Social consciousness is the mental action through which a person is able to observe the state of other people within a community. This is a particular type of consciousness, it allows us to relate healthily in society, it establishes empathetic relationships with the people around us. This type of consciousness is vital for the correct development of a child as it forms more respectful individuals, capable of reaching their full potential.
Looking sideways, those who have the least, those who suffer issues that they don’t and those who simply have a different life; it helps them to be more sensitive, more empathetic and not to take for granted everything they receive at home – and that they did not obtain on their own merit. They need to watch, feel, and empathize to become good citizens.
At Villa Per Se, our work as teachers is focused on educating our students comprehensively. Therefore, through the transversality that exists in our classes and having our projects as a backbone, we are developing the social awareness of our students. Furthermore, we complement this work with the three values of the school: empathy, resilience, and unity.
Our students are experiencing a very special situation during this time: much suffering and need are what is experienced in our country. However, they and we are at home, away from that reality, or living it indirectly.
All this leads us to another important concept to develop from childhood, that of social participation. Consciousness makes them look back and observe, although we want to take them to look critically and constructively at their city and their country; to ask, to propose and, if necessary, to protest and demand; learn that there may be sensitive and capable adults to accompany them in this work; to defend their own but also to be interested in what is of others; to feel more of their community, to love it and establish their own role within it; ultimately, learn to participate. And it is achieved in the only way that is truly effective: truly participating.
What can we do so that being in quarantine doesn’t make them forget what is lived outside the home? We don’t propose to bombard them with information or confront them alone, but we can sift it and make it reachable to them, accompany them to read and understand it, help them understand that quarantining at home is more of a privilege than an obligation. Perhaps we can go further and invite them to generate their own opinion and even propose alternative solutions.
There are as many methods of promoting awareness and participation as there are learning styles, among the best known and used are, for example: school elections, intervention projects in the school community, research, hypothesis formulation, arguments, debate, and proposal of viable solutions for the studied conflicts.
Each student, according to their degree of abstraction and understanding, will be able to approach in different ways and by different angles to the reality that surrounds them. Children’s social participation cannot begin with abstractions or realities that are beyond their reach. It is necessary to promote experiences that allow children to learn to intervene by participating in their closest or best-known environment, which is about which they have sufficient information, which will facilitate their opinion and action.
In addition to knowing the space in which their participation will take place, it is equally important that they work with their own objective (individual or group) and clear reasons to get involved in the subject. It is not a matter of involving them in adult formats, but of limiting the situation for each group.
Currently, our sixth-grade children are working on a project whose result will be a panel discussion on the challenges that this pandemic has presented for different groups, each one investigated by 5 of our students: the first, the provincial people who found themselves in Lima at the beginning of this quarantine and how they have been affected by the lack of housing, work and the impossibility of obtaining a transport that takes them to their place of origin; the second group are the doctors who are forced to fight with this new and unknown disease from a lagging health system; and lastly, the merchants who have been unable to attend to their businesses during this period and have seen their merchandise deteriorate and savings disappear.
We are still in the first week of the project and we already have very good reflections from an empathy exercise:
“… Helping people who are infected every day and I am also afraid of being infected. I feel good helping, saving lives, but I would also like to be with my family. ” (TO GO.)
“… I live sad, and here everyone goes out and I can catch it, I would like to be at home, but I don’t know how to do my job. I have to feed everyone in my house, nobody does the work for me, I go out with my mask, and the reporters come to tell me to go home, the truth is that I don’t know what to do… ”(M.M.)
“I would feel scared, we would have to stop in many places to have food and to go to the bathroom and even wash our face and hands. I feel that it must be very difficult to keep going because nobody is sure what will happen because in this situation it is very dangerous, you can get infected or you could starve, it is horrible. ” (B.D.S)
We hope to continue with the investigation, issue opinions and create and search for arguments that lead us to propose solutions within their reach from the position of citizens with rights and duties. We hope to share the results and products of this project with our entire Villa Per Se community. Our society needs people who are part of the change, a person with a social conscience.
By Claudia Hernández and Micaela Cardoza – 6th grade homeroom teachers