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IDEALS in Action: Reflections from Eleuthera

October 8, 2013

Round Square is an International network of 97 schools that share the core values of Kurt Hahn’s educational philosophy: Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership, and Service. With two other Round Square schools, the Deerfield delegation traveled to Eleuthera in the Bahamas to try to live out some of those values in a customized academic program.  Below are some reflections on each one of the 6 IDEALS:

 

Internationalism by Nahla

Working at the Deep Creek Middle School (DCMS) helped me to appreciate the web of causes and effects interconnecting people around the globe. The Roundsquare delegates and the Middle School students discussed the impacts of plastics on marine ecology across the world. We conducted a survey on the types of debris littering Bahamian beaches, while collecting the garbage. By discovering Eleuthera through these teenagers (as well as during our Down Island Trip), we were able consider the similarities and differences between our respective cultures and theirs. With the theme of plastics in mind, our conversations led us to the conclusion that plastic, worldwide, is pervasive in everyday human life. Unfortunately, the Bahamas, a cluster of islands thrust in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, suffers the ramifications of global consumerism; garbage from distant countries washes up on its shores and destroys its reefs. At DCMS, teachers, from around the world (i.e. Canada, the States etc.), expose students to the way in which debris destroys natural ecosystems in order to educate them on the importance of environmental protection. And we, international students from Victoria (Canada), Greenwich (CT), Sun Valley (ID), San Francisco (CA), Beijing (China), Dubai (UAE), Roanoke Rapids (NC), ~Deerfield (MA), and Vancouver (Canada), contributed to and learned from this process of education. 

 

Democracy by Henry

On Thursday night at the Island School, we attended a presentation on the role research plays in the formulation of policy. Before starting, we mixed up the seating arrangements, met more Island School students, and furthered our friendships with the Round Square students from Canada. In Eleuthera, there are severe concerns about the environment and fish populations. However, the environmental problems and solutions are often made out to be so simple. The Bahamian government is often portrayed as stubborn and naïve by environmental advocates. But, when we really investigated the issue: we realized that the issue is incredibly complex and the government can’t be held completely accountable.

Further regulation of the Bahamas’ fishing industry would have widespread negative affects on the economy. A huge number of Bahamians depend on fishing to provide housing and food for their families. They don’t work on a large scale or have the financial stability that comes with traditional employment. Stricter fishing regulations (which could either shorten the season or ban catching fish over a certain size) would leave the fishermen in poverty for months on end.

We also examined the situation from the eye’s of tourists, scientists, and government officials. In the end, we formed teams and debated the problem. This was democracy at its finest. We came to understand the complexity of the situation and frustration across the Bahamas. We realized that the government is doing the best it can to represent an enormous range of needs and interests. When we placed ourselves in the shoes of Bahamian representatives, we were lost and no longer saw a clearly correct answer.

It is frustrating that there isn’t one easy and agreeable solution. But, ultimately, the fact that the needs of hotel owners, fishermen, tourists, and scientists are all being weighed (unfortunately not entirely equally) is significant. I 100% believe that a long and slow moving debate (allowing different sides to be fully explained) is more just than a quick change in policy (which only represents the needs of a small portion of the community).

While the Bahamian government is certainly far from perfect (fishermen are underrepresented and the prospect of short term profits often distorts decisions), I think that democracy is the only way a long term solution which will benefit the most number of people can be reached. 

 

Environment by Alex

The warm water rushing on my back lasted only for a second, just long enough to quickly wet my hair and body before I had to switch it off. Scrubbing my hair and body for about a minute, the small stall emptied its moist water vapor as it mixed with the dryer air from the outside. I shivered. I turn the water back on to wash out the shampoo and soap, and the stall warms once more, but only for a split second before I have to turn the water off again. This is called a Navy Shower. It may seem tedious and a little annoying, but it is an endeavor that every student, intern and teacher experiences every day. One might ask, why go through all of this when you could just take a relaxing, 15 minute, normal shower? The answer is simple. The Island School does everything in its power to conserve and provide a sustainable environment for learning. By taking a Navy Shower versus a normal shower, people at the Island School save enormous amounts of water.  In my opinion, the most important thing that the Island School taught me was that even the smallest adjustments to everyday life, such as how you take your showers, can accumulatively make a big impact on your environment.

 

Adventure by Robin

The living conditions in the Bahamas were harsh. Instead of fancy hotels, we stayed in a dorm of 8 persons. We also had to take shorter and simpler showers because of the shortage in fresh water. I also first tried snorkeling in seawater; it was really hard but exciting and interesting. To explore the Bahamian culture, we went to a local middle school to interact with the kids. All of the activities are meaningful and fascinating for me who never had such experience before.

 

Leadership by Tarek

Two days ago, the Island school took us, the Deerfield Round Square delegation, and our new Canadian friends to the Deep Creek Middle School, on the island of Eluthera. In all honesty, when Mr. Miller informed me that we would be spending an hour reading to children I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic. Even though I do have smaller siblings, I have never categorized myself as a kid person but little did I know how passionate and eager these kids would be to learn. When we arrived at DCMS, the school day was over and the school was leading an afternoon homework help session for children in the surrounding area. Walking in the door, I was struck by many smiling faces all excited and listening to the high school girls who were reading them a children’s book. As the high school girls reading came to a close we were all paired up with kids. My two buddies were Albert and George, who both approached me with two animal books in each of their hands.  They took me to the school’s garden to read to them and I assumed that the boys would want me to read the entire story to them but the two instead read it all to me and refused my help. The two were very adamant on reading their own books and only turned to me for assistance when it was needed. George was a good reader for his age but Albert struggled pronouncing words but through every sentence he sounded out the words making sure to utilize his skills rather than depend on me for everything. These boys used me as their guide but not their crutch, which I know, must have been difficult for them because in many cases it’s hard for even high school students in the U.S. to differentiate between the two. 

Service by Maddie

On Friday, the group had a wonderful day of service. After waking up early and eating breakfast, we drove to the Deep Creek Middle School–the same school that we had visited the day before– where we were each matched with a student. After getting to know our “buddy” a little better by doing a scavenger hunt and being shown the small campus that emphasized on environmentalism, we learned a little more about the Bahamian culture by asking them about the foods they eat at home. My buddy, Shaimaine, immediately let me know that her favorite food was conch. Conch is a highly endangered shell fish that is really important for many households that rely on fishing. This is just one example in which the culture clashes with resource availability. After the scavenger hunt was a quick snack time, and then we spent time talking with the kids about plastic and how it decomposes–or doesn’t decompose– and how it ends up on the beaches of their beautiful country. We really emphasized ways in which we could ALL make a change in our day to day lives. I then ate lunch with Shaimaine and loved seeing how much she came out of her shell as the day progressed. After lunch we went and did our afternoon beach clean up! Part of this beach cleanup was also helping a Bahamian researcher from Nassau, Chrystal, take data for a study she is doing. At the end of our clean up she thanked us for helping her with her researcher! Taking all the data and collecting the garbage from the each was challenging in the heat, but after a day with the kids and knowing we had helped in an important study, everyone left feeling really fulfilled and excited for the bonfire were having later that!