Apr 28 2022
Earth Day Every Day!
Happy Earth Day! Last Friday, BCISers celebrated an important internationally recognized day at our school: Earth Day. Why is Earth Day so important at BCIS, and how does BCIS implement sustainable practices to help the world? We went from the Early Childhood Center (ECC) to the Elementary School (ES) and Secondary School (SS) to find out how our amazing students and teachers are learning and teaching sustainability, both in and out of the classroom. What we found was extremely reassuring; sustainability isn't reserved for a once-a-year Earth Day celebration, it is a foundational element of the school itself, and is demonstrated in the work of all our talented students.
Early years learners at the ECC undertake hands-on sustainability projects as soon as they join us. Using a play-based pedagogy, students choose what aspects of sustainability they want to explore through play. With the warm spring weather heralding a season of growth, our students picked up shovels and tools and headed for the rooftop garden to do some planting. Students explored with their teachers and school gardeners, learning how to set up a garden and to begin the planting process. Learners got to choose their favorite fruits and vegetables and created a ideal spot for them to grow. This sort of firsthand outdoor exploration inspires students to find joy in caring for our planet and teaches them patience and responsibility as they observe and tend to their growing plants.
Such an immersive outdoor experience is quite unique for a school nestled in the heart of Beijing's bustling central business district. Thankfully, our LEED Certified ECC campus offers students many opportunities for interacting with the natural world and ensures that our school minimizes its energy impact while maximizing learner experiences. Sustainability was built into the very walls of our campus and serves as the bedrock for our mission statement. Lessons at all levels keep the UN's Sustainable Development Goals in mind, and these goals are constantly connected to interdisciplinary themes in a myriad of ways. This knowledge is combined with hands-on learning experiences that empower students to act for the sustainable development of the world.
The ECC is not the only building where sustainability is a core feature. Our Main Campus also makes the most of its space with rooftop gardens on the ES and SS. These gardens provide space and opportunity for our students to create their own natural learning experiences and undertake up-close studies of ecology inside and outside of the curriculum. The ES EcoWarriors can often be found in the garden, composting and tending to plants. The EcoWarriors bring representatives from each class in the ES together to lead sustainability projects, such as planting and recycling, around the school. Our ES classes can also often be found exploring the beautiful outdoor learning environment around the school, investigating the many species of flora and fauna we have around our campus, and planning actions to conserve the nature in and around our community.
Much like the ES garden, the SS garden is widely used by students both in and out of class time. Whether it's the science classes linking real plants to their units on cells and biology, or the Circular Garden Club members setting up their hydroponics systems, the garden provides a place for students to enjoy nature while thinking sustainably. As our Circular Garden Club founding teachers, Dina and Katie, explain, the club was first formed to ensure students could get a comprehensive education about and develop a relationship with nature in an urban environment, and to provide students with a place to take action based on the sustainability they were learning about in class. The goals of the club are to challenge students to create their own circular projects that make our school more sustainable, and to give students the tools and skills to work directly with plants in the garden.
One member of the Circular Gardening Club, Grade 9 student Anna, explains the club's name, stating, "The club aims to explore circularity within nature and also try to recreate it within our own projects. Circularity, as in reusing resources, and trying to find systems that are self-sustaining, and trying to replicate that." One example of such a circular project is fellow Grade 9 Circular Garden Club member, Jia Rong's, hydroponic planting project, made from recycled pipe to grow lettuce and other leafy plants. "The water flows through the pipes and is then recycled here [in a large bottle at the base of the system]," explains Jia Rong, demonstrating the circularity of his hydroponic project that has successfully grown tasty lettuce in only 35 days. Jia Rong and Anna both enjoy creating and maintaining such circular projects, often coming to the garden between classes to spend some relaxing time in nature.
Enrichment Activities (EAs) such as the Circular Garden Club and the EcoWarriors allow for extracurricular exploration of nature, while the curriculum encourages in-depth nature-based projects that focus on our BCIS mission of sustainability. Our Grade 9 Individuals & Societies students completed one such project in time for Earth Day, as they set up displays for their Earth Day Exhibition in the SS. Their projects were focused on taking action to "Invest in Our Planet," and included everything from recycled artwork made from plastic picked up in local communities to a water filtration device that purified the water from the local Tuanjie Lake (团结湖) and made it drinkable. Students demonstrated how they took sustainable actions, including organizing trash cleanups in local parks and designing solar powered charging stations. The exhibition was the perfect opportunity for our whole school community to celebrate Earth Day, and it highlights the fact that our students are constantly working to create a more sustainable school, community, and world with their inspiring actions.