A Postcard from Scotch Oakburn College – Backyard All Aussie Adventures
Posted: 13 January 2021
- Communication skills
- Appreciation for diversity
- Sense of responsibility
- Teamwork skills
Scotch Oakburn College
For our postcard, the students at Scotch Oakburn College shared experiences of how we are all staying active in our backyards, gardens or lounge rooms during lockdown. We invited participants to compare and contrast how students in different parts of the world were keeping active. During the zoom session we shared stories, images and videos. We also discussed ideas in small groups and even got moving. The initiative proved to be a great opportunity to meet young people from around the world and share the variety of our experiences.
The Postcard event we planned came out of a concept we were working on during COVID times attempting to connect students with their outdoor spaces at home as everyone was kept in during lockdown. I met online with four of our student leaders, which were the ones that would have led the 2020 RSIC, and we discussed the best way to structure our presentation in order to make it attractive to our participants and at the same time have some fun. After that, they began the process of engaging with students across the College to help put a presentation resource together and sent out our invitation. We ran some practice Zoom sessions and looked at what makes an interactive, engaging online session. Together we developed some activities and games that we thought might help people from across the planet connect with each other and discover something new about the different cultures.
The student team at Scotch Oakburn had been working hard in the face of the upcoming RSIC 2020 which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the breakout of the pandemic, so the postcard session provided a good opportunity for them to exercise their leadership skills while tasting a sip of the internationalism flavour.
The team in charge was made up of 4 students. They first had a couple of meetings by themselves to have the initial discussions and then engaged a larger number of students that worked on the backstage and supported them. The decision was made that the subject of the Postcard would be “Backyard all aussie adventures” and that they would invite schools from around the globe to a physically active and engaging experience, trying to break the bubble that is created when attending a call. The invitation was then posted on the Round Square Weekly and registration open. With 11 schools signing in, the capacity was quickly filled in.
The week before the call’s established date we put out a call for students to send us a video of them getting out in their backyard, whether it was exercising, playing with the dog or just spending some time in the fresh air and we collated that material into a video. During the call, we shared this video along with the entries of other schools. It was amazing to see the different approaches of countries to getting time outside during COVID-19 restrictions. We had students from Germany learning new skills such as skateboarding, bike riding in Japan or playing badminton in India. Then others in countries such as Peru, with very strict lockdown laws, learning new skills such as camping in their own backyards. By the end of the Zoom meeting we had a global top 10 list of innovative ways to keep active that everyone could share with their school community.
We also played some virtual games to get everyone introduced, such as fetching an item that represents your country. In order to make it more dynamic and appealing, we encouraged our attendees to use the chat and the reactions as resources to participate actively. These were a great hit and proved some stereotypes do hold true; such as a Canadian participant choosing maple syrup to represent their country and almost all Australians showing off their jars of vegemite.
It was an amazing experience to have contact with other cultures – especially since travelling was off the table for the foreseeable future. The session was a great success. Round Square is built on international connections and these Zoom calls were just one way to continue incorporating the IDEALS and discoveries into our learning.
When setting up virtual meetings one first challenge is to make sure everyone is engaged and present. We were happy to see how actively committed our participants were and how much they enjoyed every initiative.
An extra challenge arises when dealing with international communities, and that means juggling different time zones on one hand and with different (and sometimes even never heard before) accents on the other- especially with those using english as a second language. But there’s opportunity in every challenge, and our students were able to develop their empathy skills and this enabled them to cope successfully with the situation.
This virtual activity proved to be a fantastic opportunity for team working and for developing our students’ leadership skills. Furthermore, having to play the role of moderators is a whole training in itself and our school’s team surely learnt how to keep the interest, manage timing successfully, ensure everyone has a chance to speak and no one is left unheard, and moderate the discussions so that there’s a balance between the different participants.
Since the session was mainly focused on internationalism and the attractiveness that comes out of cultural diversity, we also believe that all of the participants left the meeting with a sense of appreciation for it.
Long Term Outcomes
As usual within a school environment, one exciting activity opens the door to future ones and motivation has a domino effect on students and it passes on from one to another. This first experience as virtual hosts of an international gathering certainly sparked an interest among students and most of them are looking forward to future chances to repeat it and even engage their friends to join them. We are looking into new possibilities that might offer students valuable opportunities for experiential learning and a deeper dive into international understanding.
- Do a practice Zoom call and allow the students to experiment with the technology. Ensure this all happens 4-5 weeks out from the event to give participants plenty of lead time to register and get resources together.
- Having our student group work as a team and be able to fill in empty spaces with their voices was very important. They would benefit from analysing the footage of the call and looking at ways they could improve the running of an online meeting.
- They probably needed three practice Zoom calls with practice participants.