Finding student voice
Nelson Mandela famously posited that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” At King David, we are acutely aware that while we need to equip our students with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to succeed, this will mean little if it is not accompanied by deep-set values that compel our students to use these attributes to benefit the community at a local, societal and global level.
Immediately prior to the current lockdown, we were fortunate to be able to host our Nitzan Social Justice Expo for our Year 9 students and their families. It was the culmination of a term of work that Nitzan Coordinator Jayne Wise, had devised for the unique experiential program that enables our Year 9s to develop skill sets and enjoy experiences that broaden their horizons and have application in their lives.
The focus on social justice and activism allowed the students to explore topics that they found to be most meaningful and to work with mentors to see how they could make a difference by finding their voices and responding to the issue.
The process began with students delving into the concept of “changemaking”. This incorporates analysis of the sorts of leadership and activism that can lead to positive change in society. In order to engage with this, the students explored numerous theories of change which included political processes, grassroots activism and mobilisation of the community.
The unit launched at the start of Term 2 when numerous federal and state politicians and political activists from across the political spectrum came to King David to share in an intimate Q & A session with our Year 9 students. This was a powerful experience as the students were able to gain an understanding of what motivates these politicians to dedicate their lives to this pursuit and were also free to interrogate them on pertinent matters of public interest. Our students were able to explore various standpoints around the government’s COVID-19 response, the status and treatment of women in politics and the government’s response to the Climate Emergency.
Our students then chose causes that they were passionate about and were able to investigate the issue in depth. They engaged in debates which allowed them to explore issues from multiple perspectives and ultimately to forge their beliefs on what issue they hoped to involve themselves in.
The key issues explored included homelessness, climate change, protecting human rights and ending discrimination based on age, gender or ability.
The Year 9s were also able to work closely with mentors who helped them to understand how to most effectively advocate for their chosen issue. They were privileged to hear from renowned figures such as Alan Brough, Rod Quantock and Emilie Zoe Baker and also explored the concepts of ‘Artivism’ with Badiucao – that is, using art to express political messages and to advocate for change.
The students ultimately worked incredibly hard to express themselves on their chosen topics. They produced works of art, documentaries, slam poetry, political billboards and worked with an artist to create a mural.
The culmination of the unit involved our students hosting an expo in which their family members and teachers were able to gain an appreciation of their process and products and were able to witness firsthand how passionate the students have become to be a force of positive change.
Like so many quality teaching experiences, the Nitzan program integrates the cognitive and affective realms – the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ to become involved in important social justice causes. It was a truly empowering experience for our students who are inspired to become genuine changemakers. As Nobel Peace Prize winning activist, Malala Yousafzai, reminds us “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”