The Gleaner
Education

How Hemmingford Elementary students are trying to make school a better place

Joanie Lavoie and Layla Stinson
Hemmingford Elementary School

Things are currently changing at Hemmingford Elementary. A student-led Climate Committee is trying to make school life better.

Two students from the school, Joanie Lavoie and Layla Stinson, were excited to join the New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) Student Coalition which met at Howard S. Billings High School in Chateauguay on February 22. Although they were a bit nervous to start, they quickly adapted to the other students from all 12 NFSB schools, who were gathered together for the first time to discuss the OurSCHOOL survey results.

In November, all students across Canada, from Grades 4 to 11, took part in the OurSCHOOL survey. Lavoie and Stinson received the results of the survey for Hemmingford. In some respects, they were disappointed and in other areas, they were proud of the results. The girls decided this information should be shared with others at their school.

Teachers Carolyn Schmidt and Andréane Nolet helped Lavoie and Stinson to create the School Student Climate Committee. Students from Grades 5 and 6 participate in making school life better. Climate Committee meets every two weeks during lunch hour.

During the meetings, they discuss various problems concerning the school such as: 50 per cent of Grade 6 females struggle with moderate or high anxiety; Hemmingford Elementary is below average in the category “Feeling Safe at School,” including travelling to and from school; 50 per cent of people who participated in the survey would like help with their mental health; and 30 per cent of the participants would like help with technology addiction.

After presenting such matters, Climate Committee discussed some solutions to solve these problems. Lavoie and Stinson chose an easy fix to bad moods in the morning. This solution is called Morning Enrichment (ME). ME is a friendly joke, fun fact, or riddle that either Stinson or Lavoie announces every morning on the intercom, along with the events that will take place during the day. The girls also remind students to be kind to each other.

The girls did not only receive bad news from the survey; they had good news as well. For example, Grades 4 and 5 have positive relationships at school, and Hemmingford has the highest participation in school clubs. The average for Canada is 29 per cent, and Hemmingford has an average of 88 per cent, and 100 per cent of Grade 4 feel like they belong at Hemmingford.

 

Led by Layla Stinson and Joanie Lavoie front the Hemmingford Climate Committee is trying to make people feel accepted for who they are at their school PHOTO Hemmingford Elementary Climate Committee

 

Lavoie and Stinson interviewed their principal, Carla Shaw, to seek her opinion on the Climate Committee. Entering Ms. Shaw’s office, the girls were a tad nervous, not knowing how it would go. They first started by asking if she had taken part in organizing the Committee. Ms. Shaw told them that she had arranged for teachers to work with the student coalition, and her job would then be to encourage the students to participate in the Climate Committee and try to support their initiatives.

Ms. Shaw explained that “Climate Committee is helping collect student input. It makes students feel heard and, most of all, part of decisions.”

Stinson then asked what other changes needed to be made by Climate Committee. Ms. Shaw responded by saying she believes that Climate Committee needs to help tackle the challenge of anxiety and give the students tools to help them with their anxiety. Ms. Shaw stated that she would try to show the members that it’s not all on them, and show them how to tackle big problems bit by bit.

The girls then asked what little piece of wisdom she would like to share with Climate Committee. Ms. Shaw declared, “Don’t give up if your first idea does not work, but keep trying, and most of all, don’t get stuck on one thing – keep pushing.”

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