This past weekend, Keystone hosted its first ever student-led Global Issues Network (GIN) Conference on campus from October 19-20. The conference centered around global issues such as water scarcity due to political conflicts, war, pollution, drought, climate change, and disease. Guest speakers from around the world participated in the conference, and an array of workshops led by students and faculty took place around campus during the weekend. Students and staff shared knowledge on these issues through interactive workshops and project-based learning modules, and raised awareness of social problems that directly affect us all.
Keystone students are civic-minded, curious and passionate about the world around them, and soak up opportunities that enrich their academic and cultural lives. They often initiate projects that introduce their peers to social issues they care about, or to even share a passion or talent with the community. This academic year, secondary school students organized their first ever GIN Conference, inviting leaders from different industries on campus, and facilitating deep dialogues about some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Opening the conference last weekend were two guest speakers. Natalie Bennett, Strategy and Communications Director at Cross Boundaries, a socially conscious Beijing based architecture and design studio, and Salva Dut, international humanitarian and philanthropist from South Sudan. Ms. Bennett spoke on the importance of exercising personal values in the creative process, and how to build and maintain relationships that support collective success. Mr. Dut, a former “Lost Boy” from South Sudan and central figure in the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, spoke to the community about his personal journey from South Sudan to the United States. Mr. Dut’s visit to Keystone was facilitated by the organization, Inspire Citizens, a high impact teacher-oriented collective that empowers students and educators to co-create globally minded, holistic, and customized project-based learning environments.
During the weekend, classrooms were buzzing with serious dialogues as students and teachers led workshops throughout the day. Topics such as “Water Pollution in the World”, “Water Safety in Rural China”, "Water Scarcity in Cape Town”, and “Water and Women’s Rights” were discussed in great detail. Grade 11 student Aurora Yu, who led a workshop with fellow classmate Gloria Gao, chose to tackle how the changes in the earth’s climate influence ecosystems in Antarctica. “I chose this topic because I went to Antarctica last year, and I was so astonished about how fast climate change is happening and how it closely related to our life and world welfare,” said Ms. Yu. “I think the biggest merit of participating in the GIN conference is that I learned a lot about water issues around the world. Moreover, being a student leader in the GIN committee, I learned how to make good decisions by paying closer attention to how I, and my peers, interact with the world and the steps that we can take at Keystone to make a real change...learning about global issues now can prepare us for these types of challenges in the future."
Concluding the conference, students, teachers, and staff congregated on the central quad for a water challenge. Secondary school female students participated in the house challenge. The girls were tasked with carrying a bucket of water across the central quad to Keystone’s athletic field. The house with the most amount of water in their individual pails were crowned the champions of the day. The purpose of this activity was to help students empathize with girls around the world who often forgo formal education because they are responsible for collecting and carrying water for their families and communities.
“As a global citizen, and member of the GIN committee, this was only our first conference but we have already begun the development of our second conference which will cover another global issue that needs the attention of everyone in our community,” remarked Grade 10 student Loubna Laribi. “The GIN conference brought so many social topics together, such as how female inequality is directly linked to water scarcity. We are trying to introduce students to these issues. But what made this conference successful were the students and teachers: without them, this conference would not have been achieved.”
To learn more about Inspire Citizens, please click here.