582 ACS Egham International School Open Day Top

Round Square conference a revelation for girls and teachers

Published Thursday 15th of May 2014 02:02:30 PM

Four Year 8 students from Cobham Hall have just returned from an intense week living on a game reserve with three hundred other pupils from around the world at the first ever Young Round Square Conference in South Africa.

Amongst many highlights was spending a night sleeping out under the stars, going on a game drive, feeding giraffes and playing with lion cubs.

Round Square is an association of around one hundred schools worldwide who share a belief in personal development through challenging oneself. The idea that young people may discover that there is more in them than they thought, is encouraged through the six 'ideals' of internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service to others.

The conference was themed around endangered animals and girls took part in a number of activities from building rafts to African drumming and Round Square Olympics as well as talks and discussion groups that dealt with this theme or explored the ideals in both an active and theoretical way. With the South African elections taking place during the conference, democracy was a particularly topical issue.

A member of staff from each of the 52 schools present also spent much of the conference discussing Round Square initiatives, with a focus on the younger years, and for Cobham's representative, Science and Biology teacher, Melissa Thompson, who only joined the school last September, it was a real eye-opener into the purpose and potential of Round Square.

'I've learnt so much about Round Square,' she says. 'I've come back from that conference thinking, 'Right, I want to do this, I want to get involved'�I just think it's such a fantastic concept.

'I think it's learning but learning in different ways. I don't think it's to do with your academic ability. I think it's a different type of learning, I suppose. You're building your confidence and�you're looking at things in a slightly different way I think it teaches you compassion and empathy.'

As she heard from other Round Square schools across the world, and observed Cobham girls throughout the conference 'I just loved�seeing the girls, especially towards the end of the week, they were just so involved in everything' she also came to a powerful realisation.

'I just think we massively underestimate that kind of age group,' she says, citing an example from the conference in which the girls had to make a pledge of something they would do to support the environment when they went back to school. Cobham girls came up with building wildlife shelters in the school's extensive grounds, with the help of one of the RSPB's 'giving nature a home' campaigns.

'I think our girls came up with the best idea�not just because I'm biased�they had already thought about how they were going to implement it.

'I think if we were to say to them, 'Right you four, you're in charge of organising this' I think they probably would do�whereas before I would have thought, 'I probably need to help you with this' but now I think 'Actually, I've seen what nine year olds can do across the world so why can't our privileged girls do the same thing?''
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