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RE-cycled: Iona students tackle homelessness

Gemma Thomson  |  15 August 2018

Gemma and Emma from Iona“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” - Benjamin Franklin.

Gemma Thomson, Head of Religious Education at Iona Presentation College wanted her students to truly understand the issue of youth homelessness. She wanted to touch their hearts, inform their minds and transform their actions.

“Students are vital in driving, leading and creating change in our modern society. The young people of today are the future of tomorrow. It is essential that as educators we provide them with a moral compass by which to conduct their lives.”

For this reason, Ms Thomson developed an inquiry-based Faith in Action Project that immersed her Year 11 students in the topic of youth homelessness.

“Modelled on the Presentation values of Excellence, Community, Social Justice, Love of Learning, Integrity and Tradition, students will come to understand that social justice is all about us, as a community, recognising and acting upon the power that we have for making positive change,” said Ms Thomson.

“Real-world problems, multiple perspectives and emotional connections between students and social justice issues are at the heart of the 'Presentation Faith in Action' program.”

The objective of the project was to increase awareness of homelessness as a social justice issue in the local, national and global world; encouraging students to have a sensitivity to justice and act as agents of social change.

“We wanted to motivate our students to actively partake in Christian Discipleship beyond our College walls,” Ms Thomson said.

“We also saw the project as a way of educating the students in a didactic teaching and learning method; allowing the students to make a link with the subject, before moving into the Catholic response to the issue and finally, to find a way to take action.”

Divided into three core components, the project involved the students;

1. Understanding youth homelessness in Australian society

2. Considering the Catholic Church response to homelessness as a social justice issue

3. Making change and taking action: Adding student voice to the issue.

Students looked at how homelessness was depicted in the media; carried their learning to the ‘outside’ world, discussing the issue with parents, peers and the local community; and brainstormed ways they could be agents of social change.

“This project has provided me with an increased awareness of this social issue and a sense of understanding. I knew little about homelessness and even less about its large status in the youth of today. Now, I have a greater awareness of youth homelessness, allowing me to make informed opinions and participate in conversations about this topic,” said Briana.

“Before, when thinking about this issue, there was a sense of detachment as it always seemed as though it didn't affect me. This project, has helped me to feel considerably more compassion for those affected by homelessness. I have really enjoyed learning about this issue and exploring how we can put an end to youth homelessness in Australia.”

Six Iona values underpin all that the College strives for. Love of learning; Integrity; Tradition; Excellence; Community and Social Justice. Each year, Iona Presentation College chooses a core value that infiltrates all aspects of College life.

By the time students reach Year 12, they have lived through and practiced each value to the best of their ability.


Caption: Gemma Thomson and Emma Paterson (Year 12).


Topic tags: healthycommunitylife, socialjustice-australia

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