What is Round Square?
Keystone hosted its first Round Square Regional Conference from March 30th to April 4th, inviting student delegations from international schools in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, China, and South Korea. Round Square is a global confederation of innovative schools founded in 1966 in 50 countries on six continents “that share a passion for experiential learning and character education.” The Round Square organization builds its mission around six IDEALS of learning: Internationalism, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure Leadership and Service. This year’s theme for the regional conference, “Daring to be a Force of Nature”, reinforced several of Keystone’s shared values and experiential learning objectives and added a distinct Chinese cultural flare to the regional conference.
Opening the conference, Nancy Li, a Keystone grade 12 student and one of the original founding members of the Keystone Round Square Committee, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of students, faculty, and staff from Round Square’s 14 member schools in attendance at the conference. In the Performing Arts Center, Li took center stage, stating “It is our great honor to hold a Round Square Regional Conference at Keystone Academy as well as in China. Keystone Academy is a new school, founded in 2014, and this is our third year of being a Round Square school.”
“As a student here for four years, I have been profoundly influenced by Keystone Academy’s culture and values. In this school, we seek bilingual immersion in Chinese and English; building character and community throughout our residential setting; and promoting Chinese culture and identity in a world context. The more I think about them, the more I realize how closely connected they are with the Round Square’s six “Ideals”. Throughout this conference, delegates, you will be living in our residential building with roommates that might come from another school; you will be experiencing Chinese culture, food, and history; more importantly, you are also going to learn and practice solving problems that not lead China to fatal environmental issues, but also bring disasters to the whole globe.”
Nancy’s warm address to the audience in the Performing Arts Center set the tone for the rest of the conference. Keystone students, and student delegations from various member schools, practiced effective learning in experiential workshops, participated in innovation labs and barazza sessions, explored important historical and cultural artifacts throughout Beijing, and listened to prominent guest speakers on important issues such as a wildlife preservation, and renewable energy and sustainability practices.
Dare to Be a Force of Nature!
Keystone’s preparation for the Round Square Regional Conference began 16 months ago. The Keystone Academy Round Square Executive Committee is a team comprising enthusiastic students and supporting teachers who strive to foster awareness for areas of critical need of our planet. Juli James, Dean of Residential Life and Global and Service Initiatives, served as the Co-Chairperson for the committee this year. “The generation now, this group, will be the ones to change the world” remarked Juli.
During the course of 16 months, as part of organizing the conference, students and faculty advisors on the Keystone Round Square Executive Committee were tasked with creating the slogan for this year’s theme. When asked how she understood the meaning of the slogan, “Daring to be a Force of Nature!”, student leader Alise He(insert grade level) stated, “Dare to be a force of nature is the absolute core of this Round Square conference, and it is also the basis for all the speakers we invite and organize all the activities for. This sentence does not put the human being in a position higher than nature, saying how we are the masters of natural destiny, because we are not; it does not raise nature too much and emphasizes how sacred she should be because she is not. It is just a simple invitation to join nature, look forward to the future of the earth, and invite you to be a force of nature.”
Critical to the success of this year’s conference is Keystone’s “student led” approach in organizing the event. “My 25 or so student leaders spent 16 months putting this conference together. It was super hard work but their leadership was exceptional. I witnessed with my own eyes how our students led in such a high capacity. Student leaders led group projects, workshops, and even accompanied us during adventure day in downtown Beijing” stated James. “I’ve been to Round Square conferences before and I’m not being partial but our students were true leaders. And that comes from 16 months of organization, and details, and planning.”
In addition to Keystone student leaders organizing and liaising with participating schools during the conference, Keystone students also designed the logo for the conference and the conference apparel. Grade 12 student Evelyn Huang designed the conference logo. “I chose two parts of elements in Chinese culture for my design in order to accord with the Chinese Thread of Keystone. One is the Chinese ink painting of landscape inside the central circle; another one is the frame of the logo, which is an imprint of an ancient Chinese stamp. Both elements have deeper meanings related to our conference theme: Dare to be a Force of Nature,” stated Huang.
Another student leader, Grade 10 student Ricky Li, designed the Round Square apparel for the conference. T-Shirts, which were sold at Keystone’s charity shop to raise funds for wildlife protective services, were uniquely designed by Li who infused ancient Chinese design principles in the design. “When you first look at this design, three letters stand out from it: T,A, O. Tao, or Taoism proposed by Lao Tzu in ancient China, is one of the significant Chinese religious philosophies,” Li began.
“Taoism teaches the principle of people living in harmony with nature in order to gain an unrestrained and enjoyable life. Taoism echoes the theme of this environment-focused conference, since this conference and environmentalism aims to achieve is to discuss the way or solution of human coexistence with nature,” Li remarked.
Student leaders at Keystone helped lead cultural excursions throughout Beijing as part of the cultural immersion component of the conference. Students from Keystone and other international schools were divided into different barazza groups, all named after one Chinese dynasty. Students accompanied guests to important historical and cultural landmarks throughout Beijing such as the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Beijing National Stadium, 798 Arts District, and Prince Kung Mansion. Throughout the event student leaders worked alongside faculty and staff in ensuring that student presentations were? well throughout and informative, and provided various levels of support to their international minded peers. Students and guests welcomed Keystone’s signature Chinese Thread component into this year’s conference. Guests enjoyed cultural performances by Keystone student dancers and musician performers and embraced learning about the various ways China influences the world, and how the world influences China.
Impact on Keystone and the World
“One of the main differences between this conference and others that I have been to is that our students were not passive receivers of knowledge. We had different strands incorporated into the conference such as wild life day, sustainability day, and adventure day, etc. One of our students, Mario, challenged the different groups of students to come up with a solution to a worldwide global problem. Students did not just go to lectures. They listened to guest speakers, participated in innovation labs, and were really hands on and they came up with really creative, innovative solutions. Our conference culminated on Wednesday with presentations and their solutions were so amazing!” said Juli James.
Each day of the Round Square Regional Conference centered around a specific activity that students were obligated to attend. Prominent guest speakers such as Dr. Caitlin O’Connell, a world renown expert of elephants and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head, and Neck Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine and Sharon Pincott, Elephant Specialist, gave exciting lectures on their research and preservation efforts of the African elephant and strategies for young people to get involved in helping to preserve the life line of the gentle giants.
Keystone’s slogan, “Dare to be a Force of Nature!”, was the central focus for every event during the conference. The Round Square’s six IDEALS challenged students to brainstorm creative and innovative ways to tackle global issues through cross cultural collaboration as global citizens, developing and using leadership skills through design challenges, and called to action ways that students can be individually and collectively responsible for the environment. One issue in particular, which Dr. O’Connell and Sharon Pincott spoke on extensively is rhino and elephant poaching in sub Saharan Africa. Keystone students and students from the participating schools were equally astonished to learn about the plight of these critically endangered species, which led a call to action for all schools to collaborate together in order to find creative solutions to this epidemic on the continent.
“One of the schools in Round Square that attended this conference, a school based in Australia, is planning to raise money and they want all the schools that were at the conference to connect on this cause. They are raising money to purchase anti-poaching guards for workers who are protecting these endangered animals. This is such an innovative outcome of the Round Square because we talk about collaborative projects but never really follow through on them,” stated Juli James.
“The collaboration between schools, among schools, and further project development made us realize that this generation, this is the group that will change the world.”