A conference for kids…

It all started with an idle thought or two, when I had some spare time at the IB Conference in March. I’d walked out of the only boring keynote of the conference, presented, ironically, by the very people who teach teachers to teach at one of the big universities here in Melbourne. I began to mull about why a conference can’t be more like school and wrote a blog post right then and there. I followed up with  Why isn’t school like a conference? and I was thrilled to hear from Donna Morley that my post had inspired her to organise a conference day for students at her school!

Inspired in turn by Donna’s initiative, I tried (unsuccessfully!) to sell the idea at my own school to a couple of Year level teams. The responses were predictable: too complicated, too time consuming, too much work, too much trouble. When I finally got the opportunity to pitch the idea to our Year 6 team as a provocation for the PYP exhibition unit, I was prepared! I volunteered right away to take responsibility for the organisation of the whole thing myself, if necessary.(I have a supportive in -school PLN and I knew once the team were on board, they’d be more than happy to get involved.)

The central idea of the unit is ‘Social inequities create a need for action in the world’. Within this broad conceptual understanding, students will follow their areas of interest and decide on their own individual and small group inquiries.To begin with, they will be exposed to many provocations in order to give them an overview, pique their interest and provoke their thinking. The full day conference will be a provocation in itself, with a range of guest speakers, interactive workshops and small group breakout sessions in between for sharing, processing and reflection.

We’re in the planning stage now and it’s really exciting. We will have guest speakers from the community and overseas (via Skype) talking about social justice issues and action they have taken, as well as workshops facilitated by staff , high school students and past students.

I love the way an idle thought can lead to a blog post, which can inspire someone in another country to explore a new concept which, in turn, can encourage further development of the idea, back in the place where it began. Once again, it’s about the incredible power of social media to influence and instigate change…

10 thoughts on “A conference for kids…

  1. Ed it seems we are on the same wavelength. Taking the model of student-led conferences myself and others from Education Depts around Aus are currently planning a Summit to be held next year that will be led by students for students. I’ll keep you informed as the planning progresses in the hope your students might consider being involved.


  2. I really love this idea. I remember attending a workshop about “power in the classroom” where the presenter shared his take on how presenters decide on which parts of the powerpoint to show.

    He spoke about how they cover bits and then gradually reveal the whole.

    I think that having it all……..like a deliciously rich and varied smorgasboard and then exploring the parts is generous and its basic premise is that we can all think about many things simultaneously.

    We dont have to eke out the bits at our pace!!!
    Good on you..


  3. Hi I am a student at the University of South Alabama majoring in Elementary Education and I am currently taking Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 course. I read your blog post as well as your previous blog post. I love your idea of having a conference at school for students. I also think it is awesome that another teacher read your blog post and it inspired her to have a conference as well. I wish you luck on your conference and cannot wait to see your blog post of how your conference goes.

    Krissy Mennicucci


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