Nearly 4,500 students attend schools in the Sun West School Division. In addition to regular academic and extracurricular programming, Sun West provides opportunities for students to have their voice heard on Division policies, develop and enhance their leadership abilities and prepare for post-secondary education and the work force.
Between 10-14 students in grades 7 -12 from Sun West schools, apply to be part of a group called "Team Sun West." This group helps to organize, prepare and plan an annual division-wide, student led leadership conference. Team building, communication and presentation skills are developed at four meetings throughout the year and culminate in the spring when students from all over the division get together for a two day conference, complete with keynote presenters, breakout sessions led by students and a dance.
Every year, student representatives from each Sun West school with a grades 10-11 component participate in meetings with Sun West Board of Education. At these meetings the students provide input on Sun West programming and policies.
A group of 12 students from schools across Sun West took part in a debate at the regular Board meeting on May 22nd, where they discussed topics such as the role of Social Media in education and the pros and cons of both traditional and distance learning among others. The students, who are in Grades 10 to 12, are all involved in leadership roles back in their respective schools, and also facilitated discussion forums at the Leadership Conference held in Plenty on May 4th and 5th, before taking part in the Youth Consultation Group debate.
Davidson student, Jasmine Smith, did her presentation with fellow student Katelynn Gardiner of Eston, who was absent on May 22nd due to prior commitments, on the role of Social Media in education, arguing strongly for Sun West to make more use of Facebook and YouTube in learning. Their point was to encourage Sun West to embrace Social Media and use it as a tool rather than a nuisance that distracted students from their schoolwork. For example, teachers could set up a Facebook page in order to post work or course material, and make it easier for students to catch up on missed assignments by getting them online.
Facing off against Smith and Gardiner were students Morgan Follensbee from Eaton School and Patrick Mercier from Kyle Composite School, who said that people using apps like Facebook often had less real-life friends and were more prone to mood swings and other psychological or health problems. They also said, according to their statistics, cases of cyberbullying were increasing. Also taking part in the Youth Consultation Group was Grade 11 student, Brydon Jess, from Loreburn Central School, together with fellow Grade 11 student, Tyson Williamson, from Dinsmore Composite School.
They presented on why traditional learning in the classroom was better than distance learning. “Traditional education is an easier way to teach students as distance learning is online, and if you have a question you have to email, call or even Skype teachers, but it’s not that easy because it isn’t face to face,” said Brydon.
The other debate topics were Small Schools vs. Regional Schools, and assessment processes, with Sun West’s new rubrics system of marking under the spotlight. The Youth Consultation Group networked over Skype and online to organize their presentations, meeting face to face only twice, in February and March.
In 2010-11 the group of 16 gathered feedback from their peers regarding the Board's multi-year "Draft Strategic Plan."