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This article was published 15/12/2009 (2808 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
GUIDANCE counsellor Ryan Miller wanted to teach Grade 4 and 5 students about social justice in a way that would be fun, so he did it through music.
"I wanted to give them a voice," said Miller, who has a musical background.
After enlisting some nine- and 10-year-old students from Brooklands School, Miller applied for and received an Equity and Social Justice Initiative grant from the Manitoba Teachers' Society to create a song mosaic called Listen. A song mosaic is a song that is arranged by taking contributions from a number of performers to create one song.
The powerful ballad that explains issues of social justice through the minds of children had a big impact on Miller and the rest of the teachers at Brooklands School when it was unveiled at a school assembly Monday.
Some teachers wept as the soft voices of children recited their perceptions about human rights, poverty and other social issues that are a reality to many of the kids at the Pacific Avenue school.
"I think one line that really got to me," said Principal Rex Ferguson-Baird, "was from a nine-year-old student who said 'I wish we could go back and fix our mistakes.' I found it so profound that she's a kid, and she thinks that she has already made mistakes."
Miller described Listen as a project that involved the entire school. It will be used as a teaching tool and a catalyst for future discussions about social justice, Ferguson-Baird said.
The song, which can be found on the St. James-Assiniboia School Division's website, has already tapped into what the board considers an important issue for students.
Social justice will be one of the top planks in the school board's next five-year strategic plan, Ferguson-Baird said.
For now, students at Brooklands School are just proud of their accomplishment after helping to write, sing and produce this song. "I showed my parents, and they were like, 'Wow,'" said Dylan Kearney, 10, whose line "some people waste their money on bad habits" was embedded into the musical mosaic.
"I learned that even if you're rich, it doesn't mean you're happy," said Sarah MacDonald, 10, who also lent her voice to the song by expressing her wish to one day have a happy and healthy family of her own.
Miller, who set out to teach the students through his passion for music, said staff members at Brooklands School came away with a lesson of their own.
"I was just blown away with the responses that these kids gave us. We wanted to give them a say, and I was surprised at what they did say."