Volunteers sought for Primary Ethics classes in Bellingen

Volunteer ethics teachers at a training day in Coffs Harbour last year
Volunteer ethics teachers at a training day in Coffs Harbour last year

As NSW gears up for an election, 10-year-olds across the state are discussing the ethics of voting.

Is it ok to vote for someone just because they are your friend? Do you have an obligation to understand the policies of the person you are voting for? Should a voter consider the impact of a policy on others, or just on themselves?

Year 5 and 6 students enrolled in ethics explore a range of opinions on these issues in a context they are familiar with; the student council election. Tackling these issues with their peers and a facilitator when they're young helps a lot when they are faced with tough ethical challenges as they move into their teen years and beyond.

Melissa Fitzpatrick is about to start her fifth year of ethics teaching at Bellingen Public School and will be running the combined year 5 and 6 ethics class.

"I'm looking forward to classes resuming this year and getting back in the classroom. Bellingen kids are very engaged in their ethics lessons, as they often have really aware parents. I remember when we did the Voting topic with the previous group of stage 3 kids two years ago, they were really interested in how it all works," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Previously a high school teacher, Ms Fitzpatrick became a Primary Ethics volunteer after a friend told her about the program.

"I really enjoy volunteering as an ethics teacher. There's a real feel-good factor in helping children learn how to think, not what to think," Ms Fitzpatrick said.

In kindergarten ethics class, children will begin with a topic that explores Questions and the importance of being curious. Children in stage 1 (years 1 and 2) are discovering Empathy, and stage 2 (years 3 and 4) are discussing Being Greedy – should Emma take the last slice of cake?   

Written by Dr Sue Knight and reviewed by a panel including philosopher Kelby Mason and the Ethics Centre's Dr Simon Longstaff, each of the 245 lessons are also approved by the Department of Education for suitability for the target age group.

Volunteers are sought to be trained to facilitate ethics classes in Bellingen Public School and in other schools in the Bellingen are and Coffs Coast, where there are currently about seven schools in involved: Sandy Beach, Kororo, Narranga, Sawtell, Repton, Bellingen and Nana Glen.  The commitment is around an hour a week.

The free ethics teacher training workshop will be held in Coffs Harbour on March 30 and 31.  

If you are interested, please contact John Gray, Primary Ethics Coffs Harbour Bellingen Regional Manager on 0422 333 238 or by emailing coffsbellingen-region@primaryethics.com.au