“Our Rights” ART Exhibit

Every child under the age of 18 has rights. These are things that allow us to live a full life and allow us to live to our fullest potential. Every child around the world has the same rights!

In our “Dynamics of Human Relationships” class, we learned about the rights and responsibilities of children by studying the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. Every student chose a right from the Convention and creatively campaigned for it through art, posters, song or video.

This assignment was about celebrating children as active participants in their own lives and in communities, as active citizens who can and should meaningfully contribute to decision-making-being the loudest voice in the crowd!

“I chose Article 31:The Right to Play and Rest. I picked this ‘right’ because I feel like it is very important that we let people have the chance to play and rest and get to experience life in their own way. I think that playing is important because that is how we learn and grow. I wrote a song about my ‘right’ because I really like music and songwriting and it is something that I really enjoy. I feel like it is a good form of self expression and I think that if I write a song then it would be a good way to get the point across.” AB

“I chose Article 38: The Right to Protection And Freedom From War. I chose this right because war is a traumatizing thing to see by young eyes and so I chose it because everybody needs to be protected from hatred. The message I expressed was in a painting. I enjoy painting very much and I decided to put it into a painting. It’s the one way I can truly express myself.” QK

“I chose Article 23: The Right to Special Education and Care If You Have a Disability. I decided to do this ‘right’ because it is significant for me and other children with disabilities to get extra support to practice their writing, speaking, reading and understanding skills so they will get an education to help them for their future and to learn how to get support when they need it.” AE

“I chose Article 31:The Right to Play and Rest because I think that playing and sleeping as a child is one of the most important things you can do to grow up.” I was inspired by the Unicef videos my teacher showed in class so I made my own video to show my ‘right.’ OS

The Power of Words

During the first week of Dynamics of Human Relationships, we spent a lot of time learning about self-esteem, self-concept, and how the two factor into healthy relationships. We took a closer look at how our self-esteem can play a role in what we post on our social media accounts, as well as how our self confidence impacts how we interpret what we see online. During these lessons, we had many open discussions in which students shared some factors that influence their self-perceptions. Students shared stories from the past and present, disclosing incidents of bullying, social trends, and online activity. One student shared of an incident dating back to grade 4 and detailed how she still carries the hurtful comments from almost a decade ago. In order to show the lasting impact of hurtful comments and negative self talk, we participated in a class activity.

We started the activity by each taking one crisp, clean, blank sheet of paper. We then took turns “bullying” and talking negatively to our paper, crumpling the paper with each hurtful comment. We heard comments such as “you will never find love”, “you are worthless”, “you are dirty” and “you are weak”. We stopped bullying our pieces of paper once we had them crumpled up into small balls. We then took it in turns to apologize to the piece of paper for what we had said and tried to flatten the paper back out with each apology. We ended up with creased, ripped, holey and damaged pieces of paper. Despite how much we apologized, we could not fully erase the damage that we had done.

The students seemed to connect with this activity and appreciate the visual aid of irreparable damage. Not only is this an important lesson for when we’re talking to and about others, but it’s also important to recognize that the effects of negative self-talk can be just as long lasting and influential to our self-esteem.

Middle School: Reflecting on Fantasy Stories

It is important for students to pause and celebrate their successes – big and small! Particularly, during these weird and sometimes bleak times, we need to encourage students to see their triumphs and accomplishments. Recently, the middle schoolers finished writing their fantasy stories and we took time to reflect and celebrate their hard work. It took the class several weeks to complete the whole writing process – brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising, and editing. During our writing celebration students got to share their stories like real world authors would during a book release. By the end of the unit the students felt incredibly accomplished and proud of themselves! Way to go middle schoolers!

Technological Overload

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in an unprecedented time and more reliant on technology than ever before. If it wasn’t clear before just how far we have come along from a technological standpoint, there is no question that we are all on the same page now. Our society has shifted dramatically over the past year and technology has now become a coping mechanism.

In our Information and Communication Technology in Business class, we were examining the legal, social and ethical issues of technology, privacy and security. In order to unpack some of these issues, we watched Netflix’s The Social Dilemma documentary film.

Below is a list of quotes from the film selected by students thought to be the most interesting or powerful:

“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.”

“There are only two industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software.”

“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”

“It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.”

“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or loney or uncertain or afraid, we have a digital pacifier for ourselves. That is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.”

“The way to think about it is as 2.5 billion Truman Shows. Each person has their own reality with their own facts. Over time you have the false sense that everyone agrees with you because everyone in your news feed sounds just like you. Once you’re in that state, it turns out you’re easily manipulated.”

The purpose of this film is not to scare people into thinking technology is bad for us and should be avoided. Instead, the point is to inform and educate people that technology can be addictive and manipulative. Even when there are genuinely good intentions behind a design, there are oftentimes adverse and unintended consequences. For example, when Facebook created the “like” button, it was meant to spread positivity and love. However, when you look at it today, you can see teens getting depressed because they don’t have enough likes or a political polarization which has fuelled endless hate comments.

The Social Dilemma shows us that social media is intentionally designed to be addictive and manipulative through subjective algorithms that determine what you see and the psychology of persuasion that is built into AI technology today. In essence, technology is now created and designed to use you and having that knowledge doesn’t necessarily make your need to fulfill your cravings less susceptible. This serves an important reminder to teens and adults alike that technology is extremely powerful and it ultimately comes down to us how we choose to use it.

Intersectionality in Gender Studies

There are lots of topics and concepts to cover in Gender Studies. One of the earliest, and most important, concepts we covered was “Intersectionality”. “Intersectionality” is a framework used to help understand the many intertwined, complex identities that make up an individual. It also provides insight into how these identities may open individuals up to certain levels of privilege or discrimination. This privilege or discrmination can occur on an individual level and/or at a more institutional, systemic level.

One of the first activities our Gender Studies class did was called “Identity Signs”. Using a Google Jamboard, there were 7 questions that required students to reflect on where they stand and have stood in reference to privilege, discrimination and their multiple intersecting identities. When the questions were asked, some students immediately knew where they were dragging their post-it note! While others took their time and thought for a minute about it. It was really interesting to see where students moved and there are even some questions where many students shared the same feelings. Students were invited to share their “choice” if they wanted to, which some did, but no one was forced to. This kind of activity can be vulnerable and open students up to reflections and feelings that may not come up on a regular basis. All students participated and were incredibly honest, patient and kind towards their peers.

We have used the framework of intersectionality to better help us analyze events in class. Most recently, we have used the framework to discuss the shootings in Atlanta, where 8 people were murdered and 6 of them were Asian women. We also applied the framework to try to understand why there are thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children in Canada. Intersectionality will come up in class again and again and the hope is that this framework will help students analyze events, especially where race and gender are involved, long after the class is done!