Archies’ inspires students to take on big issues in pandemic

 

Spurred on by our world-renowned school program where schools are assigned a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to look at through the lens of agriculture, schools are confronting issues related to farming and beyond 

In a classroom in a conservative area of central NSW, about 420km from Sydney, a group of students are having an honest and frank discussion about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) rights. 

Inspired by Action for Agriculture’s (A4A) The Archibull Prize, which encourages project-based learning and has led to them investigating hunger and climate change, these young people from The Henry Lawson High School in Grenfell are now also confronting wellbeing, through exploring their perspective on youth mental health and other timely issues.

 

“The Archibull Prize is allowing our students to explore their perspective of, and connection to the world, and they strongly connect with the rights of people to express themselves and live openly in a community where they’re accepted by everyone,” says Jillian Reidy.

Jillian is the relieving head teacher in science, agriculture, art and information communication technology (ICT), and a Highly Accomplished Teacher (HAT), from The Henry Lawson High School. 

The school is exploring SDG 3, Good health and Wellbeing, in this year’s ‘Archie’ entry. 

“We’re a very traditional country community, so to have the students discussing LGBTIQ rights and other big social issues, including racism directed towards the Asian population during the COVID outbreak, has been powerful,” says Jillian. 

Watch Jillian present her students’ vision at the 2021 May NSW/ACT Geography Teachers Association Conference

In a year when many programs have come to a halt, The Archibull Prize has continued. The schools involved in it have not only survived but thrived – thanks to their champion teachers who are role models for how to keep students inspired during a pandemic. The schools’ progress is proof that even in the worst of times, we can keep going. 

Through The Archibull Prize, schools select an SDG that is important to them and their region. They then design and deliver a Community Behavior Change project to help their region achieve Australia’s SDG targets  

“We have a lot of students from very high risk poverty areas with families that are struggling and have no work so food can be tight,” says Amy Gill, a HAT and SOLAR program lead with Youth Off the Streets.

A report by the University of Melbourne estimates that over 50,000 young people are missing from the school system at any given time.

The SOLAR Project is an off-campus adjustment, using online platforms, to support students in achieving their educational outcomes used by Youth Off the Streets. 

 “We’re dropping food hampers off once a week to support them, but there’s other challenges within the home. Domestic violence for instance is a huge challenge particularly when everyone’s stuck at home together.”

 To keep students motivated, Youth Off the Streets are using innovative and creative learning methods including one evoking The Circle of Courage, a Native American childhood practice which has the themes of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity at its heart.

“A young person really needs to belong in different aspects of their life.  Many disadvantaged students also feel like they’ve lost the skill of mastery. When learning remotely they feel behind their peers and can lack confidence coming back into the classroom. Our program is helping them cope.”  says Amy. 

 Through programs like The Archibull Prize, students grappling with their identity are also realising that they have a valuable contribution to make. 

 “Young people are really struggling to find their place, especially during the pandemic, but at school they find their purpose through initiatives like The Archibull Prize,” says Amy. 

 The project based learning approach of Youth Off The Streets includes innovative projects such as Speak for the Banyula (an Indigenous word meaning many trees), a geography and science unit, centred around caring for country, sustainability and land management. The Happiest Man on Earth, a history and English module incorporating the arts, involves reading a memoir written by Australian Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku.

“We do a lot of art, and try to drop off home learning packs with hands-on activities because sitting at a computer all day is quite exhausting for young people,” says Amy. 

​​While the Youth Off The Streets are confronting hunger in their daily lives, teachers at Pymble Ladies’ College on Sydney’s North Shore are trying to make it real for their students – again using the ‘Archies’.

 “The girls are so incredible when it comes to research, the students decided to focus on the issue of hunger and food waste in Australia, with more than one-in-five Australians going to bed hungry.

 The Archibull Prize provided an additional avenue to develop student’s passion in this area, building on what we do in geography and more widely around the college such as the boarding community, agriculture studies in the upper and senior school. In geography, it has provided a platform to make an impact at a community level and for them to feel like they’re creating change.” says Ray Howells, who teaches geography and business studies at Pymble Ladies’ College. 

Pymble Ladies’ College’s 2021 ‘Archie’ entry will become a future school mascot to spur on action to end hunger as well as addressing climate change.  

 “Programs like the ‘Archies’ have also piqued students’ interest in farming, with many keen to visit country friends during their holidays. It’s also been incredible for me, not being from this country, seeing how important the agriculture industry is here in Australia and how it connects so many families,” he says.

Students are planning to visit a farm in Young which belongs to one of their student’s family once COVID restrictions lift. See Footnote* 

The interviews with our Archibull Prize teachers reinforce what A4A discovered a decade ago when we began surveying young people: that today’s generation are more resilient. 

Our findings are backed up by research from Deloitte. A year after their lives were upended by the global pandemic, nearly half of millennials and gen z’s told the 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey that they were  anxious or stressed either all or most of the time. But there’s a silver lining; COVID has motivated 70 per cent to improve their lives. 

Previous Deloitte reports have found that millennials not only want a different world but want to lead the charge, and that they value experiences, traits that our Archies teachers also say that they are witnessing. 

“Initiatives like The Archibull Prize help develop the “four Cs – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication, along with self-confidence, skills that the jobs of the future will require.” says Jillian from The Henry Lawson High School. 

In addition, the program drives young people’s sense of willingness and commitment to work together to create a better world.  

“If students can see the importance of their voice and realise how they can communicate their ideas to an audience through visual tools, then we are doing our job in supporting them in becoming a valuable citizen of the future.” 

Footnote

In the future, the opportunity for PLC students to visit and interact with farms like Blantyre Farm and Montrose Dairy and other agricultural-based organisations is an exciting avenue with lots of potential for deeper learning and student interest in the agriculture sector from a career perspective.

 

 

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