By: Sam Johnston, Director of Learning (on behalf of the Global Stewardship Conference organizing committee)
The dust is still settling after 2 days of the first annual Global Stewardship Conference, and I am still processing everything that has happened over the past couple of days. Two days of classes were shifted from our block system to a conference format that let students from Grades 8-12 choose what they were learning in each of the available sessions. They were learning side-by-side with students at all grade levels along with faculty. The focus of the conference was to engage with issues that affect people around the globe: climate change, poverty, social justice, and gender equality… the list goes on.
I think it will take me a while to properly reflect on the whole experience, but the feeling that I was left with was a profound sense of gratitude. I am so grateful to be part of a community that can come together like it did to provide a set of learning experiences that isn't typical of any high school experience I have ever witnessed. Students presented courageously to their peers and to their teachers, who are usually the ones at the front of the classroom; faculty shared a passion of theirs with students that they might not otherwise have taught this year; parents showed how their experiences have an impact on the global or local community; and Georgians returned to inspire us with their experiences since leaving SGS. On top of that, there were offsite activities organized for students to work and learn about local initiatives they can get involved in, and there were a number of community groups that came for presentations from Documentary Filmmaking, to Hypermasculinity, to powerful First Nations storytelling.
Each day was punctuated by a large shared experience. The initial keynote from Natalie Panek, a Canadian Rocket Scientist, who spoke so well and so passionately about how important perseverance is in reaching your goals, opened the conference. We were treated to a Q&A with global philanthropist, Frank Giustra, about bursting our bubbles and really getting immersed in the issues of the world, and we closed the conference with local social entrepreneur, Mark Brand, who showed us how doing good is also good for business.
For the students and faculty that fully engaged in the conference, they truly “got out what they put into it.” We live in an amazing world, but it is increasingly complex. We also know to achieve our vision as a school, we have to be on the forefront of educating and engaging our boys to become global stewards. We want to thank those parents who encouraged their children to attend when perhaps they were reluctant. For the majority of our boys, we were amazed at their ability to engage and learn even though there were no marks and no teachers.
It was a transformational experience for me. Working with staff, faculty, and students to try something that had never been done here before, I am humbled by the outpouring of support for these last couple of days. I can't wait for the second annual GSC, and if you are interested in being a part of it, stay tuned.