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Elgin Avenue Public School is ‘Unlearning’

Students look at thought-provoking poster

It’s highly unusual for a school to tell its students and staff that they need to “unlearn,” but this is exactly what Elgin Avenue Public School did recently.

This type of unlearning refers to unlearn, the social enterprise dedicated to inspiring critical thinking and challenging biases through thought-provoking graphic design.

“Unlearn’s materials are a powerful tool for us to begin thinking about unconscious assumptions,” said Samantha Nicholson, Principal at Elgin Avenue. “We also begin to see how those assumptions are reinforced by the world around us, and how we can work towards countering bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.”

During monthly school-wide activities, staff have guided students in critical-thought exercises, and have starting unpacking how preconceived notions can be reinforced by media and experiences with peers. As a second step, students have started exploring the mechanisms that they can use to interrupt stereotypes, and challenge societal norms that marginalize others.

“We are using unlearn as a way to help support students so that their interactions with their school community leave them feeling accepted for who they are,” said Nicole Auld, Teacher at Elgin, who has been using the supporting materials. “It’s about ensuring everyone feels safe, welcomed, and included.”

That sentiment is echoed in Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan through the Equity indicator, which works to promote practices that increase a sense of belonging.

The conversations that have resulted are doing much to create those supportive environments where students can achieve and succeed. By deepening the conversations and learning about multiple ways of being, students are creating a more inclusive and accepting school community.