It is said that the quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. If the key leadership qualities and skills instilled in students at the recent Southern Illawarra Catholic Schools (SICS) Year 6 Leaders Day are anything to go by, the children in our local Catholic schools are set to be terrific role models - now and into the future.
Over 200 Year 6 students from our four Southern Illawarra primary schools — St Paul's, Albion Park; Stella Maris, Shellharbour; Nazareth, Shellharbour City; and Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama — all gathered at Nazareth Catholic Primary School to enjoy a day jam-packed with fun experiences that engaged and supported them in ideas around leadership, identity, self-esteem, empathy, social justice and teamwork.
SICS Leaders Day co-ordinator and Stella Maris Assistant Principal, Angela Crandell, said the annual day was a fantastic opportunity for the local Year 6 children to come together and explore a range of concepts including self-expression, resilience and acting responsibly in our digital world, and also meet new children that they may attend high school with in 2020.
“Our children thoroughly enjoyed the day, listening intently to our guest speakers and actively participating in a selection of 10 workshops on offer around the day’s theme of ‘Journey’. The workshop presenters - including teachers, CEO staff and local community leaders - did a wonderful job of providing interesting and varied activities that greatly appealed to the students” — SICS Leader's Day Co-ordinator, Angela Crandell
“From a teacher’s perspective, it is always nice to see children in a different environment, doing something that they don't normally do. It is here that their personalities really shine through,” she said.
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“I had a lot of friends here that I've met through sport and gala days, but I made a lot of new friend at these activities,” Ss Peter and Paul’s student, Lilly said.
“It was definitely fun meeting new people and making new friends,” agreed Bethany from Albion Park.
“All the people that we met today showed great leadership and teamwork,” Matilda and Janae from St Paul’s said.
“I learned it’s not just about being a leader in name; you can show leadership at any age by the way you live your life,” offered Lucy from Stella Maris.
“I learned that it is okay to stand out from the rest of the crowd,” Nazareth’s Dakota said.
“I have really loved working with children from the other Catholic schools. I learned that it is important to have lots of people in your life, not just the same friends all the time,” said fellow Shellharbour City student, Isabel.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER - CHRIS HOUSTON
The day’s keynote speaker was former St George Illawarra Dragons NRL player, Chris Houston, who now works for the Mental Health Movement (MHM). He used the power of story to connect with the students, explaining his own life journey and how he has worked through and overcome significant challenges to get back to where he is now as “the best version of himself”.
“I share my lived experiences and I’m open and honest about the changes and adversities I have faced from a young age and throughout my journey in the NRL,” Houston said.
The former footballer shared with the students MHM’s ‘Mental Health Blueprint for Schools’ - a program promoting positive mental health strategies to students with its ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’: support networks, gratitude, keeping learning, getting moving and self-awareness.
“Our vision is to help create more resilient students who strive to be their best every day,” he said.
The students appreciated hearing about Houston’s life and his advice, with many commenting enthusiastically about his presentation.
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“I thought Chris Houston was awesome! He showed that even when there are challenges in life, you can work hard to get to your dream,” Lauren from Ss Peter and Paul said.
“I really liked Chris’ speech about his journey through life. It was honest and personal, and I learned a lot from what he had to say,” classmate, Charlotte shared.
“I was reminded that you need to be more patient, because it can take a long time to achieve your goal,” fellow Kiama student, Erin said.
‘CALLED TO CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME’ WORKSHOP
In alignment with the high level of interest and concern amongst young people around environmental issues, students welcomed the opportunity to engage with CEDoW Wollongong Environment Network co-ordinator, Beth Riolo, in this workshop focusing on the environment. The workshop raised awareness amongst the Year 6 group of the call from Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si', to look after their home, the earth and all of creation.
“As student leaders in their schools, this workshop was an opportunity for the children to explore ways that they can make a difference - small or large - to protect the environment and help the planet. They embraced this wholeheartedly,” Ms Riolo said.
The students were then invited to create eco-bands with a nature symbol on them, to remind them of their responsibility to the environment and to ‘care for our common home’.
‘ABORIGINAL ART’ WORKSHOP
Students had the opportunity to learn about Aboriginal art from CEDoW Aboriginal Education Assistant, Mark Mongta. Uncle Mark generously shared his knowledge as an Aboriginal artist, teaching students the meaning of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal symbolism to share a story. The students then each created their own Aboriginal artwork and shared with their peers the story behind their creation.
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“It was inspirational listening to Mark's journey,” Jessica from St Paul’s said.
“I learned that expressing yourself doesn’t always have to be in words, it can be in other ways like art,” said Stella Maris student, Jake.
“I liked that Aboriginal art uses circles to represent places and lines to represent the travel from one journey to the next,” classmate, Anabelle commented.
“I enjoyed representing my journey in art. It was a good experience learning about people’s journeys,” Nazareth’s Tyreese said.
“It was fun to be able to do this with my friends and talk to them while being creative. We got to depict the people you meet on your journey with symbols,” reflected Ss Peter and Paul student, William.
'WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL' WORKSHOP
A popular session was outside on the school’s basketball court with the Illawarra’s local wheelchair basketball team and National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) reigning champions, the Wollongong Roller Hawks. The team brought along spare wheelchairs to give the kids a chance to move around the court, play ball and shoot hoops on wheels - a much tougher task than the Roller Hawks make it look!
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“I enjoyed all the activities, but particularly the Roller Hawks. I learned how they play in wheelchairs and how challenging it is!” Holly from Stella Maris said.
“The best part was that we had so much fun and got to meet new people,” said classmate, Matthew.
“Through the activities today like this one, I realised there are more opportunities out there than you think. You can always get through things and move on to the next journey,” Jordan from St Paul’s said.
