Being aware and being human: sharing stories - Being aware being human sharing stories
Rachael Lowry
Whole School Equality Champion/History Teacher
10 April, 2024

Being aware and being human: sharing stories

Being aware and being human: sharing stories - Being aware being human sharing stories
A season of sharing stories and raising awareness has been a focus this term on our Secondary campus. BIS-Aware season was an opportunity to explore the breadth and depth of who ‘We Are’ as individuals and communities, it provided a platform to explore the Protected Characteristics, the hidden and lesser known stories wrapped in the importance of celebrating our strength underpinned by our diversity. The purpose of this inaugural event was to promote Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) to nurture a supportive community that encourages a sense of social responsibility and inclusion. It has been a time for raising awareness and celebrating the contributions of a diverse range of figures. This brings together both worldwide movements such as Black History Month and Women's History Month but also our own ‘in-house’ awareness event from the Identity Alliance group. This year our theme was ‘Sharing Stories’ - powerful and moving accounts that have been hidden from public view for a range of reasons. We wanted students to “Think Global, Act Local”

We asked our students to engage with a range of voices and stories to appreciate that we are all special and beautiful, writing our own unique stories with many different overlapping aspects of our identity.

“Stories are a communal currency of humanity.”
- Tahir Shah

Black History Month and Holocaust Memorial Day

We marked Holocaust Memorial Day at the end of January with a special Wellbeing lesson. Students were invited to watch an inspirational and uplifting Ted talk by Eddie Jaku, a survivor and motivational speaker. Students were then presented with 6 personal stories from the Holocaust and given time to reflect on how individual experiences can be remembered to help us understand the modern world. 

During Black History Month, in Wellbeing lessons, students were introduced to some significant figures from different areas of life such as leadership, espionage and music eg Mansa Musa, Josephine Baker and Emmanuel Jal. The focus for the lesson matched the theme of ‘Sharing stories” and after some research time, students designed quilt squares to represent someone they had learned about. Quilting has been used by many societies and communities over time as a way of bringing people together. Contemporary artists such as Bisa Butler still use this method to pass on stories and preserve culture. Some beautiful designs have been submitted in different styles and the finished quilt will be displayed in school. Many students also used these ideas in their Diversity Door (more on that later…).

Enjoy a selection of submissions below:

Women's History Month

During Women’s History Month (WHM), the student leaders of Empowerment Club Axelle, Tu Anh and Anvvita in Year 12, spoke articulately in an interview about what Empowerment means to them and why it is important. They worked with our CCA members ranging from Year 7 to Year 12 to plan a range of activities. Together they made a series of posters celebrating successful and fascinating women from around the world who have made their mark. These posters were displayed around school and there was a special quiz to match, which was shared with tutors. We also screened ‘The Breadwinner’ movie and students could also take this book out from the library. It shares the story of a young girl living in Afghanistan and her resilience and problem solving in order to help her family. Other books representing WHM were available in the Curve for students to take home in a special display. 

Ms. Dodds-Smith also led a self-defence session to empower students to react calmly and effectively when faced with danger. Axelle, one of the Empowerment club leaders previously commented on the self defence sessions “ was nice because they encompassed a lot of different areas including feeling comfortable in your skin and also feeling safe. A lot of us are going to university in a couple of years so it’s preparing ourselves for the world outside of BIS too.”

‘In the Zone’ talks

There have been some ‘In The Zone’ talks at lunchtimes to match the BIS-Aware theme. Mrs. Lowry spoke about the issue of returning historical artefacts to their place of origin from institutions such as the British Museum. 

Ms. Hall also spoke about her experience of surviving a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia in 2003. It was a powerful reminder of resilience, community and the impact of world events on our lives. 

Ms. Mulholland spoke about ‘Living Nowhere’. Currently over 100 million people are displaced globally. In the Zone we ‘zoned in’ on interconnected stories from those displaced and Ms Mulholland’s work with survivors of war and refugees in Kakuma over the last 10 years. Kakuma - the swahili for ‘Nowhere’ - is one of the oldest and most diverse refugee camps in the world, home to almost half a million people from ten different East African Countries.  This was accompanied by a “Living Nowhere” literary collection curated by Ms. Mulholland in the Curve.


Identity Alliance Week

Our student-led Identity Alliance week provided an opportunity to explore identity in and beyond the BIS HCMC community. A thought-provoking assembly drew from a comprehensive survey conducted among the student body. The assembly delved into various aspects of identity that students resonate with, cause insecurities, and those they wish to learn more about. The underpinning message was on acceptance of difference and agreeing on the importance of having a growth mindset, being kind, tolerant and respectful.


Diversity Doors

Both Black History Month and Women’s History Month as well as EDIB in general were reflected in the Diversity Doors competition. Some amazing door displays were created by 30 different tutor groups and some of the designs are featured here in the photos. All students were given time in their Wellbeing lessons to work on creating a door that reflected their form’s understanding of diversity and its place in our school. Thank you to all students who took part in these activities. It was wonderful to see the students come together as a class to share what BIS-Aware means to them. The winners will be revealed in the final assembly of Term 2. The doors were judged by both teachers and students with the criteria of Creativity, Theme, Teamwork and Information. 


BIS Aware across the curriculum

There was a special BIS-Aware edition of the Acoustic Lounge where students were invited to perform based on the themes of Black History Month and Women’s History month. Thank you to the Music department for organising, to all the performers and to the students who came to support them. 



In Vietnamese, Ms. Mai’s Year 13 students have been studying short stories by Guy de Mapassant. In one of the stories, the issue of discrimination and love is explored. Boitelle and his love are forbidden from meeting due to familial scorn and societal prejudice. Some students chose this story as the focus for their oral test.

In Spanish, Mr. Wise’s class spoke about why diversity is important, what we do in BIS to promote EDIB, but also how we could improve it. They looked at Frida Kahlo as a famous figure in the Spanish speaking world. They then investigated a famous Spanish speaking person who, for them, represents ´diversity´. They researched who they are, their story, and why they are important. This was presented via a poster and a presentation.

Also in Spanish, Ms. Balbuena’s class discussed African heritage in Latin America. She shared that “In addition to talking about salsa, I wanted to delve into my country and the beautiful contribution of Afro-Peruvian culture. We celebrated Victoria Santa Cruz, an artist, poet, singer, and activist for the rights of the Afro-Peruvian community” Students analysed the sung poem ‘Me gritaron negra’ by Victoria Santa Cruz.

In History, students have been studying empire, independence and decolonisation. Students have looked at different perspectives related to the British Empire in India and finished the unit with the long-term impact of the empire through partition and migration. Students are creating visual road maps of migration in the post-war period, reasons for moving to the UK and the challenges that people faced on arrival. We also celebrated the subsequent change in British culture e.g. food, sport, music, and leaders thanks to the new groups who made the UK their home. We also explored the Windrush scandal and how the legacy of the empire still shapes people’s experiences today. 

And that wraps up our inaugural BIS Aware season! We touched upon those intersectionalities and common grounds, we opened conversations and explored through sharing histories, experiences and knowledge. Through our introductions to hidden stories of those marginalised or ‘othered’ we have broadened our lens and understanding of who 'They Are’ , who ‘I Am’ and who ‘We Are'. 

“The moment we stop listening to diverse opinions is also when we stop learning. Because the truth is we don’t learn much from sameness and monotony. We learn from differences.” - Elif Shafak, How to stay Sane in an Age of Division