Giving Young People A Voice: Ms. Horst's Students Are Making A Difference

Every once in a while you meet someone who is really making a difference. Someone who not only 'talks the talk', but more importantly 'walks the walk'. This kind of person has taken their life experiences, and through reflection and determination is trying to improve the lives of others. Last week, I spoke to a Burlington, Ontario teacher named Michelle Horst, and it quickly became clear that she was someone who is really making a difference.

Ms. Horst is a grade 1 and 2 teacher at Charles R. Beaudoin Public School. She made a difference on her first day of teaching by asking her students “how can we take responsibility at our age and be good citizens?”. The idea of a good citizen in today's world; being a part of a big, diverse, and complicated world may seem daunting, even to adults. However, unfazed, Ms. Horst did something extraordinary. She gave her students a voice.

Through their blog, the students are given an avenue to express their feelings, worries and thoughts on local and global issues of their choosing. Ms. Horst believes in “opening a door to the bigger world then just Burlington. I want to show students that there are real world issues and students can experience these issues with other people”.

As a result, it was through the students that environmental citizenship became a topic in the class. Early in the school year, her classrooms considered ways to conserve and treat the earth with respect, and eventually got involved with the Burlington Green Youth Network's “Clean Up, Green Up” project, which had an impact on their local community.

When talking about teaching, Mrs. Horst is clearly passionate about the vocation. She wants to ensure that her kids become whole rounded students. For her, teaching is not about filling up a mind, but rather opening it. Through giving her students a voice and choice, they have tackled some pressing environmental issues together.

Ms. Horst took a risky and refreshing take on educating young people about the environment. Through the use of new technology (blogging and social media) her students are able to connect with the rest of the world, and reflect on what it means to be a part of such a big place. While going through this experience, the students began thinking about how to be responsible citizens and decided to do something positive. It goes without saying that Ms. Horst, and her students are making a difference.

Don't forget to check out her blog and her students' blog here: