Two groups of two students each presented the proposals they came up with when asked by their teacher, Pamela Broderick, how they could affect positive change in their school community. Broderick said the students were asked to come up with an issue, conduct research and surveys to understand the issue, and then come up with a formal proposal and present it to the school’s staff and administration.
“All along they were doing lots of research, a lot of reading and a lot of writing, so we met many of the prescribed learning outcomes in the curriculum through this project,” she said.
The team of Laura Sharman and Mackenzie Newhook decided to tackle the issue of bullying, a problem they said their high school is not immune to.
“After surveying students in our school, we discovered that over 50 per cent of them felt bullied sometimes or often,” said Newhook, adding that they surveyed about half of the students in their school.
“Despite this devastating amount, only 21 per cent of students actually report being bullied to an adult or someone they trust,” added Sharman.
Newhook said the affects of bullying don’t just go away after high school, but can stick with the victims and create problems for them well after the bullying occurs. To address this problem, the pair proposed the formation of a student-run campaign to raise awareness of bullying in their school.
“Our plan would be to educate the students about the affects of bullying and the damage it can cause through a presentation with the entire student body in attendance,” said Newhook.
“We would include short and long-term affects, statistics, why bullying is a problem and what to do about it,” added Sharman.
The pair explained they would also like to recruit older students at the high school to be “Safe Faces,” or persons other students could turn to if they are being bullied. They said those Safe Faces would not be responsible for fixing the problems themselves, but instead would listen and then report those problems to teachers or the administration. They said training and protocols would be established for those students, who would also have to be approved of by school staff.
The pair said the program would have the positive impacts of reassuring students, parents and staff that the school is a safe place where problems are dealt with in a positive way, while also providing the student volunteers with a sense of accomplishment, and a great qualification to put on their resumes. They added there would be no initial start-up costs to the program, though they would look for grant opportunities so they could hire guest speakers and create promotional materials in the future. They said they are looking to start the program after the Christmas break and continue it in perpetuity.
“We are also hoping that if it goes well at the high school, maybe we could introduce it to the elementary school, because bullying is a big problem with younger students as well,” said Sharman.
The next presentation was from Tristan Hammon and Jay Kelly, who were advocating in their proposal to extend the lunch break at their school to 40 minutes from 30 minutes.
“Have you ever been rushed to consume your lunch, because the students at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School are rushed every day to do so, and it’s not fair,” said Kelly.
Hammon said their proposal was to reduce the morning and afternoon and recesses by five minutes each so that 10 minutes could be added on to the lunch break. Kelly added that 126 students out of 145 they surveyed agreed the lunch break was too short.
“It’s a scientific fact that consuming your food in a fast manner can lead to obesity,” said Hammon. “When you’re eating too fast, you’re brain can’t send a signal saying that you’re getting full, so you tend to overeat.”
“The benefits would be more time to eat, which means more time to prepare a healthier meal, as well as more time for activities, more time to just get a mental break and more time to socialize with your friends at school,” added Kelly. “All of these benefits are helpful to students and staff.”
When asked whether an increased lunch break might lead to more time for conflicts between students, Kelly said their research did not indicate that would be a problem at their school.
They said there would be no cost to extending the lunch hour unless the school administration decided it needed a lunchtime supervisor, which they determined would cost an additional $750 per school year.
Board chair Richard Powell said a decision to extend the lunch break would ultimately have to come from the board.
When asked, the four students all agreed that the project really engaged them in a way that perhaps just a written assignment could not. They added the project taught them valuable skills such as taking surveys and public speaking. Newhook said she learned that one person can make a difference in their world when there’s a clear process in place to do so.
“This can apply to any situation, it doesn’t just have to be in school. I could go and fix something further in my community, and that’s just awesome!” she said.