An Engaging 48 Hours

I had the honour of joining the KIWA® team on two of our 48-hour SLAM workshops last month, and I have to say, I was blown away.

The KIWA SLAM™ is cultural storytelling for the digital generation. It’s about getting a group of children to create and produce an experiential digital book in a two-day facilitated workshop. We’ll work with any group of kids, but this time around we were working with boys as part of the Ministry of Education’s Success for Boys Programme.

“Are we REALLY allowed to do this?!”

Any teacher or parent will tell you that the idea of getting 20 boys in a room for two days and asking them to be creative… well, it’s not going to be easy. Girls are beating boys in school. It’s a fact that’s been top-of-mind for educators for at least a decade. It’s something every teacher has seen first hand: boys gradually becoming more and more disengaged until they fail out or drop out of school.

But there’s something about the 48-hour SLAM workshops that make this “truth” disappear. One teacher came up to me said “… nobody can handle this kid… and now he’s writing stories! I don’t know what the hell you did!”. So, what did we do?

1. Two days, not one

Any time you run a workshop beyond one day it gives you a chance to become transformational. After the kids have had the chance to sleep on what they’ve done, and had a good chance to reflect on the day, that’s when the green light comes on. “Are we REALLY allowed to do this?!”. It takes the first day to break down their beliefs about what school is; to give them a chance to realise the process is legit.

2. We ran SLAM on-site

Not only are the kids able to quickly get comfortable in their own classroom, they’re proud that “KIWA’s coming to us”. We have some fantastically talented illustrators on our team, some of whose work the kids were familiar with, and having them on-site was a boon. On top of that, giving teachers a chance to check out what was going on meant we got them on-side early on. They saw that we were building on the work they’ve already done, not replacing it.

3. We got them creating high-tech content

These kids have used technology in the past. They have probably even read eBooks. But making an eBook, with transitions, animations, sound effects, voice-over? It’s incredibly formative for a kid to see how a thing gets made; even more so for them to actually do the work themselves.

4. They told their own stories

Some of the kids used the storytelling to talk about their deepest feelings. One of the kids, a very intelligent boy, just wouldn’t engage. We tried to be upbeat, positive, engaging; it didn’t work. But when we got to the point where we were picking the themes and story idea, he suddenly started speaking up and pushed his idea. He wanted to tell a story that to me just seemed really close to home. And when you read the story you realise that this might have been a bit of a catharsis for him. This story is about his life.

Not all the kids told personal stories, but we all know how empowering it is to get any of our thoughts and feelings down. Doing it for a new medium energised that process – the high-tech output just made it a massively more rewarding process. Secrets were liberated in a powerful, positive manner.


If there’s one lesson I think we could all learn (or re-learn) from this process, it would be that “cynicism is the death of growth”. You need a year-long consistent culture of engagement, personal storytelling, and enablement to get the results these kids need, and you need to approach it with an expectation of success.

To find out more about KIWA SLAM™, or to chat to us about running one in your school, contact [email protected], or call us on +64 9 925 5035.