Somersfield on right path with ‘what matters’

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  • The wisdom of youth: Ava Gabai-Maiato takes a P6 approach to tackling racism in Bermuda during Somersfield Academy’s What Matters Conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    The wisdom of youth: Ava Gabai-Maiato takes a P6 approach to tackling racism in Bermuda during Somersfield Academy’s What Matters Conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

  • Naomi Every and Nia-Rene Outerbridge made a presentation about an ocean reserve at the Somersfield Academy What Matters Conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Naomi Every and Nia-Rene Outerbridge made a presentation about an ocean reserve at the Somersfield Academy What Matters Conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

  • P6 students Odin Heinz and Jared Moore presented on commercial egg farming (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    P6 students Odin Heinz and Jared Moore presented on commercial egg farming (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)


The environment, social change and economic challenge were among the issues tackled by Somersfield Academy students as part of the school’s annual What Matters Conference.

Each student was tasked with coming up with a well-researched project about a topic that means much to them and which takes them out of the classroom and into the community.

The initiative for the What Matters Conference was the brainchild of Somersfield innovations teacher Mark Brown, and it is now in its eighth year.

P6 student Ava Gabai-Maiato focused her project on racism, using brown and white eggs to demonstrate that, despite what you see on the outside, “we are all the same on the inside”.

Ava explained: “Racism is when people treat other people unfairly because of the colour of their skin. Two examples in history of racism include in 1963 when only property owners — and most property owners were white — were allowed to vote.

“Then there was the boycott in 1959 when people stopped going to the theatre because of segregation. White people could sit at the front in comfortable seating and black people had to sit at the back with no clear view. The white people would jeer at the black people but black people stopped going to the theatres. The theatres stopped making money and had to close their doors.”

Ava said speaking with people and sharing experiences with each other will help you to get a better idea about people of other races.

Zenji Washington, also P6 student, explored the problem of invasive lionfish in Bermuda. “I thought lionfish would be an interesting topic,” she said.

“No one has found a way to catch them fast enough. It is an invasive species and they are rapidly eating our native fish.”

Zenji’s display explored ways to catch, market and eat lionfish in Bermuda and included jewellery made from the lionfish’s brightly coloured spine.

Odin Heinz and Jared Moore worked on a project about commercial egg farming and the difference in the quality of products that come from hens living in battery cages compared with those from furnished cages. Jared said: “Furnished cages have more space and are more comfortable. In a battery cage, they are so squashed that the chickens are weaker and they are given hormones to grow quicker, which end up in our body.”

Their presentation made the argument that furnished cages are best for large-scale farming because the hens are able to have some space and other luxuries, but being contained to a certain extent protects them from environmental threats.

When anything is possible

Somersfield Academy innovations teacher Mark Brown says that when you give a child the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the community “incredible things can happen”.

Mr Brown, who spearheaded the school’s What Matters Conference, used the example of P6 student Peter Strachan, who focused his What Matters project on setting up Bermuda’s first association for people with facial disfigurement.

Peter, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, was featured in this newspaper this week for launching the association Face Bermuda, which will provide financial, practical and emotional support for all those with disfigurements.

His research revealed that since 2007 there had been about 3,500 people born with or who acquired facial disfigurements in Bermuda. However, there has been no dedicate group for them until now.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette during this year’s conference, Mr Brown said: “When you get the children back into the community rather than only confining them to the classroom, you end up with these incredible things like Peter’s project.

“I loved the one today on desalinisation — it is so critical but nobody stops to think about it.

“One year a student introduced a plan for Bermuda to go entirely solar and he presented to the Opposition party. I believe it made it to the floor [of the House of Assembly], but obviously it never happened.

“You get to learn alongside them and no project is going to look the same as the next. There are all kinds of different stories in here.

“Peter’s project, in particular, is impressive. When you put the children back in the community, it makes a massive difference. In this case, Peter will have a legacy, which is fantastic.

“If you put faith in your children, you are not usually disappointed. Many people don’t have the financial help.”

Peter said he had learnt so much thorough his project. “I know a lot more about other people and different types of facial disfigurements and what to do about it,” he said. “You get to understand the people, what they went through and to not bully them.

“Try and stop that by letting people know what is actually happening to them and then they will be more aware about it. Face stands for Facial Awareness Connection for Everyone.”

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Published May 24, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated May 26, 2017 at 11:18 am)

Somersfield on right path with ‘what matters’

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