Academic Enrichment-Honours Program: Thriving Minds Junior Stretch by Hakone Liceralde (Year 8)

American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

On Wednesday 9 August, the Year 8 Junior Honours students were privileged to attend the Thriving Minds Junior Stretch event at Ascham School hosted by internationally acclaimed keynote speaker Julie Arliss who is an educator and academic in the field of philosophy at Oxford. The day provided a unique opportunity for us to engage with concepts that inspire and encourage critical thinking. Schools from across NSW attended to discuss concepts such as equality versus equity, what a fair societal structure looks like and how we can tell what a ‘good rule’ is.

Our first hypothetical experiment was based on a deserted island scenario. We learnt about the significance of emotions, tolerance and a consequentialist viewpoint in deciding what rules would be the most important. For example, having privacy, not stealing from others and communicating clearly. From this, we derived that having a moral compass – knowing what is ethically right or wrong – is indeed a survival strategy.

The Thriving Minds challenge brought together like-minded learners, inspiring us to challenge our preconceptions, approach contemporary topics methodically and develop our critical thinking abilities. Through a Community of Inquiry, we talked with students from different schools on the topic of ethical behaviour in a classroom environment. We discussed many challenging questions such as, “Would it be fair to give all students the same grades?” and “Is it fair to educate students of higher intelligence differently?” We had fruitful interactions with the other students in attendance and left enlightened with new-found knowledge.

We were introduced to the world of nanotechnology, an area of science I had never heard of prior to this event. We discovered that nanotechnology is the process of manipulating matter at the Nanoscale. The concept promises to advance science in a variety of fields, including manufacturing, consumer goods, energy, and medicine which I found particularly interesting.

Finally, our day ended with a debate regarding, “it is always right to tell the truth”, in which we analysed the ethical dilemma behind lying and concluded that it is inherently right to be honest.

I am sure that all the Junior Honours students will agree that attending the Thriving Minds convention proved to be an eye-opening and academically enriching opportunity. Our minds were stretched in multiple directions and dimensions, the result being our improved capacity to absorb, reflect and apply new information. In a world where there is so much hype about artificial intelligence, we came away with a much greater appreciation for our own human, natural intelligence.

Hakone Liceralde
Year 8

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