Breaking the Silence at Cadarackque and Blair Ridge Public Schools

Posted On Wednesday May 26, 2021
Photo 1 - Randell-crop
Ontario’s newly-appointed and first-ever poet laureate Randell Adjei shared insight and knowledge about poetry with Cadarackque and Blair Ridge Public School students.

Grade 8 students came together for an eight-week poetry project to explore social justice issues

It all began when two Durham District School Board (DDSB) schools decided to embark on a collaborative eight-week journey through a poetry project they called Break the Silence. These were two different schools, with one shared vision; to explore social justice issues by empowering students' voices and bringing forward their lived experiences.

Building Bridges

In March, administrators, educators and Grade 8 students at Cadarackque Public School and Blair Ridge Public School began meeting virtually once a week on Mondays and wore matching t-shirts that read ‘Break the Silence 2021’. “In the first four weeks the focus was on building relationships with students from the other school through breakout rooms, learning about each other and talking about current events such as anti-Black racism and microaggressions,” explained Michelle Sigmann, Vice Principal at Blair Ridge PS.

Students were excited to meet and share ideas and experiences with one another. “Even after this project is over, I want to be able to still continue this work with Blair Ridge. I have really enjoyed learning from them and seeing how different we are but how we still have so much in common,” said Aalaijah, a student at Cadarackque PS. 

Learning from the Pros

The second half of the project had students learning directly from Randell Adjei, Ontario’s newly-appointed and first-ever poet laureate and Sydney Simpson, a gifted storyteller and spoken word artist. Students explored poetry and creativity through the lenses of anti-Black racism, identity and allyship. “What the students learned about poetry is that poetry is not only about rhyming words on a page and being creative with words. They [Adjei and Simpson] speak from the heart about the importance of using pen and paper as an outlet for people to tell their story, share the experiences that have shaped them, and develop their self identity; of being proud to shout it to the world,” shared Jennifer Clark, Vice Principal at Cadarackque PS.

Abigail, a student at Blair Ridge PS noted, “I have learned that it is okay to want to be who you are. I have learned to be confident with myself and happy about myself.”

To celebrate all that was learned and to thank Adjei and Simpson, student leaders are currently organizing an end-of-project celebration which they will host virtually on June 7th.

Breaking the Silence

Administrators, educators and students from both schools expressed that throughout this creative journey, everyone learned together how to listen actively, how to reflect openly, and how to engage respectfully with people of many different backgrounds and experiences. For them, the value, the impact and the learning of this project exceeded both poetry and curriculum by connecting students to their social identity, their self-identity, and the importance of their role as allies and creators of social change.

The title of the project was Break the Silence and breaking the silence is exactly what occurred when they opened themselves up to being vulnerable to learning together.