GAIA – Truly Committed to the Cause

An 11th grade student reflects on his experience of tree-planting near Hasselt, Belgium

“On January 15, we met at 8:45 in the morning and took an hour long bus to a small site where the Jane Goodall association had set up tents for food, along with the tools and saplings required to plan a forest of what was predicted to consist of around a thousand to two thousand trees.


Copyright Louis-Philippe Loncke

The plan was to stay for six hours, and in that six hours, plant saplings, eat lunch and take a walk around the area in order to learn more about Belgian biodiversity; primarily in the types of trees and animals. Planting a trees was a relatively simple and quick yet dirty task, however I am absolutely sure that I had planted fifty if not more trees. The trees were planted in columns around a metre apart consisting of maple trees and what I believe were eucalyptus trees used to dry up the previously marshy ground and to continue to do so. It was said however, that the closeness between the trees will simply be determined by nature as the trees grow they will sort themselves out.

Planting a tree consisted of digging a hole in roughly the shape of a square of good depth about the depth of the shovel end and placing a sapling in the hole before covering it back up. This provided a great opportunity for collaboration, me and three of the other group members would all dig our shovels into the ground in the shape of a square and push the dirt out together; this provided us with a way to dig a hole in around 15-20 seconds of better quality than when digging alone because the shape would be right.

This is how we had planted the trees moving down the lines and it was definitely efficient. On the walk around the area we had also learned of the biodiversity, allowing me to become more aware of local but typically unknown aspects of Belgium. I had learned of the variety of birds and plants and that it is important to conserve them in that specific area because all of these animals indirectly contribute to the efficiency of the farming industry in the area. This experience had allowed me to work through a great deal of collaboration and learn a vast amount of knowledge about agriculture as well as the local agriculture and biodiversity.”


Copyright Louis-Philippe Loncke


New Service Learning Project with Maitland Cottage (Cape Town)

We are delighted to report that a new service learning initiative has developed fantastically. Ten students are involved in learning about and creating a support system for Maitland Cottage in Cape Town. Students will improve their language skills, volunteer on-site over the summer, meet children on Skype during the academic year, and engage face-to-face with the beneficiaries of the organization.

Congratulations to Lee Bompas and Sabine Demyttenaere for starting up this project with great dedication and lots of positive energy!


Project Exhibition

What do Grade 12 students have to share, show and tell about their CAS Projects? With the introduction of the requirement for a CAS Projects within the IB Diploma Programme, this year’s graduating class was challenged to create original, student-led, student-initiated collaborative projects that fall into one or more categories of Creativity, Activity and Service. Their work will be showcased and shared during this event.

Yesterday I made a breakthrough…

Contributed by one of our cross-country runners

xc1Yesterday I made a break though. For over a year, one of my most important personal goals was to run under eighteen minutes in the 5 kilometers. Last year I got close but never made it. I built myself up before every race. I told myself “this is your chance” and “This is the race that you will finally do it”. After each race I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed. I was eating right, getting enough sleep, and training hard. I even tried visualization. “It’s alright”, I told myself. “You can do it next year when you are older and stronger.” However, when this season came around, nothing changed. At the SHAPE race I ran as hard as I could and was incredibly disheartened to see that I only ran 6 seconds faster than the previous year. I was running more than ever, but did not see the results I was hoping for. I was about ready to settle for the times I was getting. I even told my teammate that I felt like I was stuck in a rut. I just could not get past the barrier of eighteen minutes. I kept expecting it to happen, and it never did. For a while I gave up and I stopped expecting it to happen. People would ask me if this was the race that I would run in the 17s and I would respond “I don’t want to have any expectations. We will see what happens” rather than “Absolutely, just you wait!” like I had so many times before.

