Peace River High School students strive to create a community-wide culture of acceptance
“How can we show that our school supports equality and is supportive of the LGBTQ community” is the driving question behind a project led by a group of grade nine students at Peace River High School (PRHS) during their ‘Project Based Learning Class’.
In support of their driving question, students have recently completed designing a ‘pride pillar’ by painting the pillar located in the main foyer of the school with quotes on acceptance and ten flags that identify and represent different genders.
“A lot of LGBTQ youth are not accepted and to be accepted at school says that no matter what sexuality or gender you are, we accept you” says Angelica, one of four students working on the project during their Project Based Learning class. “The more you talk about it, the easier it is to accept. We hope this makes kids feel more comfortable, safe and happy at school and in the community.”
To extend awareness to the community, the students went to local businesses to share their project goals. As
they shared their project goals with business owners, they invited businesses to display a “We support equality” poster in their establishment as a way to bring awareness and make people feel supported in the community. Wyatt, another student working on the project says the response from the community was great.
“I was surprised with the amount of support we received from the community” says Wyatt. “It tells us that Peace River is a pretty accepting place.”
Maddy, grade nine students adds, “In our society, most people are becoming more accepting and open-minded.”
Vanessa, grade nine PRHS student says “We hope that if a person sees the sign in the business window, it might start a conversation and then people will have a better understanding of the LGBTQ community. Maybe it will make them feel accepted because the idea is for the sign to say ‘no judgment here, you are accepted.”
When asked what they have learned through the project so far, they said they learned how accepting the school and community is, the affects that non-acceptance has on student learning and all about different types of genders. Other important skills students put into practice was how to work as a team, research, fundraising, business writing, designing, planning and creative painting.
Under the guidance of Miss Hanley, the school also facilitates a weekly “LGBTQ and Allies Safe Space” that provides a learning-based environment welcome to all students who are directly impacted, who have friends that are or for students who are curious or wanting to support the LGBTQ community. Currently the group of students are working to form a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).
“Starting the alliance will help to educate people and make them more aware” says Maddy, grade nine student.
Mark Owens, PRHS principal says that student led initiatives such as this allows students to have confidence to be themselves. “If it starts with the youth, it blossoms into the community and we have seen this with the positive response from the community.”
Project Based Learning allows students to develop projects based on their interests. Taylor Hanley, PRHS teacher says that "it can be anything they are interested and curious about that is propelled by a driving question. It is student driven and as their teacher, I am here to guide them and help push them further toward their project goals."
View a video interview with Peace River community member Sherry Hilton regarding the work of students here