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Board Meetings
Excellence in Education

April 15, 2008

Excellence in Education

Impact ‘08
Student Character Education Conference
at the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies
March 26, 2008

In October 2007, Sue Ferris, teacher at Grey Highlands Secondary School attended a National Character Education Conference in Huntsville. This conference included some high profile speakers, notably Silken Lauman. When she returned she was quite excited about the possibility of doing a similar type of conference here in Bluewater. Sue Ferris and Randall DeKraker, vice –principal, discussed this idea and what form it might take. They approached principal Anne MacLaughlin of their plan. Anne and Sue made a presentation to Mary Anne Alton and the Community Relations Council. They brought along two students; John Rhodes and Sam Shaw.

The plan received the full support of the council and Character Development Lead, Todd Wainwright. As well, Director, Mary Anne Alton actively promoted the conference. Sue proceeded to invite her leadership class students to be participants as well as certain students from her drama classes. The result was a group of students with representatives from grades 9 - 12. This approach would ensure that we can continue with this program in future years as there will be continuity among the students.

On March 26th, 2008, one hundred and twenty students (approximately ten students from every secondary school) attended Impact ’08, a Student Character Education Conference at the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies in Wiarton.

The goal of this conference was to raise the awareness of students as to how they can build character into the culture of their schools. By encouraging students to think about the values enunciated in the Bluewater District School Board Character Development documents we hope to empower them to start the process of making a positive difference in their school community.

The day began with a presentation by YouthSpeak Performance Company. ~Members of this organization are trained youth speakers who have overcome challenging life experiences. They shared their experiences and the lessons they have learned with the assembled young leaders.

YouthSpeak was followed by workshops presented by trained Grey Highlands Secondary School students to a group of their peers from the other secondary schools in Bluewater. The workshops included a variety of topics: Embracing Diversity; Creating a Climate of Respect; Character Development in Sports; Concrete Ideas to Improve Participation; Academic Honesty; Being the Change You Want to See; Escaping the Image Trap and Committing to Your Interests. The Grey Highlands students who presented these workshops had trained under the direction of Sue Ferris, teacher at Grey Highlands. The feedback received to date has been very positive regarding the student presentations and the impact of the presentations on the participants.

The final session gathered the entire group together to listen to Matt Evans. Matt’s presentation took the students through the comical and confusing world of meeting challenges. Matt works closely with the Ontario Students Against Drunk Driving and is able to give credible and entertaining insight into the views commonly held by our students around alcohol use. Everyone who heard him speak could relate to his message in some way.

The key students who played a leadership in organizing the event were Cam Dunlop, Melanie Tweddle, and Sarah Mason.  Students who were involved are listed below:

Jessie Bolyea
Harrison McCrindle
Caraline Winget
Brad Ellis
Riley Pearson
Melanie Tweddle
Carmyn Crawford
Kelsey Hill
Briana Wilson
Adam Sprott
Jessica Scott
Melissa Greenfield
Aaron Hunking

Jenn McDonald
Tanna Mills
Julie Welch
Sarah Mason
Emily Milne
Saskia Heusing
Sam Shaw
Mandy Rust
Robin Payne
Martha Darby
Deanna Beaton
Wes Vardy
Jim Fuller

Brooke Boychuk
Brad Parker
Cam Dunlop
Jake Breen
Kurtis Lougheed
Sierra Gillies
Jake Renton
Ashley Edwards
Nicole Walton
Rob Byers
James Boxall
Erica Hall

A special thanks also goes to Deb Diebel, Site Manager at the Outdoor Education Centre for her help in accommodating all of the Grey Highlands students and making arrangements for their stay.  We would also like to acknowledge the work of Shaun Perry on the brochure which went to all Bluewater secondary schools.

A “Bravo and Well Done” goes to Sue Ferris for her leadership and inspiration, doing all of the ground work and pulling it all together to make this conference a success and a reality.

We are pleased to have Anne MacLaughlin, principal; Randall DeKraker, vice-principal, Sue Ferris, teacher and students Cam Dunlop, Melanie Tweddle, and Sarah Mason here today to share their thoughts about this successful event.  

Submitted to:
Bluewater District School Board
April 15, 2008
For further information please contact
Anne MacLaughlin, Principal, Grey Highlands Secondary School
or Alana Murray, Superintendent of Secondary Education

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