Today’s Studio Workshop session was designed to explore the First Amendment rights to free speech we are fortunate enough to enjoy in the United States. The session opened up with a general introduction to what the Bill of Rights is, what our constitutional rights are, and what it means to speak freely and at what cost. The children had many questions as we discussed the various scenarios in which speech is exercised, some of which are well within our rights and some which cross the line. Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, for example, was universally seen by the children as speech which clearly crossed the line because “someone could get hurt.” On the other hand, standing on a soapbox in a crowded subway encouraging people to wear a particular color of clothing was seen as acceptable free speech, while dressing people in a particular color against their will, was not.
The exercise ended in a hands-on approach to creating protest signs of sorts, and the group took turns thinking about and sharing issues which were important to them. Should kids have a designated bedtime? How about video games? School? Endangered species?
The group then took large pieces of canvas, stenciled on their slogans and messages with acrylic paints, and proudly paraded around the halls proclaiming their positions to all who would listen.