In an initiative to further engage students in their education, the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board recently hosted two student forums. The forums offered students a chance to have input into what happens in their schools and classrooms, to help shape their learning environment and feel that their opinion matters.
“We want to hear the students’ perspectives and use their voice to help inform our work,” noted co-moderator Sandy Brannan, RCCDSB Safe Schools Coordinator.
Involvement in student voice activities can also help to increase student engagement and achievement, build skills such as problem solving, leadership and collaboration, and increase students’ ownership of their school community.
Conference co-moderator Karen Keels, Vice Principal of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in Petawawa, assured students, “We want you to know that we value what you think. Your voice is important.”
The sessions on February 12 in Pembroke and February 19 in Renfrew were designed to gather student voice and ideas on four topics—faith, engagement, inclusion, and next steps. After a few fun, ice breaker activities, participants were ready for the day.
“We sought to provide students from grade 6 to 12 an adult-like conference experience. As the day went on and they got to know one another, they became more comfortable voicing their opinions,” noted organizer Jaimie Perry, RCCDSB Superintendent of Educational Services.
Approximately 100 participants worked in small groups with a student leader from Bishop Smith Catholic High School or St. Joseph’s High School to tackle the topics at hand. “It was amazing to see them work together, dialogue and support one another. The students who participated in our forums were engaged and eager to share their thoughts,” said Brannan.
Student reaction to the event was overwhelmingly positive. “It’s nice to have our voices heard,” said Emma, a grade 7 student from Cathedral Elementary School in Pembroke. “It was a good opportunity to share our ideas,” said Hayden, grade 12, St. Joseph’s High School. Grade 12 student Bailey, from Bishop Smith Catholic High School in Pembroke, added that it was fun interacting with the other grades. Student leaders from St. Joseph High School thanked organizers, stating, “We didn’t really know what we were signing up for, but it was awesome.”
At the end of each day, students presented takeaways from the forums, which ranged from recognition of the importance of Catholic schools, student voice and engagement, to student involvement in school activity planning, and suggestions for fun, inclusive learning. All the responses and ideas were collected and will be shared with school leaders and teachers.
March 21, 2016
For further information, please contact:
Michele Arbour, Director of Education
Renfrew County Catholic District School Board
499 Pembroke Street West, Pembroke, ON K8A 5P1
Phone: 613-735-1031 or 1-800-267-0191