Recently I watched a video about a 64 year old women named Diana Nyad who swam from Cuba to Florida. She tried and failed three times, but every time she believed that she could accomplish this dream, because she wanted to do it so incredibly bad. On her fourth try, she absolutely refused to give up. This made me realize, that maybe I do have it in me, and so, yesterday, I made another attempt to break eighteen minutes. I ran my heart out and I couldn’t keep myself from crying from happiness when I ran 17:40. I know that eighteen minutes is just a time. I doesn’t define me as a person or even a runner, yet to me it means so much more than a time. Achieving this goal gives me hope.

I do believe that anyone can do anything with enough work and the right mindset. Never again will I give up on myself.

CAS Training for Coordinators

30-Second Takeaways from the IB Workshop

contributed by the CAS coordinator, Miki Ambrózy

The IB mission statement actually guides ethical dilemmas for the CAS coordinator. An example: Would a group of migrant Palestinian students in Jordan be eligible in the CAS programme for organizing a political campaign for boycotting Israeli products?









To conduct the 3rd interview, CAS panels  are organized to raise the profile and awareness of CAS across the board. 20-minute panels with 5-10 minutes input from students. Three staff members on each panel, who have reviewed the students’ portfolios. The impact is that staff will become much more involved, students do a much better preparation, the stakes are higher, staff preparation is required leading to a much higher level of awareness.

Request Year 2 students lead a presentation to pre-IB students after the exams, possibly bring in the service learning provider organizations to be part of it.

Organize a session to share NGO contacts and experiences in order to expand volunteering and pull together resources across all IB-schools in the area (ISB, BSB, Scandinavian School).


IB Workshop in a forest near Vilnius

Set up a Facebook page to highlight all that is going on related to service learning in CAS and beyond, connected to the school’s Facebook page in collaboration with Marcia.

Connect to colleagues in other parts of the world and share images, stories etc. of what students are doing in those contexts (CAS projects). An inspiration and a way to plant seeds of collaboration for global issues. For example, through Ala’a’s Facebook page in Jordan, looking at projects for the Christmas event for Iraqi refugees. How do other cultures deal with refugees? What drives charitable behaviour?



The sustainability in a relationship of “offering help”. The crystal of micro, meso, macro levels and how aid affects different actors on different levels. Analyzed according to time-frame of how each level develops over time and affects the others. Based on the story of volunteering “build” trips, by Beth, where the volunteers notice the day-labourers waiting for opportunities that may  not arise because the volunteers are there. Possible link the poverty documentary Poverty, Inc.

Organize a projection for Poverty, Inc. in school to motivate reflection on donations, fundraising, good intentions and knowledgeable service learning.

Notes to the leadership workshop (reflection)

subjective report by Miki Ambrózy


This student leadership event was based on a couple of takeaways from painful learning experiences I went through. One, never do everything by yourself without a team. Two, always make sure that the benefits of events are clear to students (or any other audience).

Consequently, I had a team and I did make sure the students present turned up on the day to get something useful to apply in their clubs at school!

What was the big idea? In a world  – read: school –  where people are over-tasked, double-booked and extremely busy being busy, where to find time to actually let students practice ownership (leadership) without letting them fall or fail, while helping them see their impact on others?

The answer: within the informal learning activities organized at school. Traditionally, this is called education through arts, sports and service – and our school is really doing a great (i.e. demanding, ambitious, impressive, inspiring, wow etc.) job at two of these – perhaps to the point where our young people need to fight hard to establish new things…

It is a strong argument in favour of the International Baccalaureate that it has a personal development component (a.k.a CAS) – creating an excellent excuse to do other great things with and for students, beyond the time spent running from subjects to disciplines and back.

But if we are busy, do we really need another – the dreaded word comes here – new event? Perhaps with this reflection I desire to find an answer to this question.


We defined leadership in the spirit of scouting: the older generation inspiring the younger generation. Leadership is inspiring others to go into action by being the example yourself – credits go to the YMCA of Thessaloniki, the last (?) great bastion of youth work in Greece.

What was in the plan?

We explicitly taught and practised life skills, with teacher volunteers taking on and leading some blocks of time on topics, assisted by a group of volunteering students (National Honour Society). To be honest, volunteering students were told they are to assist us, it wasn’t a classical “sign-up if you’re interested” situation, but more on that later.

