As the crisis in Ukraine escalates, Wildwood’s upper school students recently organized and held a town hall to discuss their perspectives on news coverage of the war, xenophobia, and the obligations they have to each other and their communities.
“With all the places to access information these days, students still wanted to navigate this issue within school, with one another, and their teachers,” said upper school humanities teacher Taylor Stern, who moderated the town hall. “For me, it was an affirming indicator that the environment of Wildwood is a reliable and comfortable homebase, both literally and metaphorically, for students to confront the issues and challenges presented by the outside world.”
To frame the conversation, the students used the “fishbowl” technique, a discussion strategy in which a small group of participants sit in a circle and share insights, while a larger group of participants sits in a ring outside that smaller group to listen and observe. Participants can take turns in the two roles.
“The fishbowl method is particularly effective because it centers student conversation and responses while creating space for different types of involvement,” Taylor said. “Additionally, while students are given prompts, fishbowls also allow the space for the discussion to organically go in new directions that reflect what is most centrally on the minds and hearts of the students.”
Throughout the discussion, many students noted the impact of 24-hour news coverage, and its ability to both inform and desensitize. They also noted the fundamental importance of understanding history and geography as it pertains to the conflict, and how it allows for a deeper dive into the more abstract issues presented by the war, such as watching it unfold online, media representation, and how events are framed. The town hall concluded with students sharing their strategies for coping with disturbing news, and steps they can take as global citizens to make an impact.
“Upper school students came into the discussion with a surprising wealth of knowledge, and were ready to share,” Taylor said. “The biggest response I heard from students was a desire for more time like this, both specifically in terms of wanting to discuss the ongoing war, and in terms of using the townhall setting as a place to come together around topics both internal and external to Wildwood. Coming off of a year spent mostly separate, it felt really good to be in community, all together, sharing both intellectually and emotionally.”
- Spring 2022