Protecting the environment is a hot-button issue for today's youth, and the students at AIS are committed to playing their part. Primary and Secondary students recently had the opportunity to speak with one of history's great adventurers and environmental supporters, Robert Swan, OBE, who has dedicated himself to protecting Antarctica and our planet at large.
With his first-hand experience of the effects of environmental damage on the polar ice caps, Robert educates and encourages young people to adopt effective, proactive measures against climate change and create sustainable solutions for the future. Accordingly, he was the perfect choice to share his knowledge and expertise with our students.
"Within the framework of their International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme, our Years 4, 5 and 6 cohorts have been learning about exploration, migration and sustainable development goals," explains PYP Coordinator and Year 4 teacher Leanne Raeside. "So we asked Robert to talk to these students about his exploration journeys.
"The children enjoy making meaningful connections to our environment and were incredibly excited to meet Robert via Zoom and hear his story."
“My favourite part of Mr Swan’s talk was when he told us about the diverse nationalities of the people he met,” says Year 5 student Rex Shipkov. “I was interested to learn that Antarctica is smaller than the USA and that walking the South and North Poles was his dream since he was a kid. He stuck with it despite challenges, and he ended up achieving an incredible feat.”
“I enjoyed hearing that Mr Swan wants to help to save Antarctica,” chimes in Matilda Heidenreich (Year 4).
“What I took away from Mr Swan’s talk was that we can take action and that almost anything is possible,” enthuses Will Seabrook (Year 6). “It is crucial for young people to understand and positively impact environmental issues because some countries can disappear just like that! We are the next generation, and if we all work together, we can fix the effects of climate change.”
Year 12 and 13 IB Diploma classes studying Environmental Systems and Societies were then invited to a second presentation with the famed activist and adventurer. They were accompanied by student leaders from the school's Global Issues Network (GIN) – an extracurricular club committed to raising awareness about international concerns and implementing community-based projects to prompt change.
As co-leaders of Project Planet – an eco-focused sub-group that promotes environmental protection within the GIN initiative – students Angus Malcolm and Nu Tiep Quyen (Queeny) Bui found Robert’s lecture to be a powerful rallying cry.
“Through his incredible and captivating storytelling ability, Mr Swan detailed his journey to both the North and South Poles, but more so his peaks and struggles, his motivation, and how it changed the way he sees the finiteness of our planet,” the pair confirm.
“It was inspirational to see someone dedicate their entire life to a dream, working years as a cab driver to afford a boat to endure the expedition, demonstrating unparalleled devotion and resilience. As Mr Swan stated, ‘the Earth is our home, and it is our responsibility to take care of it as a way of showing our gratitude for its hospitality.’ So, it is in the interest of all young people to not only show compassion for the environment but also take action to protect what we call home.”
In addition to reinforcing his message on ecological conservation, Robert shared his extensive leadership knowledge and experiences, emphasising the importance of strategic decision-making and teamwork.
"The opportunity for students to connect with such well-respected, high calibre speakers is a great way to enhance and support classroom learning and introduce new perspectives and ideas," says Secondary Humanities and Science teacher Andrew Masterton. "Robert's philosophies also align well with the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) we are currently integrating into our curriculum.
"Our aim is to create and build global awareness among students by embedding sustainable objectives into the syllabus, activities and events we host. And like Robert, we want to motivate and support our students to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to make a positive difference in the world."
Robert Swan, OBE, is one of the world's preeminent polar explorers and environmental leaders. His contribution to education and the environment has been recognised internationally, as evidenced by his appointment as United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Youth and Special Envoy to the Director General of UNESCO.