As some of you will know the Year 1 students I have been working with this year recently held a fair showcasing their development plans for Yin Yang Island - an imaginary island in the South Pacific. Of course the very name Yin Yang serves to create and stimulate the dichotomy that we face in the world today between environmental conservation and technological development. Many years ago as a student studying Environment Technology at Imperial College, London, my consciousness of the importance of achieving this balance was woken by a seminal report by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a Norwegian politician, who chaired the World Commission on Environmental Development. The report was very influential at the time and in particular the briefing summed up the concept of sustainable development as being “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations”.
Our theme for this year has been the natural world and next year it is technology - taken as a pair we are ourselves trying to engage students with this challenge of sustainable development. This year we followed the compelling journey of Greta Thunberg, another Scandinavian, this time a 15-year old school girl turned into a global environmental campaigner. We had students protesting in central Prague as part of the FridaysforFuture campaign, urging all politicians to engage with the crisis in the natural world. We had speakers talking about environmental issues including one of our own students who has been living plastic free for a year. Next year we hope we explore the other side of the coin and look at how technology can help us.
It is perhaps fitting then that prize winners of the Yin Yang Island project were offered the opportunity to flip their perspectives of school for a day. From yin to yang or yang to yin depending on your view - to swap their Year 1 pupils’ perspective to that of seeing the school through the eyes of being a Head for a day. So Lily, Beatrice, Alice and Ekaterina took over my office and we made sure they were inundated with the usual stream of challenging emails, meetings and unexpected events that I face each day. They have written briefly about their experience here. While it was a great experience, I missed the opportunity to give the prize real balance or symmetry. So next year, instead of hiding away upstairs to try to plough through my “inbox”, I’ll switch places too, and be a Year 1 student for a day. Hopefully, I won’t have too much homework, be late for registration or forget my planner!