How do students learn about democracy? Engaging with the people and processes, ideas and the realities of democratic systems, in an authentic manner, has to be at least as important as historical or theoretical knowledge.
Our school genuinely wants students to learn about civil society and our democratic governance, wherever possible, by having real experience of our systems. Wollongong City Council hosted our strategic executive meeting last week and from this both the Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and Councillor Vicki Curran agreed to assist our students learn about the processes of local government.
Today the Student Representative Council (SRC) for 2013 was inducted, badges pinned on chests by proud parents. Cr. Curran, who represents Ward 3, where our school is situated, was invited to address the whole school assembly and later conducted a workshop where students discussed issues of importance to them and how they could successfully initiate change. The students were particularly excited about participating at the next council meeting and are currently preparing their submissions about sporting facilities, public transport and local infrastructure needs that were workshopped today. Students will formalise their ideas next week at a SRC meeting before submitting via the councillor.
Next month, Mayor Bradbery will conduct a workshop at the school assisting students with effective communication strategies and understanding local government. He will outline a vision for the future of our local area. Later the very same day our students will have items on the local council meeting agenda and address the council. This is a wonderful opportunity to have the mayor, who is an excellent communicator, really assist students with their presentation skills.
You may remember previous posts from Denmark observing the impressive student engagement in a flourishing Danish civil society or from earlier this year, when our local federal member of parliament conducted leadership workshops with our Student Representative Council (SRC). It feels like our strategy, to have students engage authentically with democracy, is really starting to build steam. The kids are enthusiastic their parents are impressed with the opportunities but most importantly, EVERYONE AGREES that Australian society needs all of us to grow our democracy and that schools have an important role connecting students to their society in a very real way.
Our school is determined to help students experience democratic processes in an authentic manner at a local, state and federal level. What’s your school doing to help nurture student understanding of democracy?