The Round Square ethos revolves around six ideological pillars: internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service and their member schools hold conferences all over the world each year.
My day began standing in a queue waiting for a slice of school breakfast – something I haven’t done in decades – which turned out to be far nicer than I imagined. My taste-buds were suitably stimulated by a selection of locally sourced items and Simon and I shared the table with an eclectic bunch of teachers and students from Transylvania and Paris.
Once the breadcrumbs had been flicked off my latest charity shop outfit, I made my way to the Music Room to deliver my presentation, How to Find Your Green Groove.
It was listened to by an enthusiastic bunch of people who wanted to sharpen their game and the students based their subsequent Baraza discussions on the topics raised in my talk.
Don’t worry, I confess I’d never heard of it either… Baraza is a Swahili word that means a deliberation meeting held by a collective group of people of wisdom.
It was indeed inspirational to move amongst so many educators who had a clear agenda to normalise sustainable behaviour. I regularly state (the obvious) that children are indeed the leaders of the future and I believe we need to invest in them now, more than ever before for several reasons.
If you spend 5 minutes observing the current band of grown-ups leading our country, you’ll be unsurprised to find out that youngsters are confused by their duplicitous messages and dispassionate priorities. Scientific evidence continues to point to an urgent global need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, yet fracking remains disturbingly high on the Con/Dem agenda.
International broadsheets are filled with countless stories reporting earthquakes caused by fracking and the ever-present fear of clean water systems being contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals from fracking fluid, is palpable.
The present Government continue to have scant regard for the consequences of squeezing every last drop of oil from the planet, whilst an ever increasing range of experts from all fields endorse the simple facts that our energy needs could be met by several flavours of safe sustainable renewables.
What are any of us to think about the need for investment in clean, green options, while the suits at the top of the food chain rub their hands together and continue to count the barrels?
With advances in green technologies shifting at a more rapid pace than our global weather patterns, untainted young minds need to feel confident enough to challenge those in authority about the problems we’re all facing with open minds, open mouths and self-belief!
By vocalising ‘off the wall’ ideas and sharing practical localised solutions, new communities will be born filled with inspirational souls not leaders and their successes will be measured by different currencies of wealth; happiness, seasonality, resilience.
The Headmaster Paul Mitchell BSc summed up Cobham Hall School’s splendid weekend rather succinctly in his recent blog post:-
More than 60 children from 6 different countries gathered to learn about and discuss environmental topics and participate in environmental activities, including building a greenhouse out of used plastic soft drink bottles in the school grounds.
Conference delegates heard from two keynote speakers during the weekend – Tracey West, eco-author and founder of “InterNational Downshifting Week”, an initiative aimed at getting people to slow down and go green, and Jill Butler, a conservation advisor for the Woodland Trust.
While Mrs West spoke about how to make small changes in daily life to help the environment and consider more carefully what is in the food we eat and where it comes from, Ms Butler taught delegates about the importance of ancient trees and how to measure them to work out their age.
Mrs West was thrilled with the prospect of a recycled greenhouse and stayed on after her talk to watch the first stage of construction. “I have to say the greenhouse project is a tremendous way for them to get their hands grubby and just do something really simple which has an enormous impact,” she said. “I think this is going to really set the scene in their head that such a simple thing to do, can have a huge positive effect.”
Meanwhile, Isabelle, one of Cobham Hall’s Year 9 students attending and leading the conference, said the greenhouse taught her to look at waste differently. “It showed us how to use old materials that we would normally just throw away and not bother thinking about twice,” she said.
For me, the way forward is clear; encourage and nurture young minds to speak out and be bold and here’s hoping for more innovative ideas for cultivation springing up. We’ll be seeing people growing food on the flat roofs of supermarkets in busy cities next!
…actually…that’s so last year.
PS: You can view Cobham Hall School’s funky video of their eco-weekend here.