Hong Kong (May 26, 2016) – Concerns about pollution and the environment in Hong Kong topped the list of issues discussed at The Harbour School’s Global Issues Conference 2016, an annual public-speaking event for Fifth Graders to encourage awareness and advocacy of pertinent social, environmental and health issues in the world.
Organised and hosted by The Harbour School (THS), a primary and secondary international school in Hong Kong, the Global Issues Conference (GIC) had 18 Fifth Grade students aged nine to 11 discuss topics ranging from the imminent threat of the Zika virus in Asia to Hong Kong’s waste management problems.
“This is the perfect age for young students to develop a passionate interest in serious global issues while simultaneously honing their public speaking skills,” said Dr Jadis Blurton, Founder and Head of THS.
“Many adults in Hong Kong fail to grasp the seriousness of issues such as the ivory trade, nuclear power safety or climate change. We have children as young as nine years old researching them, presenting their dangers in graphic detail, taking action and recommending workable solutions. It is the type of learning that epitomises the unique advanced teaching approach of THS. And at every GIC, I learn from the kids.”
Keynote speakers at the event included philanthropist Stephen Peel, TED senior fellow and inventor Cesar Harada, Bloomberg journalist Frederik Balfour and design industry expert Jo Black, all highlighting the importance of having a platform such as GIC to encourage young children to become aware of and address issues about the environment and the communities in which they live in that most concern them.
Bloomberg journalist-at-large, Frederik Balfour said, "I'm just overwhelmed by the research that you've done. [You've] put together compelling arguments so you are thinking like adults with the inspiration of kids, and that's something you should never have to lose.”
Nurturing responsible global citizens
Grown out of an innovative idea by Dr Blurton to encourage awareness of global issues in young children while fostering communication and personal empowerment, GIC is the only event of its kind held in a primary school in Hong Kong.
Parents have noted that often it is the first time that their children are encouraged to develop and express an opinion about important topics.
Designed specifically as part of the school’s Fifth Grade curriculum, GIC is in its fifth year and provides a platform for students to choose their own topic, think critically and articulate their views, perform an action to help resolve or raise awareness about an issue, increase their global literacy and understanding of world cultures and international affairs.
Becoming subject matter experts
Topics at GIC 2016 included girls’ education, gender equality, lessons learned from the refugee crisis and the under-addressed social impact from addiction to gambling in Hong Kong and other parts of the world.
Class teacher John Northridge commented on the variety of topics chosen by the students, “It really is amazing what these children achieve. They truly become experts in some of the most relevant issues facing the world today.”
The school’s Fifth Grade teachers mentor each student throughout the entire process but the role is purely supervisory “as it is important for the students to learn and find their voice in the research process,” said Mr Northridge.
Many of the students interviewed subject matter experts in the course of preparing for GIC including student Stefan Chin, whose research looked into investments in large-scale science projects such as the Hadron Collider.
Nine-year-old Stefan met with a particle physicist who works at Cern, the largest research project in the world. He said, “I learnt a lot and actually discovered that it costs twice as much to build as I had thought and the operational costs go into the billions each year.”
Cause for action
As part of the GIC process, students included a call-to-action in which every Fifth Grader planned, organised and implemented activities to raise awareness and/or funds for his or her adopted cause at school and within their communities.
Fifth Grader Harrison O’Kane (pictured left on the Black Dolphin) whose work was entitled “Hong Kong: Asia's World City or Asia's Waste City?” was concerned about the incinerator being built on Shek Kwu Chau island, off Lantau island.
“My call-to-action is to make people aware. I have invited Dr Merrin Pearse from the Living Islands Movement to speak at school. We have also taken my school’s boat, the Black Dolphin, to go to the incinerator site to take water samples and keep a comparison of how it (the incinerator) will affect the water during construction and operation. I am also making a documentary on how we will all be affected by the incinerator and to promote recycling to save our environment,” said the 11-year-old student.
Enterprising Fifth Grader, George Davis introduced a solar charging service for mobile phones at school to highlight the need to look beyond fossil fuels for energy as his GIC call-to-action. The money raised from George’s clean energy charging service will go into buying solar panels for THS’s new school campus.
Summing up the importance of lessons learned from GIC, Aiyana Campbell, a THS sixth-grader who spoke at GIC 2015 said, “We are going to grow up and eventually be the ones inheriting this world. So the younger we start getting involved in global issues, the more we can do during our time on this planet.”
Speeches from GIC 2016 will be available on The Harbour School’s Youtube channel.
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For further information on GIC 2016, please contact:
John Northridge, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
The Global Issues Conference is an annual event organised and hosted by The Harbour School to give primary school students in the Fifth Grade a platform to address current global issues. The GIC is an experiential learning program and a forum to hone skills in interviewing, research, critical thinking, public speaking and writing.
The GIC is currently limited to students at The Harbour School but there are plans for future GICs to include and/or collaborate with Fifth Graders in other local and international schools.
About The Harbour School
The Harbour School is an international school that aims to unlock the best in every student by taking a highly individual approach to teaching. It has small class sizes with a 7:1 in-class student to teacher ratio. The school was founded in 2007 and is already gaining a worldwide reputation as a center of excellence. It follows a US curriculum with an emphasis on 21st century skills such as problem solving, teamwork, creativity and innovation.
About Dr Jadis Blurton, Head of School, The Harbour School
Dr Jadis Blurton is the Principal of The Harbour School and is well known as a leader in the fields of education and psychology. She has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Developmental Psychology and Master’s Degrees in both Special Education and Psychology. She is a Qualified Teacher in Hong Kong and a Certified Montessori Teacher (AMS). She is also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in two states in the United States and a Registered Psychologist in Hong Kong.
Dr Blurton has worked in the fields of Education, Child Psychology and Educational Psychology for over thirty years, practicing clinically as well as teaching at university level and working with schools. In Hong Kong, she is the founder and Clinical Director of the Blurton Family Development Center and the 2009 recipient of the American Chamber of Commerce Ira Dan Kaye Award for Community Service in Hong Kong.
She has served as consultant to numerous international schools and speaks both locally and internationally on topics related to gifted education, alternative or progressive education, child and family development, expatriate children (“Third Culture Kids”) and special educational needs.