Much of the basic programme was pulled off the workshop given to us by the well-known teacher trainer Amy Kines, who worked with our staff on basics of leadership in schools in August 2016.

Did the programme work? Absolutely. The day was hands-on, light, dynamic, with shared distribution of tasks and leadership within and across the sessions.

Students seem to have felt that they have the floor and their ideas are appreciated and taken seriously. They all reported learning something or other about themselves or for their own work as leaders, whatever sense we give to that concept.

Why did it work? First, little preparation was required on the side of the teachers’ team (except for myself that I took on areas we never seem to tackle). Second, I proposed colleagues to lead sessions on themes or topics they liked or had experience with. Third, our wonderfully hardworking National Honor Society students delivered all the small tasks needed to make the event roll (relatively) smoothly, with an outstanding lunch organized by four of them.

On the programme, we had:

  • Our superstar theatre educator did a collective warm-up and movement exercise, bringing everyone’s energies to a relaxed, cheerful level.
  • Our powerful economics-business teacher duo did a detailed input on planning events.
  • Our dean of students delivered her favorite tool for assessing one’s working style, and what our behavioral patterns are. Students were then asked to reflect using dramatization.
  • We delivered a short session on the life of groups (forming – storming – norming – performing), and added a pitching exercise to practice impressing one’s (small) audience with amazing ideas.
  • Our cheerful social sciences teacher worked with leadership profile cards, where students identify qualities in themselves, before revealing well-known world leaders that they resemble. (In a truly internationally-biased-minded fashion, the leaders are mostly chosen from a Judeo-Christian, Anglo-Saxon cultural tradition.)
  • I delivered a session on writing targeted communication and organized a simulation of beyond-school phone calls, where students called a list of people on the phone to talk about an imaginary research project on careers.
  • We invited the Jane Goodall foundation’s team to talk about service learning in the context of the ongoing migration crises in the world, helping students think of practical, immediate ways to provide relief.

What to improve?

Well, telling students they are to volunteer is called forced volunteering – or applying unclear expectations (since this event wasn’t on the list of events this group traditionally organizes). Yet, the presence of 12th grade students made a positive impact, their qualities and level of sophistication made sure that the younger generation has models to follow and be inspired by.

Here are some things to further consider for a future edition:

  • Timing needs to match importance. Saturdays are busy for most students for one reason or other. Clashing with other highly beneficial extra-curricular activities is to be avoided (e.g. high school play).
  • Attendance must be fully voluntary. Better to have a smaller group with the really motivated, than a larger group with ones who don’t want to be there.
  • Club leaders must attend by definition – this point shouldn’t be up for negotiation.
  • Only a full day’s participation should be allowed (in an ideal world) – so that the right group atmosphere can develop, creating bonds across the grade levels as well.

That’s all from the office of a creative coordinator. We must wait and see the impact to decide if we keep the event on the long list of events (and on the shorter list of truly student-led events).

Until soon,


How to Set a Goal?

Goal Setting Steps

By replying to the questions in the box, you can be sure to set an achievable goal.


  • My goal for this year is to be prepared and ready to sit and pass my B2 exam in Greek in the spring of 2017, by having studied and practiced regularly with my tutor after school. This is important for me because of my cultural identity. The attributes I want to develop are knowledgeable and open-minded. The learning outcome I will focus on is challenge and skill, as well as commitment and perseverance.
What specifically do I want to learn to do? Name the skill!

In which situations will you be able to practice this skill/behaviour?

Why am I going for this? Is your goal interesting for you?

How will you know you achieved your goal?

While attempting to reach your goal, what will you create for others?

Can you measure your goal in some way?  How many of ……… will you have ………… to reach the goal?

(e.g. workout sessions done, visits done, activities organized, books read, paintings painted, videos made etc.)

Which learner profile attribute does this experience connect to?

Which learning outcome does your goal connect to?