Australian schoolchildren. Photo: Nicole Clements/Caritas Australia

Subsidiarity and Participation

Middle Primary

How do we contribute to a more just and fair world?

Teacher introduction

By the end of this unit, students will have explored the decision making systems in their school communities and begun to reflect on the role of conscience; analysed how decision making makes life easier for the poor using the example of Caritas Australia’s work in the favelas of São Paulo, Brazil; and explored their own role in the community.

Teachers, before you start:

  1. Watch the CST ‘Subsidiarity and Participation’ film and familiarise yourself with the with the Lower Primary cartoon (found within the Learning Experience below).
  2. Download the various resources referenced (worksheets, slides, etc.) and have them ready to go on your computer/interactive whiteboard.
  3. Locate any Scriptures and copies of Church texts (all hyperlinked within the Learning Experience below).
  4. Familiarise and decide on the use of online or app technologies.

Learn - Focus

Students explore the decision making systems in their school communities.

Read and display page 1, part 1 of the Subsidiarity and Participation comic. See teacher cartoon.

Use the cartoon questions for discussion.

Generate and display a list of decision makers in the home and at school.

Further discuss: Who else has any say in the decisions? Are students included? Does anyone ask them what they need or their opinions? Why might they be asked/not asked? Is it good to be included? Why?

Learn - Explore

Students explore the decision making process and begin to reflect on the role of conscience.

 Read and display page 1, part 2 of the Subsidiarity and Participation comic. See teacher cartoon.

Discuss: Do students agree with this process? Is it important to have a say? Why? Has anyone been involved in a process like this before? For example, school representative councils. Students share experiences with the class.

Create visual representation of the decision making structures in a school, for example including those government education figures, regional, school principal, assistant, co-ordinators, etc. An online mind map tool such as Bubbl.us could be used.

Highlight those in the structure who also get a say in the decisions made.

Discuss: Do leaders always make good decisions? Why or why not? Who helps them make good decisions?

Learn - Demonstrate

Students analyse decision making makes life easier for the poor using the example of Caritas Australia’s work in the favelas of São Paulo Brazil.

Explain that you are going to look at an example of how the young people in the favelas (slums) of Sao Paulo Brazil participate as good leaders.

Read and display page 2, part 3 of the Subsidiarity and Participation comic. See teacher cartoon.

Students complete a think-pair-share routine.

Discuss: Is it fair that people don’t have clean water or electricity? What are the impacts of not having clean water and electricity?
Why or why not?

What can be done? Should people who do have clean water and electricity do something?

Read and display page 2, part 4 of the Subsidiarity and Participation comic. See teacher cartoon.

Complete a Plus-Minus-Interesting chart about the process of change. What was a positive (Plus) aspect? What is a negative (minus) aspect? What is an interesting aspect?

If the government has the power to make things fairer for everyone, why isn’t everything always fair?

Explain that we have both rights and responsibilities. Rights are things that make life truly human- truly great. Generate a list of these rights based on the example from Brazil. Include examples such as shelter, work, education, clothing, food, healthcare. The right to feel safe.

Discuss: What is the government’s job?

Teacher’s Note: Subsidiarity is concerned with the idea that that a problem should be dealt with by those closest to it. Government has a duty to look after and care for those communities, in local level relationships. This includes the provision of basic rights. All people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

What questions remain? Record student questions.


Students explore their role in the community.

Discuss: What is our job when we see that things are not fair? Is it just up to the government or leaders to fix things?

Explain/Emphasise that since we have rights, we also have responsibilities. And given we are all equal and part of God’s family, that means we are responsible for each other. That includes people near us and far away. You might ask if students can make connections to any other Catholic Social Teaching principles explored.

Teacher’s Note:The principle of participation is concerned with people activating their citizenship and contributing to their society. This involves securing individual rights, but also participating in the processes that ensure others also receive their rights.

What does the bible teach us?

Read and reflect on the scripture verse James 2:15-17.

Discuss: What did the young people in Brazil do when faced with a problem in their community?

Can students think of any problems or issues in their classroom, school or local community?

 Create a list of actions students can take in a ‘What can I do?’ chart?

For example, speak to a teacher, write a letter, brainstorm with a student to come up with a solution, present an idea, book a meeting with the principal etc.

Students choose one problem or issue and one action, and present their responses in the form of a comic strip, using the ‘Comic Creator’.


Display the following adapted Pope Francis quote:

 “In your school you take part in various activities … be open to others, especially to the poorest and neediest, to work to improve the world in which we live. Be men and women with others and for others, real champions in the service of others…..Dear children, dear youths, love Jesus Christ ever more!”

Pope Francis Homily address to students of Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania. 6/7/13

Students read and reflect silently on these words.

Students pray individually, for help to contribute genuinely to their world.