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Part Three - Round Square:
Understanding and making a world of difference

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo da Vinci

In this, part three of our series on transdisciplinary learning, Ms. Butterfield, Ms. Ameen and Mr. Duranleau address the importance of enabling MAC students of all ages to develop a breadth of perspective and learn how to make knowledge usable. 

“When you set off on your journey of self-discovery it’s critical to see how you, as one individual human, can relate to and influence the world around you,” begins Mr. Duranleau.  “Even as adults, we can struggle to understand information when we’re unable to provide context.”

For example, if we feel thirsty and want a drink* of water, we simply walk to our taps with our glass. However, that isn’t the experience for the 319 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who worry about where and how they will get enough water. Without access to a clean source, their days revolve around a walk for water: gathering enough to cook, clean, and of course, drink. So how do MAC teachers make this relevant in a society where such a challenge seems unimaginable? One way in which MAC brings a global perspective to our education programming is through our membership in Round Square.

Round Square is an internationally diverse network of 200 like-minded schools in 50 countries on six continents that connect and collaborate to offer world-class programmes and experiences, developing global competence, character and confidence in our students. We are like-minded in our shared understanding of the hard-wired link between character education and academic success. We also believe that in order to equip our students for positive, active and engaged global citizenship, we must offer them more than academic knowledge and qualifications.

Ms. Ameen and Ms. Butterfield both reflected on the immense change that comes upon students who take part in Round Square and other experiential trips. “They come back from these exchanges changed,” says Ms. Ameen. “By witnessing and being immersed in a dramatically different culture and experiencing the realities of lives different from theirs, students gain a much broader outlook on who they are and where they fit into a life of global perspective.”

“The takeaway from such experiences is profound and allows students to comprehend that contrary to what they might have thought, there is often more than one right answer to almost any question,” Ms. Butterfield observed. “By seeing how others experience life, they become more able to reframe questions to arrive at an alternative.”

Much of this has to do with the difficult task of building insight based on the vast amounts of raw data available to students. Without the context of experiencing the nuances of life in other parts of the globe, this task can seem insurmountable. Says Mr. Duranleau, “Raw data is not information. They are simply cold statistics that may or may not have any real or lasting relevance to a student’s life.”

At MAC, every one of our teachers is motivated to facilitate the process of self-discovery and to provide a safe place and space to explore. “We know that students are bursting with questions. It’s just what young people do,” commented Ms. Ameen. “In all disciplines  then it means that we must be open to questions that may not appear immediately germane. I think back to the ‘how do you teleport’ query that Ms. Butterfield handled!”

“These questions provide opportunities for MAC teachers to help our students change perspective, make broader connections and to empower them to choose what they do with the information they are given,” says Ms. Butterfield. “We must give them the confidence to challenge the norms and willingly explore how other people are confronting similar issues.”

When we talk about re-imagining possibilities at MAC this approach is critical. 

We must be constantly mindful of the courage it requires of our students, and ourselves, to admit we may not know everything and willingly venture into the unknown. As Israeli professor and renowned historical author Yuval Noah Harari puts it, “Even if we think we know something, we should not be afraid of doubting our opinions and checking ourselves again. Many people are afraid of the unknown and want clear-cut answers for every question. Fear of the unknown can paralyze us more than any tyrant. Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”

When we keep reframing questions, we can arrive at a new understanding as we allow different people to reveal multiple perspectives to these questions. We all enhance our understanding of differences and increase our ability to make positive change when we account for multiple perspectives. That’s just another part of being future ready.

*https://www.worldvision.org/clean-water-news-stories/compare-walk-for-water-cheru-kamama

Author: MacLachlan College

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