A little volunteering role with big returns

Media Release Thursday 12 January 2017 

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It’s not guaranteed to make a person lose weight or get fit, but volunteering to teach ethics to children satisfies a number of other common New Year’s resolutions such as learning new skills, meeting new people and giving back to the community.

Primary Ethics is seeking volunteers to teach ethics in public primary schools across NSW. The not-for-profit was established in 2010 to give parents and carers the option of ethics education for their children. Currently 32,000 children receive ethics education. Bruce Hogan, Chair of Primary Ethics, wants to see that number grow.

“Ethics classes are currently an option for children in 420 schools, thanks to the volunteering efforts of parents, carers and other community volunteers.” Mr Hogan said. “There are at least another 600 schools still waiting on ethics classes to begin. Volunteers are needed now to get these classes underway in 2017.”

Ethics classes are run weekly during school term, and usually last half an hour. Each week children tackle topics such as laziness, voting, being greedy and working out what is true. Volunteer ethics teachers are on hand to facilitate the discussion using the questions, stories and scenarios provided.

Volunteer ethics teachers receive training in facilitation, behaviour management and philosophical ethics before setting foot in a classroom. The curriculum also includes comprehensive lesson materials, so that the only preparation required each week is to read and ponder the stories and questions and to print off the accompanying images.

David Hopley attended an ethics teacher training course in 2014. He has enjoyed meeting new people and learning new skills as a result of becoming a Primary Ethics volunteer.

“There was an amazing mix of people at the course; parents, teachers, teacher’s aides, uni students, architects, grandmothers, psychologists and accountants,” David said.

“The course encouraged me to think with more depth about the importance of exploring multiple opinions and ideas, and for these differences to exist in the classroom. I wanted to help children to reflect on the origins of their beliefs and be able to give explanations and examples of why they think the way they do.”

David teaches ethics to a class of year 3 children in Sydney’s north-west each week.

The aim of ethics classes is to help children develop skills in ethical reasoning, critical thinking and respectful discussion, which in turn assists children to make well-reasoned decisions rather than act out of habit or peer pressure. These skills are best learned early, and once learned continue to serve an individual throughout life.

The Primary Ethics program was singled out by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in its report to Barack Obama in May 2016. The eight-year-long commission examined how democratic societies should make decisions about complex ethical issues in health care, technology and research. It recommended ethics education from an early age and identified the Primary Ethics program as unique in the world due to the dual benefits of introducing primary school children to ethics as well as broader community exposure to ethics through volunteer involvement.

Retiree Carol Buckley was encouraged by a friend to join her at the ethics teacher training course. Both began teaching at their local schools last year. In addition to learning new skills and giving back to the community, Carol has enjoyed the way her volunteering has strengthened her relationship with her grandchildren.

“It’s put a different perspective on the way I interact with my grandchildren. The methodology behind the lessons is a useful conversational tool. I ask them many more questions about their feelings and why they are doing things.”

Primary Ethics also has vacancies for those who would prefer to volunteer to use their skills outside the classroom. Ethics coordinators and regional managers coordinate ethics programs at a school or regional level.

To find out how you can volunteer, please visit primaryethics.com.au or call (02) 8068 7752. For those who’d like to support ethics education but who are unable to volunteer, tax-deductible donations are keenly sought to train more teachers and to keep the program running.

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Media enquiries: Heidi McElnea, Communications Manager (02) 8068 7752 communications@primaryethics.com.au.

About Primary Ethics:
Primary Ethics was established to provide ethics education for children.

By providing curriculum and training, we enable community volunteers to deliver ethics classes in schools. We have developed a curriculum designed for each stage from K – 6.

The classes happen once a week during the SRE/SEE (Special Religious Education/ Special Education in Ethics) timeslot. Anyone from any religious background – or from none at all – is welcome to participate.

In ethics classes, children learn to think critically and discuss respectfully in order to make decisions about ethical issues. These skills have a lifelong benefit for the child.