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Cobham Hall hosts European Round Square Conference

Published Wednesday 11th of February 2015 04:02:41 PM

Independent girls' boarding and day school Cobham Hall welcomed children from sixteen other schools across Europe in January as it hosted a weekend-long European Round Square Conference focussed on environmental issues.

Cobham Hall Year 9 girls worked with the school's Round Square Representative Miss Caro to develop and run the conference, which has been in planning for almost a year.

More than 60 children from six different countries gathered to learn about and discuss environmental topics and participate in environmental activities, including building a greenhouse out of used plastic soft drink bottles in the school grounds.

Conference delegates heard from two keynote speakers during the weekend Tracey West, founder of 'InterNational Downshifting Week', an initiative aimed at getting people to slow down and go green, and Jill Butler, a conservation advisor for the Woodland Trust.

While Mrs West spoke about how to make small changes in daily life to help the environment and consider more carefully what is in the food we eat and where it comes from, Ms Butler taught delegates about the importance of ancient trees and how to measure them to work out their age.

Mrs West was thrilled with the prospect of a recycled greenhouse and stayed on after her talk to watch the first stage of construction.

'I have to say the greenhouse project is a tremendous way for them to get their hands grubby and just do something really simple which has an enormous impact,' she said. 'I think this is going to really set that scene in their head that a tiny simple thing to do can really have a huge knock on effect.'

Meanwhile, Isabelle, one of Cobham Hall's Year 9 students attending and leading the conference, said the greenhouse taught her to look at waste differently.

'It showed us how to use old materials that we would normally just throw away and not bother thinking about twice,' she said.

Round Square is a worldwide association of schools committed to education that goes beyond the classroom and the motto 'There is more in you than you think' supports Round Square schools' belief that challenging oneself leads to personal development and responsibility.

The Round Square ethos revolves around six ideological pillars: internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service. Round Square schools hold conferences all over the world each year.

Hannah, also a Cobham Hall Year 9, and another of the student leaders of the event, said the conference was a great way to improve her leadership skills as well as raising an often overlooked theme.

'It was really thought-provoking having a conference like that so often the environmental ideal is left out so it was good to have a conference on the environment to raise awareness of the issue.'

There was a disco for students on Saturday night and even that had its lessons to teach. Zara, Year 9, said afterwards, 'I realised that it's nice to be yourself sometimes�I think in the disco everyone was just themselves and it was really nice.'

The girls also recognised the positive effect of the emphasis on teamwork and a universal issue during the conference.

'It's more about what you're doing�it's more about the environment than about you, so you forget all the things you don't like about yourself,' said Isabelle.

'I want to go to more conferences and I think I'm going to start going to more Round Square activities and go to the meetings more often because I think it's a really good chance to meet people and to talk about situations that are going [on] around the world,' said Zara. 'These are the ways we [make] very good friendships where in the long run we say, 'Oh, hey, remember when we were 13 we met here and here.'

A meeting of the Heads and staff representatives of European Round Square schools was held at Cobham Hall at the same time as the conference. Between the conference and the Heads' and Representatives' meeting, 21 out of the 22 European Round Square schools were in attendance, along with a further two schools who are considering joining the organisation.
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