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We belong

Student delegates from across WSD gathered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Nov. 21 and 22 to lay the groundwork for this year's Everybody has the Right program.

Everybody has the Right (EHTR) began in 2014 as a way for WSD students to become involved in the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. EHTR has since become an important part of the division's annual programming, teaching students about human rights, equality, acceptance and celebrating our differences.

This year's theme is "We Belong." Students are discussing the various types of communities they are part of, and how we all have the right to belong as unique, vital components of these communities.

"Last year, students explored their own identities—this year, we're looking at how they fit together into a community," said Chantelle Cotton, WSD's Education for Sustainable Development Consultant.

Students arrived at the museum to find a massive, undefined map in the centre of the main floor. Over each day's session, students would fill out the map with their own communities to ultimately create a representation of Winnipeg School Division.

Students also worked with puppet artist Shawn Kettner to create masks that would be placed on the giant map.

"On the inside of the masks, students are writing all of the things that define who they are," Ms. Cotton said. "Students are decorating the face of the masks to represent how they want to be seen metaphorically."

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As an added dimension, each school group was given just one or two of the tools and materials they needed for the project; they had to meet and negotiate with other school groups to obtain other essentials like glue, scissors, markers, etc.

"I think the best way to interact with people you don't know is to have them work on a project together with a common objective. Once you get over the fear of talking to a stranger, you get to know them, become friends and finish the project," said Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute student Anthony Manansala.

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Students also spent time discussing their masks with students from other schools in impromptu sharing sessions.

"Is think the point is to open everyone's points of view and be able to accept one another as individuals," said Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute student Riane Radovan.

The student masks were later added to the giant map as a mosaic of many identities.

Students wrapped each day by working to create their own dream communities with components like food, shelter, laws, human rights and more.

"Students may either create the community they already live in, or the community they wish they lived in," Ms. Cotton said. She added that imagination could be a powerful vehicle for change. "If we don't imagine better communities, things will stay the same."

Moving forward, students will be contemplating the concept of "Three Things for Canada." The idea is based on Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's "Three Things for Calgary" challenge. Students are being encouraged to consider one individual action, one school action and one WSD action they could take to make the world a better place.

Further EHTR gatherings will take place at the museum in February and May, allowing students and teachers to explore the We Belong theme further.

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