Stretch And Challenge Day

September 04, 2019 at 11:48 AM

With thanks to student reporter, Kate Thibaud

A group of ten Year 9 students joined students from other Auckland schools to attend the ‘Junior Stretch and Challenge Day’ at St Cuthbert’s College recently. The day was an experience that truly changed our perspective on life. It was spent having intellectual conversations, debates and lectures about topics that made us think ‘outside the box.’ Many of the topics discussed didn’t have one given answer, instead we had to consider multiple variables; and students seemed to have widely differing opinions on everything!

One of the topics addressed was, ‘Is the meaning of life to be happy?’ In groups we discussed this question using the community of inquiry approach. It was especially interesting to hear everyone’s different perspectives. Some reversed the question, suggesting if you are unhappy, is your life, therefore, meaningless? How do you actually define happiness - does it depend on the person? Everyone had a chance to voice their opinion, firing ideas back and forth at one another. Until, after looking at the theories of numerous philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, some groups concluded that the only rational choice was self-survival while others opposed this theory, strongly arguing that happiness is the true meaning of life.

Engineering your child at conception for greater intelligence and athletic ability was another controversial topic of discussion. The critical distinctions between somatic cell engineering and germ line engineering were made. Somatic cell engineering involves engineering the patient in a way which would not go on to affect its descendants, and germ line engineering being the process of editing a genome so that it is heritable. The ability of certain DNA to be turned on and off was also contemplated, using the example of rat mothers. Rats that licked their babies a lot activated the licking gene in their offspring. However, rats that did not lick their babies much did not activate this gene. The rats that were not licked grew up to not lick their babies, whereas the rats that were licked, grew up to lick their babies. This trait was then passed down the generations. However, when new-born rats were taken from non-licking mothers and placed with a licking mother, their licking gene was activated and they grew up to lick their babies, and vice versa. The implications of this study are of particular interest: If we could turn on or off specific parts of our genes and our children inherited this, maybe it could be used as a cure for certain diseases?

The day finished with a debate that  ‘This House believes that animals that cause significant damage should be culled.’ As the various points were made, numerous students had the chance to participate, each of them bringing new ideas to the table. In the end the cohort voted in favour of the affirming side.

‘Junior Stretch and Challenge Day’ was a really challenging day that covered fascinating topics we would not ordinarily have been exposed to via critical thinking processes that will be invaluable to us in the  future. The day was also a good chance to network with many interesting students from other schools.

A big thank you to Mrs Drum and Mrs Alcock for making this opportunity happen.

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