“I’ve learned that there are opportunities to learn in any experience,” affirmed Nazareth student, Maclean.
‘VIRTUAL REALITY AND ANIMATION’ WORKSHOP
The students loved working with Year 12 St Joseph’s Albion Park student and presenter, Callum Ellis, who kindly gave up his study time to share his journey with animation and his skills and expertise with virtual reality - and he brought St Joseph’s state-of-the-art equipment with him, offering the students a fun first-hand experience with virtual reality.
Callum’s passion was contagious, and many students were buzzing with excitement from using this emerging technology for the first time.
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“I enjoyed seeing how virtual reality is actually created. I never knew it had anything to do with physics; it’s so interesting,” said Lachlan from Albion Park said.
“We found it interesting to see how animation films were made. We really liked how awesome the graphics were,” fellow St Paul’s students, Matilda and April said.
“I learned so many new things! I didn’t know what virtual reality was before today,” Nazareth’s Jade said.
“I liked learning how to create bouncing techniques through drawing,” classmate, Zavier added.
“I liked how Callum interacted with all of us and how we were able to have a go at the goggles,” Ss Peter and Paul’s Giorgia said.
“My favourite part was also the virtual reality goggles and how they’re used,” Kash from Stella Maris agreed.
“Me too, I just loved watching people using the virtual reality goggles!” Shellharbour student, Martha-Lourette exclaimed.
‘WATER MARATHON’ WORKSHOP
CEDoW Catholic Life, Education and Mission Education Officer, Amy Sammut, got her students moving, holding a 'water marathon' event where students had to run in a relay-style race with a partner, carrying buckets of water filled to the top. Students formed teams and adopted a country to represent in the event - the objective being to beat the other teams, but critically, without spilling their water.
“The workshop helped students to develop empathy and understanding for what it is like to walk or run a distance with heavy buckets of water, as people need to do in some third world countries,” Mrs Sammut said. “We discussed which countries have a water shortage or limited access to clean drinking water and why this is the case, and then compared their situation to how very fortunate we are in Australia to have such easy access to clean running water.”
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“When I was participating in the water marathon activity, I learned that there are kids with no clean water and it made me feel so lucky,” Kiama’s Sienna said.
“This workshop made me realise how many people out there don’t have access to hygiene or clean water,” said Stella Maris student, Alyssa.
“I enjoyed the water marathon the most. I enjoyed meeting new people from other schools there too,” Janae from St Paul’s said.
‘ADVENTURE IN FIJI’ WORKSHOP
Year 5 and 6 teacher at Ss Peter and Paul Kiama, Hannah Clarke, ran a workshop about her recent adventure to Fiji on a two-week teaching placement. She spoke to students about the Fijian culture and the challenges she faced while teaching overseas, including how she had to draw on leadership qualities throughout her time there.
The children then rehearsed a role-play scenario using identified qualities of a leader and presented this to their group, allowing them to put the discussed leadership skills into practice and show they understood what they meant in different contexts.
WHAT THE STUDENTS SAID:
“I really enjoyed listening to Miss Clarke’s experience in Fiji,” Ss Peter and Paul student, Ben said.
“I have learned that there are kids that struggle to have an education or clean water,” Loghan from Nazareth said.
“The thing that surprised me the most is that when you are in Fiji, you cannot show your knees or shoulders,” classmate, Casey said.
“But I liked that even though the people in Fiji are on the margins, they still show happiness and have a smile,” Thomas from Albion Park added.
“I have learned that different people can be good leaders. For example, in Fiji if the teacher doesn't go to the school, a student can teach the class. They are called prefects,” Shellharbour student, Addison, said.
“This workshop taught me that you have to be responsible. That means to do the right thing,” said Riley from St Paul’s.
‘GEMMA SISIA AND ST JUDE’S STORY’ WORKSHOP
The students were fortunate to benefit from the experience of Ss Peter and Paul teacher, Natasha Ferderer, who recently travelled to Tanzania to visit the school of St Jude’s, founded by Australian woman, Gemma Sisia. Ms Ferderer and her former school community of Our Lady Help of Christians in Rosemeadow raised money for the African school, which she personally delivered to St Jude’s last year.
The workshop explored the story of Gemma Sisia and her mission to stop the cycle of poverty through education. Ms Ferderer shared her personal experience and the impact Gemma has had on her, especially witnessing how she used her talents and passion to impact others. The children then reflected on people who have inspired them and how they can use their talents and passions to have a positive impact on others.
‘THUMBS UP’ WORKSHOP
CEDoW Catholic Life, Education and Mission Education Officer, Cath Hailstone, explored the concept of the choices we make throughout our lives and how we use our hands to help each other. Within a ‘head, heart, hands’ framework, the students eagerly engaged in conversation around what they know about their faith, how they feel about it and how they use their hands to express their faith.
The students responded to stories about choices and had time to create their own stories through a hands-themed artwork, using quotes that appealed to them such as: ‘Make good choices’, and ‘Stand up for what you believe in’ and ‘I am important’.
The students were spoilt for choice with the workshops - others including a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workshop; a time-capsule making activity with representatives from the Shellharbour Library; and State Member for Shellharbour, Anna Watson MP, also stopped by to speak to the students about leadership.
The day offered timely guidance and opportunity for new learning and reflection for our young leaders, both as the eldest students of their primary schools now and in this critical stage of development for them, with their upcoming transition to high school.
Ms Crandell thanked all the presenters and teachers who had helped her co-ordinate the day for the students. “Seeing the day come to fruition makes all the hard work worth it,” she said.
“I am hopeful that the children from our SICS schools will continue to enjoy the same opportunity in the years to come - it’s a wonderful day for them.”