“Students truly take ownership of a concept only by doing and experiencing it in practical terms. I believe international-mindedness is best taught by connecting with others around the globe or in the many different worlds to be found by stepping outside of accepted comfort zones in one’s back yard.” (Kris Kosaka, CAS Coordinator and teacher at Tamagawa Academy, Machida, Japan

Some months ago I wrote a blog about the remarkable achievements of 2 young sisters who attend the Green School in Ubud (Bali) as they pursue their goal to have plastic bags declared illegal on their island home by 2018.P23-B-tues

I herein share a most recent article about these 2 young heroes written by Duncan Graham and I invite you to read more about Isabel and Melati Wijsens. In doing so I also challenge you to dig deeper and reflect further on how these girls exemplify and elucidate 3 tenets of service learning in the IBO

  • the importance of acting locally and thinking globally,
  • the significance of being internationally minded,
  • and the crucial importance of youthful idealism.

Firstly, these 2 young ladies have acted on a cause and effect, a problem that is screamingly obvious and one that stares us in the face viz. the extent and the effects of pollution in Bali where “organic discards rot, plastic persists….. Indonesia is reported to be the second worst polluter of the world’s oceans, defeated only by China.”

Furthermore, they are leaders in an educational community that is a Bessemer converter for service learning and “where conservation and social-change initiatives are mainstream rather than optional extras.” They live on an island where the sustainability of local village life as well as the all important tourist industry are threatened not only by climate change but more immediately by massive growth in the number of humans visiting the island of the gods.

Isabel and Melati were born in Bali, and “their mom, originally from the Netherlands, runs a villa booking agency, while Dad, from Surabaya, builds joglos, the traditional Javanese houses.

When they turn 18 they’ll have to choose sides — Indonesia or Holland. The latter will provide a widely welcomed passport — the former credibility in the clean-up campaign. Then there’s further education; Isabel favors the creative arts, her sister social science.

Melati has already received what she calls “reach outs” regarding a scholarship to Harvard. “I now attend school for three days a week because the other two are taken up with responding to requests for advice and speeches. We have to keep going; our friends are supportive. So are our parents.

The family speaks American English at home and trots the globe. In India they learned of Mahatma Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience. They imported his example.”

The girls exemplify the concept of international-mindedness and its centrality to the IB mission and educational philosophy.

Finally, their youthful idealism, energy and indomitable spirits are critical to their quest. “Age weakens; the fire in the belly gets quenched by downpours of reality. Yet the barely-teens already understand this dampening of dreams.

“With our friends we’ve been running Bye-bye Plastic Bags since 2013 and it’s true that it has become tiring,” said Melati.

“There have been disappointments. However, we got encouragement after the TED talk went global this year attracting many people,” she added, referring to the talk organized by non-profit organization TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.”

To compensate for the demands on her ‘normal’ life Melati now attends school for 3 days in a week as the other two are taken up with responding to requests for advice and speeches. However she has already received ‘hints’ of being offered a scholarship to Harvard.

Their words and actions are capturing the minds and hearts of a global audience “to generate a sense of common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet…….They challenge and impress us by spooling through arguments for action, dropping facts like their elders, who are clearly not their betters, litter the landscape.”

We do well to listen to “their advice to others whose idealism still flares….. “Work as a team. Define your goals. Walk the talk.”

(top photo by Erlinawati Graham)