A different kind of conference -2

‘ Every speaker was engaging and interesting which taught me a lot.’ (Timmi)

‘I thought it was an unbelievable experience and really increased my knowledge of the world’. (Jack)

‘I thought it was fun way of learning, instead of teachers just talking to us and telling us what to do, it was more interactive. It was like a big class discussion and we got to have different fun activities. I liked the breakout groups because we got to share what we learnt with everyone.’ (Jackie)

Thursday’s conference for students was highly successful if, like me, you gauge success by the potential for learning, the level of engagement, and the depth of students’ thinking. You can read about the details of the day in an earlier post. The students’ reflections and the images from the day should tell you the rest of the story…

What some of the kids said:


Yesterday was a fun learning experience. I loved all of the stations and I did not believe some of the things they were telling me. My favourite session was the Glenallen School on overcoming challenges. They brought in two of their students, named Bella and Kim. Kim and Bella both made a short speech for us telling us about themselves and why they have to use a machine to talk. After their speeches we got ask them questions, and some of the answers were really interesting. Some people asked them how does your machine work and the answers were unbelievable, I never knew machines could do those type of things, like estimate what their sentence is going to be or there’s like a brain switch that can read what she’s trying to say! Some of my friends even got to go up to Kim and Bella to see both of these machines. I asked Bella how she became school captain and she said to me without her machine “all of my friends voted for me”.


I noticed:

1. That one person can make a change.
2. If you set goals for yourself anything is possible.
3. That disabled people think just like us and even though they may look different they still have feelings and should be treated the same.
4. That there is way more animal cruelty in the world than I thought and that we have to stop it.
5. Just one life can help the world and make a change! to never give up!


Learning about what 12 year old girls and Ethiopian woman do every day has made me a very grateful person. Knowing they have to walk 3 hours carrying 15 kilos, back to their families, has made me realise what a struggle their life is compared to mine. Every day I have to go to school for 8 hours, when most of them can’t go to school because they are busy helping their families. What I am able to do every day, I take for granted. When I come home I have dinner made already and sometimes we go out for dinner, and our delicious food is made for us. But these women have to make unappetising food, by hand, every day, for 3 hours. 1.3 billion People live on just $1.25 per day, while we live on hundreds. I learnt that I am a very lucky and I should be more grateful for everyday that I live. I want to make a difference for these girls and one day.


My favourite part of the day was when a woman named Bianca talked to us about homelessness. I learned that there are three types of homelessness and that a reason that many people become homeless is when there are family issues and the child moves out early and doesn’t have any money. I think that it was a good learning experience even though it was on Skype. I never knew that there were 45,500 homeless people every night in Australia. I wonder why Australia doesn’t give them a home because Australia is a wealthy country but 45,500 is a lot less homeless people than in a lot of other countries in the world.


I noticed:
1. …that everyone can do something to help others.
2. … that I am really lucky to have a roof over my head and to have food and clean water to drink.
3. …that not many people are as lucky as I am.
4. …that the speakers were passionate about what they spoke about.
5. …that lots of people try to make a difference.

Next: Any tips on how to create an un-conference?

11 thoughts on “A different kind of conference -2

  1. Here’s what I noticed…
    “I want to make a difference NOW!”
    Love it! This is what we need to inspire children to do!
    Thanks for such a heart-warming post this morning!!


    1. Yes, I love that too, Joy. The graffiti wall was such a great way to capture a snapshot of thinking. Would love to get ‘idea paint’ which makes the wall like a whiteboard kids can graffiti on…


  2. An engagement in our ecosystems unit is to participate in a webquest created by Sarah Pickles, http://ecosystemsindanger.wikispaces.com/ Students follow Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle through this webquest. In past years students had presented their findings to each other within class, but I thought it would be more authentic if the students participated in a mock UN conference. I got some advice from the highschool sponsors of the MUN, sent out invitations while the students busily prepared their findings from the webquest into a presentation.

    The Ecosystems in danger conference day arrived and the students came to school excited and dressed up in suits and ties, with their parents briefcases. We set the conference up in the library, so that it was in a different space than our usual classroom space. The students entered the conference and received refreshments and name tags and then they were all welcomed into the main venue for a welcoming speech about how important it is that we conserve biodiversity in our ecosystems.

    The “ecosystems experts,” our students, were then split up into breakout groups around the room to present their findings to a small group and learn from each other about the different ecosystems in the world and how they were in danger. As I looked around the room all students were engaged, asking deep and thoughtful questions to their “experts” and learning about the endangered organisms. The “experts” presented their new knowledge and findings and truly showed their expertise about that organism to their classmates.

    After a short break for lunch, the “ecosystems experts” were then put in groups with “experts” of like organisms, for example, all the Baiji River dolphin experts went together. In these groups they presented their pre-written resolutions to the group about how to solve the biodiversity problem that was endangering this organism. When all students had shared, their resolutions, as a group they had to vote and choose two resolutions and write action plans of how they could actually act out that resolution. The students shared, debated, questioned, and reflected on what they knew as they went through this process.

    All students were making thoughtful suggestions about what their peers were saying and carefully considering what the best and most realistic solution should be.
    When all action plans and resolutions were made, all “experts” came back together for a final closing plenary. A member from each group shared their resolution and action plan and questions were considered from the audience if they thought the action plan was not feasible. Some audience members offered other suggestions.

    The students left the conference that day more knowledgeable about our central idea, “Biodiversity relies on maintaining the balance of organisms in systems.” They also came away with a deeper understanding of how upsetting the balance of biodiversity will not only impact these animals, but also themselves, if they do not take action immediately. The students excitedly spent the rest of the week taking action, by either writing letters to government officials, creating video ad campaigns or pamphlets to educate other people, or making posters for the school about reducing carbon footprints.

    The students enjoyed sharing their learning in this way because they were all involved in debating, problem solving and critical thinking. As a teacher, I was truly a facilitator, I listened, I learnt, and observed as the students took control of their learning and showed their understanding through the comments, thoughts and questions they offered. They internalized the urgency of this problem and now understood that upsetting the balance in ecosystems was going to have an impact on their own lives if they did not do something.


  3. absolutely brill

    Thats why

    I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. 🙂


    It comes with some rules though…
    – Display the award logo on your blog.
    – Link back to the person who nominated you.
    – State 7 things about yourself.
    – Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
    – Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements


  4. Wow! This is such a great and inspiring idea. I am already thinking about how I can incorporate a conference into our year. I love to read your blog as it is always full of new ideas. Thanks.


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