, to train journalists for JHR’s Indigenous Reporters Program. I would be living in the community over the next seven months.

“Hi, what’s your name?” said one girl, looking me dead in the eye as she deflected from the group.

I told her my name, and asked for hers. She proceeded to examine every aspect of me. Grabbing the buttons on my jacket, the faded streak in my hair, my glasses, pulling up my sleeve to look at tattoos. Then the questions: “Is your hair really dyed?” “You have tattoos?” “What does this mean?,” gesturing to my button. They really liked my “True Love” lapel pin, and the Pale Lips one, and told me they “want this.” Pointing to their favourite ones.

Their curiosity was inspiring, if not slightly overwhelming. All the things I had taken for granted about my appearance were subject to examination. I definitely felt like the “new kid in town.”

I admired her ability to go up to a stranger and start interrogating them without batting an eye. Children’s curiosity is the best kind. It’s bold, tests limits and authority, and is incredibly persistent. That boldness is something I had to relearn in some aspects when I “grew up.” It’s ironic how easy it is for kids to approach strangers, and for me, age 25, to have to muster up the courage to go up to other adults in the community.

So I decided to get my feet wet in journalism workshopping, with the kids.

My arrival in Kasabonika was simultaneous to the arrival of Frontier College’s summer reading camp leaders. They invited me to come talk to the camp kids about journalism, and maybe do an activity with them.

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We brainstormed activities and came up with making a camp “Zine.” My familiarity with zines comes from activism and punk rock, so I was excited to see what the kids would come up with.

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For the younger kids, we took a collaborative approach. Divided into groups, each child designed their own page. We suggested “food reviews” of snacks, “book reviews” of books they’d read at camp, reviews of favourite activities, or drawings of what they like about camp.

The older kids each designed their own mini zine.

Folding an 8 ½ X 11” sheet of paper into eight rectangles, the mini book gave the older kids a chance to write, draw and create camp-themed material.

At first a lot of the kids were stumped, they had no idea what to put. But once we made suggestions, their zines turned out amazing! One girl interviewed her friend. Another boy did the “Sports Report: The boys won dodgeball.” They wrote about their favourite camp activities and drew pictures of each other. The Frontier College camp leaders said it was the longest the kids had focused on an activity, which was pretty cool.

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Children of Kasabonika, along with their summer literacy camp instructor, show off their completed works.

When I dropped off the photocopied zines the next day, the kids were really excited they could share their work with other friends and family. Some of the other kids missed the activity the day before, and wanted me to help fold them their own books.

It was a great first foray into workshopping in the Kasabonika Lake community.

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