Louis Riel division students talk post-pandemic learning

·3 min read

Throughout a stressful senior year of high school, amid a public health crisis, Priya Meyler has found unexpected comfort in a kindergarten classic: colouring pages.

In-school discussions and activities promoting positive mental health have ramped up this year to address student isolation and all the other stresses connected to COVID-19.

“There have been a lot more days where we do little activities to ease stress — even the simplest things, like colouring in class,” said Meyler, a Grade 12 student at Collège Béliveau in Winnipeg. “It’s crazy how much it actually makes a difference.”

So when the 18-year-old found out her school division wanted to put on a conference to consider ways to better education post-pandemic, she was keen to offer her perspective on the importance of ensuring the attention being given to student well-being doesn’t disappear when she graduates.

Hundreds of grades 5-12 pupils in the Louis Riel School Division will tune-in today during the Beyond the Horizon Youth Summit, a virtual event made by students — Meyler included — for students in southeast Winnipeg.

Participants will listen to keynote speakers and join breakout sessions to brainstorm what they want school to look like when masks are no longer mandatory and physical distancing unnecessary.

Everything from mental health to student choice and voice to Indigenous education, land-based learning and climate change will be discussed, said Heaven Nandwal, a Grade 11 student at Glenlawn Collegiate, who is one of the youth leaders involved.

Heaven, 16, said working on the project with peers who attend schools across the division has been a welcome distraction during the pandemic. One of the first things she wants to do when it’s safe to do so is meet all her fellow organizers in person.

Grade 11 student Mariah Meilleur echoed those sentiments, saying she has noticed her classmates have been struggling with motivation this year, given school is not being supplemented by extracurriculars or the usual hangouts with friends.

Drawing on her new realization that students have different learning styles, with some preferring remote instruction, the 17-year-old said she’s hopeful there will be more flexibility when it comes to at-home learning options after the pandemic.

Both Mariah, who attends Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, and Heaven also indicated they think it’s critical more Indigenous education is incorporated into lessons in the future.

“I am Métis myself, and I’m probably two to three years into my journey of figuring out my identity as a Métis, Indigenous woman. The more and more I learn, it’s a gift to be able to learn about all this,” said Mariah.

Michael Champagne, a community activist who co-founded Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, is one of the speakers at Tuesday’s event. Dance teacher Sofia Costantini and comedian Big Daddy Tazz are also scheduled to speak.

“What I’m hoping is… as we come out of this pandemic and move into a post-pandemic world, we don’t lose sight of all this. We’ve expended so much energy. I want something good to come of all of that: a better learning and teaching experience,” said superintendent Christian Michalik.

Student organizers will present their findings during a professional development day at the end of the month.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press