Kids teaching kids
It’s one thing being lectured about social advocacy and environmental sustainability by teachers and parents.
In one ear and out the other.
But what if kids were being made aware of these issues through creative workshops run by students not much older than themselves?
That’s exactly what took place last month, when four Year 11 Forest High students devised and led a creative writing workshop for North Balgowlah primary school children.
And the success of this ‘kids teaching kids’ concept was so undeniable, there are plans afoot to roll out the workshop across primary schools from Manly to Palm Beach.
In fact, Lauren Weatherall, the Forest High teacher who supervised her Year 11 cohort, has already spoken to the school’s P&C committee about promoting the two-hour workshop within the wider community.
How the concept took shape
North Balgowlah’s deputy principal Rachel Ridley told Lauren she wanted to organise a creative workshop for her Year 5 and 6 gifted and talented students.
“She wanted something that would really push them and get them out of their normal classroom environment,” Lauren explains.
“I said, ‘Well, we already do a type of enrichment with a lot of primary school kids here, but I might be able to put together a workshop for you, with some of the sensory experiences we do with our high school kids in creative writing’.”
At that stage, it was going to be led by Lauren herself, with some of her students as helpers.
“But as we started sharing ideas, I was just blown away by their creativity and their ideas for lessons through the workshop… They were really enthused and empowered by the project,” she continues.
“So, I said to them [Jackson Brown, Chelsea Nash, Zara Stewart and Dylan Thurbon], ‘Do you guys actually want to take over this show?’, and they loved the idea.”
“The kids really wanted to push the angles of social advocacy and environmental change,” Lauren says.
Zara nods: “These issues are obviously close to us all. We’re growing up in this world, so it’s on us and the kids we are working with.”
She then took Peninsula Living through the workshop.
“So, first of all we introduced ourselves and talked about what’s important to us and what we wanted the kids to take away from the presentation,” she reveals.
“We then conducted a few ice-breaking activities before moving on to the first challenge, which was separating into groups and forming superhero gangs that would tackle issues such as pollution, climate change and women’s rights.
“Each group had 15 minutes to come up with a 60-second presentation including the name of the gang, what they were fighting against, and what special power each member had.
“As an example, our group was Team Forest and our mission was to fight deforestation.
“I was the ‘Animal Whisperer’, so I could move animals to safer areas when their habitats were being destroyed; and Chelsea was the ‘Tree Grower’, who could grow trees on command.”
Jackson then jumps in. “The next challenge was to imagine that your superhero gang had successfully rid the world of those problems. They then had to describe this new world.
“And we took them through the five senses… So, what would the new world look, sound, smell taste and feel like.”
Chelsea said her and her peers got more out of the experience than they were expecting.
“The students were really engaged and they are very talented,” she says. “The teachers told us after that they learned a lot through us and by collaborating with their classmates.
“It was really cool seeing how inspired they were by the workshop.”
Lauren also spoke with the North Balgowlah staff and she says they were so impressed by the workshop that they are keen to have the Forest High students back once a term.
“Teenagers or senior students can connect with these kids on that really base level, understanding what they’re going through as children emotionally and socially. That’s why this is so wonderfully effective,” she adds.
Zara says they’re open to tinkering with the workshop but what they presented to North Balgowlah is a “good starting point”.
“It was such a high-level, innovative model of teaching, and as a school we’ll now look further into it to see how we can adapt it and where we can take it from here.
“Who knows, maybe next it will be ‘kids teaching teachers’,” she laughs.