Blog: Students today, citizens and leaders tomorrow

As parents, teachers and adults it is important that we lead by example.

(Source: Courtesy by British International School Bratislava)

Every day we are exposed to reams of information on the challenges faced by the planet, about climate change and about the terrible prognosis for the world. We hear on a daily basis of all that is wrong in the world and the increase in doom-scrolling, the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of dystopian news, and the phenomenon where a reader is more likely to click on a negative headline, means that we are constantly blasted with messages that can make it seem like the world is hopeless but this is simply not true.

At The British International School Bratislava we believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that our students learn that they have a part to play in shaping the world into what they want it to be in the future. There is much that we can do to be the change we want to see and we constantly aim to instil these ideas and values in our students.

It can be very stressful to have a constant barrage of problems and in these difficult times many people have faced anxiety about the direction the world is taking. However, at our school we firmly believe in guiding our students to make practical changes to solve the issues that they feel passionate about, to not simply worry but to act.

Our Eco-committee run many projects and are continually striving to shape our school community into a place where considering the needs of the planet is at the centre of everything we do. Fifteen years ago, our focus was on recycling but now we know that this isn’t enough, so we have increased our efforts and have been working to reduce waste and are striving to be a zero-waste community.

The Eco-committee has pushed for the school to eliminate all single-use plastic and all school events are single-use plastic free. We ask everyone to think about the snacks and home-lunches that they bring and we ask them all to use reusable water bottles. We know that this is a challenge but it is important and it is a message that we will be striving to enforce until it is embedded in the behaviours of our whole school community. As a society we need to make an active effort to use as little plastic as possible and this should be at the heart of our day to day lives.

Every month at The British International School Bratislava we organise an Eco-challenge, where we highlight an issue and we organise quizzes and assemblies where we directly teach the issues and ways to deal with them.

In May we are asking our students to think about sustainable fashion. We are going to ask them to think about the lifespan of the clothes that they buy. Our Global Perspectives teachers will be teaching about sustainable purchasing and we will be asking our staff and students to think about this issue on a personal level – how many of us buy something new to cheer ourselves up or for a special occasion and then wear it only once or twice? Clothes are now cheaper than they have ever been and it is so tempting to engage with this ‘fast fashion’ but we know that it has been catastrophic for the planet and that we all need to be buying better quality items, less often that we wear more. We are also planning to run a clothes-drive but we want our students to think very carefully about giving the items to those who need them and only if they are useful to them. When we donate our winter clothes to a charity at the end of winter it might feel like we are doing a good thing but if they then have to store it or dispose of it then we are actually causing more problems than we are helping.

We want our students to be socially aware and to think about the needs of others and as part of this, we have at the heart of our school life the UNICEF Global Goals project. Every year we link to a different Global Goal and we try to educate around that goal but also to organise practical activities designed to work towards making that goal happen so our clothes drive will be linked to Global Goal 12 Responsible Production and Consumption.

As parents, teachers and adults it is important that we lead by example. At the British International School Bratislava we hear on a daily basis just how aware our students are of these issues and just how much they want to make change happen. Never underestimate the power, the energy and the enthusiasm of the young – this generation are amazing and if we work together we can make great things happen.

Pauline Mably is Head of Whole School Learning Support and English & History Teacher at The British International School Bratislava.

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