Our mission at Snowy Mountains Grammar School is “to work with families to develop well-rounded young people with active and creative minds, who have an understanding of and compassion for others, a passion for lifelong learning and the courage and confidence to act on their beliefs”.
For students to have the courage and confidence to act on their beliefs, they must first understand their beliefs and where they have originated. A sense of belonging to a community gives cause for all to consider the premises of where we have come from and who we are; while challenging assumptions and promoting responsibility and accountability for our actions.
However, to belong, we must understand our own cultural identities and personal attitudes. While we may not always realise it, our own unique experiences can lead us to make certain assumptions about other people, cultures and places. Understanding our assumptions and personal beliefs can help us be more self-aware and effective in responding to prejudice and discrimination, promoting a community that demonstrates respect, understanding and compassion for those around us.
As we seek to challenge students further so that they might delve more deeply into who they are and who they might become – to be their best, while valuing the input and opinions of others – students must be allowed to explore the world beyond our local community, to think further about the world in a global context, and the quandaries that others might face.
Through exploration during “Extending Our Belonging and Growing Our Understanding”, students were given occasion to think about their own beliefs and experiences, as well as the way they perceive and understand other people, cultures and places. Working in teams across cohorts, with Year 11 students to lead the research and discussion which would culminate in a presentation, students of Middle School considered contemporary social justice issues, such as social diversity, homelessness, access to medical care and clean, safe, drinking water, economic inequalities and similar.
Students were asked to consider and then create a presentation to educate their peers, using guiding questions:
Where is your particular chosen issue occurring?
What is the impact of your chosen issue?
What is being actioned to address your chosen issue?
How might we raise awareness and bring about change?
Students presented their understandings using a variety of mediums: PowerPoint, song, speeches, poetry and similar to promote awareness of others beyond our local community. Throughout the process, students are challenged to think critically and to challenge assumptions, encouraging students to examine both the local and international environment.
As students are guided and challenged to explore global issues and then consider their actions in response to what they have discovered, it is hoped that a greater understanding of cultures, people and places develops students who are considerate of diversity as well as a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves.
Mrs Jennifer Thompson