Connecting The World Through Virtual Activities
“This wasn’t just a science competition. It was more of a celebration of science.” Reflecting on the first ever global Science Bowl hosted by Stonehill International School, Shreyes, a D2 student and leader of the “Fun with Physics” club, captured the enthusiasm of having an event that featured 50 teams with 150 participants that represented 25 different countries spanning four continents. With help from science teachers, they came up with more than 100 questions for the Science Bowl which was divided into four competition rounds. Additionally, they included icebreakers and design thinking rounds.
Would this type of event have happened three years ago? Not likely, as most of our horizons were limited to a local geography. Stonehill’s Science Bowl had been held for local Bangalore schools and in person in the past, but the present and future looks different. COVID has changed many lives in a negative way; yet, ironically, it has also opened doors for our next generation to come closer.
Last year, while in the midst of the latest surge of cases here in India, the leadership of my school informed me that even if and when we were to allow students back on campus, there would be no after-school activities. For a Whole School Sports and Activities Coordinator, this became a challenge to try to provide the necessary balance in a student’s academic life found in after-school activities. So, in thinking about the only option – online – the challenge was going to be how to make going online a “get to” rather than a “have to.” Both students and teachers were logging in as a “have to” go to class – school was no longer a “get to” without in-person interactions of being on campus.
I thought of how we structured sports competitions. We had a sports event scheduled. We asked students who were interested in that sport to train for weeks leading up to the event, and then they participated in the event. Why couldn’t this be done with non-sporting events? I ran the idea by a fellow colleague who happened to be at The Columbus School in Medellin, Colombia, with the notion that he would look for holes in the plan. While I was initially thinking of doing this with our local schools, the Athletic Director at The Columbus School, Freddie Badillo, wanted to know why we couldn’t make this happen globally. With the world now finding it commonplace to network virtually, there was really no good reason why we couldn’t make this happen. The only limitations would come within the creativity of those planning the events, and both students and teachers had made great strides in innovation during this time. What I originally thought would be local was quickly expanded to include the world and completely possible.
Our conversations grew and so did the number of Activities Directors wanting to be involved. The idea was quickly embraced and a team formed to create a global platform for students to “connect, collaborate and “compete.” For an idea to be good it has to take action, and the team of Gwinyai Jambga (American School of Paris) and Erin Marsh (International School of Brussels), Freddie, and myself, have put together the ideas and action in the form of the “Global Interscholastic Association” or GIA.
What is the GIA? “It is connecting the world of activities to those who wish to expand their passions and creativity through collaborative experiences,” says Gwinyai, who clearly marks the benefits arising in this new generation of learning. The benefits are not just limited to the older students, as discussed in a recent Edutopia article by Ally Fitzpatrick, After-School Clubs Encourage Problem-Solving by Letting Students Lead. By asking the big questions in our world, the GIA platform can connect these younger students with others around the globe to understand how different perspectives play into their own thinking.
The key role that the GIA plays is that it provides the gateway for students to interact. The three components “connect, collaborate, and compete” encompass the emotional needs of students found in after school activities. Now we have found possibilities of coming together in the depths of despair caused by a virus meant to keep people apart. As we move back toward a more normal way of living, we have now enhanced the value of after school activities from being just a local community affair, to engaging the whole world in sharing our passions.
With the help of Tyler Sheldon from The American School of Asuncion in Paraguay, the GIA platform has developed a website for schools and students to promote various activities and invite the world to be a smaller place. The website can be found at: https://sites.google.com/view/global-interscholastic/home