Lee Hewes

is totes becoming a teacher…

Equality City – Year 7 Enrichment Program, Northern Beaches Secondary College, Manly Campus

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A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be asked to run an enrichment program for year 7 students at NBSC, Manly Campus. The program involved leading students through a week of inquiry based learning regarding the theme of ‘Equality in Contemporary Australian Society’. In order to attend the program, students had to send in an application addressing their ability to work independently, in a self-directed and regulated manner, to think critically and creatively, and to collaborate effectively as part of a team. 18 students were chosen to take place and the program was run in the school library’s Learning Centre – a modern double room which consisted of a collaborative, flexible learning space which adjoined a computer lab with access to 40 desktop computers. It was an awesome week, so I thought I’d take the time to write a wee post about it.

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After brief introductions, the week started with a hook designed to get the students thinking about equality (or lackthereof) in an engaging and experiential manner, through play and discussion. This was achieved having them join a Minecraaft server in order to complete the challenge of building a cobblestone building with an internal volume of 160 blocks. Students were each given a number, and depending on which number they were given, some had access to necessary building resources and some did not. This quickly led to discussion of fairness and questioning as to why some students were given resources over others.  After closing the server, we got together as a group to discuss the experience and how it may relate to any themes we would be focussing on throughout the week. Once the students identified the concept of equality as being particularly relevant, we gave them the briefing for the week and organised the students into teams.

Each team negotiated a focus area of inquiry for the week, centred around aspects of contemporary Australian society to which the concept of equality/inequality is particularly relevant. These areas included employment opportunities, equality for those living with a disability, equality for those living in rural as opposed to urban environments and gender equality. The task for each group for the remainder of the week was to collaboratively research their focus area in order to collaboratively produce a 1000 word reseacrh report as well as a multimodal text exploring and explaining their research findings. We also jointly constructed a KHWL table and calendar to keep learning on track throughout the week (sorry, no photos).

The second day began with another Minecraft hook in which students were required to create a simple construction which encapsulated what equality looked, or didn’t look like for their particular focus area, and also led to the idea for the final products to be submitted by the end of the week – to be explained shortly. One of the contructions which I found particularly creative during this task was the ‘Inequality ATM’, in which the amount of money dispensed was related to your ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender; highlighting disparities in employment opportunity in contemporary Australian society.

This led us to the idea of creating a Minecraft world in which two symmetrically oppposed cities existed – ‘Equality City’ and ‘Inequality City’. As the names imply, the society was either relatively equal or unequal on either side of the fence, depending on your gender, ethnicity, or the area in which you lived. The idea for each group’s final product was a video tour of the cities, exploring the life experiences of residents according to each of their focus areas. We also gave each group a particular text type and genre through which to explore their ideas. Of course, no building or multimodal text creation occurred until each group had submitted their research reports to a shared Google drive for the purpose of iterative feedback and modification. Once the research reports were up to scratch, which as always, took a varying amount of time for each group, construction of the cities commenced.

The week culminated in a presentation of each group’s research findings and video tours to an audience of year 10 students, parents and the principals and executives of the secondary college, which is a joint collection of five campuses across the Northern Beaches.

The best of the videos were chosen to take part in a cross-campus showcase, which sadly has been postponed due the current COVID-19 health crisis. However, the videos can be viewed below.

The Chunky Tomatoes produced a comedic take on investigative journalism, following a journalist ‘Steve McSteve’ as he visits ‘Inequality City’ and interviews one of its residents to learn more about the experiences of those living in Inequality Town with a disability.

The Fire Breathing Rubber Ducky Dinosaurs produced a day in the life style narrative of a girl who lives in ‘Equality City’ but experiences a nightmare in which the city is renamed ‘Inequality City’ and society favours males over females.

Well done to all students who attended the program and congratulations to the two groups who will be attending the cross campus showcase, date TBC.
We hope you enjoy the videos!

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