Conversations with elders encourage empathy

Year 7 student Freddie Hunt (right) with his grandfather David Hunt

The last two years have underscored the fundamental importance of social connection. At Wadhurst, our Year 7 students have been forging deeper connections with their elders through their Term 4 Argo project – interviewing a person in preparation for creating biographical pieces in Year 8 English next year.

“Linking older and younger people together provides advantages for both groups,” says Argo Coordinator Airlie Stewart.

“For the boys, this is a chance to deepen their sense of empathy, their appreciation for history, and, of course, their conversational skills.”

Airlie Stewart

“It also builds a sense of connection for older people who may have lost loved ones, be facing health issues, or be living alone,” Airlie adds. “It reminds them of their value.”

A new perspective on family history

This Term’s Argo project facilitates weekly interviews on a particular theme, with students encouraged to explore new conversational threads as they arise. Year 7 student Freddie Hunt says interviewing his grandfather revealed stories of which he was completely unaware.

“I learned Pa’s father played a role in the intelligence corps, which was a surprise, and that a number of our family members have been awarded the Military Cross,” Freddie says. “That made me feel very honoured.”

Freddie’s family chose to film his interviews so that these conversations could be shared with future generations. “We’re going to watch the interview together,” Freddie says. “I’m looking forward to writing it up too, and Pa’s very keen to see the final result.”

Airlie adds that the boys have navigated any complexities involved in organising their interviews with enthusiasm. “We have one student whose grandparents are in China, and neither have strong English language skills,” she explains. “He decided to interview them with his mother translating. This has turned out really well.”

“Middle school is a time when students discover a lot about themselves and the world around them,” Airlie says. “We want them to learn to appreciate the fact that they are part of a wider community, and the Argo subject as a whole assists them through this journey of discovery.”

About Argo

Argo is an experiential, multi-disciplinary subject studied by Year 7 and 8 students at Wadhurst. It is used as a vehicle to enhance fundamental personal and social capabilities that are expected across the curriculum but not explicitly taught. These are normally life-related, and promote strategic reasoning, perseverance and creativity.

Argo aims to reinvent the transition into adulthood using the framework of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey which expands across a series of stages from ‘The Calling’ (expressing gratitude for past and childhood) through to ‘The Return’ (a chance to reflect on learned experiences across the year and the gifts/ skills they will carry into adulthood).