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Local Government is a year-long focus at Athens DHS
Local Government is a year-long focus at Athens DHS
Posted on 10/21/2022

October 21, 2022It’s Local Government Week and students across the Upper Canada District School Board learn about levels of government – municipal, school trustee, and student senate year-round. Athens District High School (ADHS) has a unique school-wide Student Parliament that organizes school fundraisers, dances, and events all while enacting the Federal legislature.

ADHS hosted its second Student Parliament session this week. Since 1947, the students have been engaging in this real-world and cross-curricular learning. In fact, they are the longest-serving Student Parliament System in Canada and the sessions mimic what you see and witness within the House of Commons. Students lead the entire session and do the behind-the-scenes work for events and initiatives with the support of staff advisors. Parliament elections take place in the spring and the party with the most seats is elected as the party in power. Athens DHS Student Parliament

Comprised of students from Grades 7-12, the group of 30 is split into two parties – the Blue Party and the Gold Party where one is the party of power and the other sits as the official opposition. Plus, Student Parliament has a speaker of the house and Sargeant-at-arms. These monthly sessions begin with the gallery filling up comprised of the entire student body. The Sargeant-at-arms leads the procession with the ceremonial mace, followed by the speaker of the house to open the session’s regular proceedings.

The session then moves over to reports from student ministry officials, who speak on developments in their portfolios, and what has taken place at the school this past month. Once all ministers have made their reports, the speaker of the house moves the session to question period. To finish off, motions are brought forth, which entail plans for what events and other student-related initiatives will take place over the next month.  

This year’s Prime Minister at ADHS is Grade 12 student Kaylee Wells.  

“Our parliament system is a really great way for students to learn about politics and experience it first-hand within their school. Our Prime Minister acts how a real Prime Minister would, as well as the Leader of the Opposition and all ministry leaders and deputies,” she explained. “Everyone gets to take on responsibilities and roles and learn how a cabinet would work in the real world. Plus, our student body attends all sessions and sees everything that is happening and the overall leadership that is displayed. It really encourages students to join and become stronger leaders and get involved.” Athens DHS Student Parliament

Brooklan Simpson, who is also in Grade 12, is this year’s official opposition leader and her role is to assist Prime Minister Wells with events and planning, but to also hold them accountable.  

“This is real-world learning. In this role, it teaches students about leadership, teamwork, and the democratic process,” she says. “I think that the big takeaways would be acting on what we have planned, helping others with what they’ve planned, and supporting each other.”

In addition to learning about politics, accountability, and teamwork, students engage in real-world development in public speaking and presentation skills. “During the sessions, students learn quick thinking skills as question period requires them to think on their feet. In the latest session, there were a lot of questions directed at our party in power, questioning some things that they had put on in the last couple of weeks, one of them being country fair day. They must be able to prepare a response, but then think on their feet, because they are not sure what that follow-up question might be,” explains Ashley Lawrence, a teacher and parliament advisor at ADHS. “This experience echoes real-world connections to our federal parliament system and teaches students about responsibility and transparency.”

Lawrence’s role is to oversee parliament as an entity, which includes running the spring election, helping students with constitutional questions or procedures, and ensuring everything runs smoothly.  

Student Parliament, in fact, also branches off into cross-curricular learning for students in the civics and careers, world issues, and world history courses. Students can tie what they experience during their parliament and make the connection or teachable moment to the real-world climate.

Each activity or school-related event is run by Student Parliament, one of which is their recent country fair.

“Our first big event we ran this year was Fall Fair Day, where all the students, if they wished, could drive their tractor to school and partake in various outdoor country-style events,” says Wells, adding that the whole school community loves this style of events and showing their school spirit.  

Both Wells and Simpson expressed how they have enjoyed their parliamentary and look forward to taking part in more sessions as the school year progresses. 

  For media inquiries, please contact:   

April Scott-Clarke   Manager of Communications   Upper Canada District School Board   [email protected] 

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