fact vs. fiction: Montreal teacher helping students navigate news about Russia-Ukraine war

With the war in Ukraine on everybody’s mind, a teacher at LaurenHill Academy in Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough leads open conversations about the invasion in her history and geography classes.

She is helping students navigate the facts and so-called fake news since everybody is already seeing the headlines. Teaching Grade 7 and 8 students on the junior campus, Nadia Santagata uses news headlines to guide class conversations.

She said her students are curious. “To see that intrigue and interest at such a young age is really fascinating, but as you can imagine the discussions can be quite intimidating and scary and difficult.”

Grade 8 student Nina Carrubba agrees. “It’s very scary, it’s putting millions of innocent people in danger and if it happens to be another world war, that’d be even worse.”

In the classroom, discussions help students process the information that many view through unverified sources on their phones.

“I think it’s very helpful getting taught valid information at school because, myself, I think a lot of people are getting a lot of information off TikTok and memes and whatnot,” said Noah Becker, a Grade 8 student.

Santagata said they delve down to the source.

“Trying to get to the core of that current TikTok or meme was talking about is part of the process,” the teacher said.

Through the classroom discussions, students are also learning media literacy and critical thinking. They have learned to question the source of their information and trust verified news outlets more often.

The quest in this class is to balance verified information and work through the emotions that come with what they see.

“There was a hospital that got completely destroyed and I saw that. Really scary. You know, I can’t imagine being at home and a bomb just explodes in front of my house. Extremely scary,” said Janaya Mohan.

“I can’t imagine what people are going through in Ukraine.”

In a way, these daily in-class conversations are part news update and part mental wellness check-in.

“The pandemic was really bad, it took a toll on everyone and now there’s a war in Russia and Ukraine and it’s really hard to process,” said Brandon Woo.

His classmate, Noah Becker, added: “The fact that we’re having a war overseas in the 21st century can be very stressful at times.”

By sharing feelings and facts, these students are managing a very serious topic.

“Considering they’re going against such a superpower in the world, I think they’re strong people and they have courage … they’re fighting for their home,” said Yanni Eliopoulos, a student.

His classmate, Daniel Benarroch, agrees.

“I think that everyone thought that Ukraine would go down in a couple of days and, honestly, I’m happy for them,” he said.

Next week, LaurenHill Academy will encourage students to wear blue and yellow — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — to show their solidarity and to collect money and donations for its citizens.

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