Fourth Graders Present Second Annual Advocacy Symposium

Fourth Graders Present Second Annual Advocacy Symposium

The fourth grade presented its second annual Advocacy Symposium on Thursday, March 23. Their teachers, Michelle Vitone, Adelaide Wainwright, and Erin Flaherty, shared that the Advocacy Symposium is the culmination of nearly three months of dedicated inquiry on the part of the students. Fourth graders began the process by learning about and researching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this early stage, they met with a recently retired US ambassador to learn about how the SDGs shaped his work in Madagascar. Then the students interviewed experts to learn how they see the SDGs informing shaping their work here in the United States. Next, in SDG groups, students selected a regional topic connected to their SDG and immersed themselves in research.

The fourth graders worked incredibly hard on the Create and Commit phases of the OES Inquiry Cycle. Each SDG group created a video or performance art piece to engage and inspire visitors. Individual students wrote informative brochures to share their knowledge and educate others on how to take action. Finally, they each created an Advocacy Action—a letter of gratitude or a petition for change that will be sent to a local or state government official—in order to further bring their learning to life. 

Many parents came to OES on Thursday morning to watch the students’ performance art and videos. One performance was a puppet show, where the puppets represented types of energy, from wind power to nuclear fusion, and discussed each other’s merits and drawbacks. Another performance demonstrated what can happen when a campfire is left unattended in the forest, how its impact can quickly spread, and that wildfires are more frequent and intense due to climate change.

The students’ videos, many of which used Legos in stop-motion animation, discussed issues including homelessness, harsh working conditions, and climate protests.

One parent who watched the performances said, “I hope that these kids grow up to be the change-makers!”

After the performances, the students went upstairs to their classrooms and shared their advocacy briefs with their parents. They described the actions they were encouraging others to take and shared the informative brochures they’d made.

Marco H. '31 described to his dad, Alex, that he was helping educate people about Oregonians’ ability to mail in our ballots. He shared that mail-in voting helps with turnout, which is better than many other states, but he thinks we might get better turnout if we change the name to “Vote at Home,” because some people don't trust the mail.

“I didn’t realize how much higher Oregon’s voting rate is than other states!” his dad commented. 

As another example, Pia J. '31 shared her brochure about helping to make cities cooler by planting more trees to offset heat islands. Zahara K. '31 (who also worked on a video about gender inequality in sports) shared in her brochure about inequality:

Equality is including people, no matter their ethnicity, race, or gender, but sometimes there’s inequality. Inequality means that someone is treated unfairly and wrong. Racial inequality is when someone is treated unfairly because of their skin color, but a hero that stood up to that was Martin Luther King, Jr. Gender Inequality is when somebody is treated unfairly because of their gender, this is why some people say that women are weak and cannot play sports. LGBTQ inequality is when people who control marriage say that same-gendered people cannot marry. This is why people have been fighting for their rights throughout history, and are still doing it now.