Exploring Compass Portals to Infuse Sustainable Thinking and Practices

Being a Compass School implies a commitment to live, to strategize and to provide opportunities to think about sustainability across the whole institution. The portals of sustainability remind practicing schools that
            Leadership and Governance,
            Operations and Support Services,
            Teaching and Learning,
            Buildings and Grounds and
            Engagement with the Outside Community
are five important entry points to infuse sustainable thinking into the system of an educational community.

Traidhos Three Generation Community for Learning, Chiang Mai, the community which includes Prem Tinsulanonda International School, recently enabled representatives from across the campus, including accounts, housekeeping, engineering, gardening, operations, the nurse, and administrative staff to live and work together on their educational Barge as it sailed down the Chao Phraya River from Ayutthaya to Bangkok.

Staff enjoyed visits to new places and the chance to get to know colleagues better – an important contribution to their well-being – but also spent time considering ways to increase sustainability using AtKisson Sustainability Compass as a thinking tool. Everyone identified a personal target and departmental targets to work towards on their return to Chiang Mai. We hope that working with staff connected to these two portals will accelerate our progress to becoming more sustainable at all levels of the organization.

Staff identified developing a commitment to being service-minded as central to our community. Linkages were made across the compass point showing the positive contribution service-mindedness has:

Wellbeing (W) – When staff are happy and feel secure and valued they are more willing to support other people happily.

Nature (N) – Beautiful grounds and good environmental practices make people feel welcome. Increased enrollment increases budget available for grounds development.

Economy (E) – When visitors receive good service and are greeted well, they are more likely to enroll their children, generating more income.

Society (S) – Cooperation between departments strengthens community and creates a positive ethos that people want to be part of. Our Traidhos Community can become a role model of good practice in Chiang Mai and the wider world.

Submitted by Lynda Rolph, 2011, while serving as President, Traidhos Three Generation Community for Learning.

International School of Tianjin, China

While there are many tools we can use to help us think sustainably, Compass is one of the easiest to use. We have implemented compass in a multitude of ways across our administration, curriculum, student groups, and community events. All students, staff and some parents know about Compass and how to use it on a basic level.

Committees at our school have standardized forms that detail committee definition, history and operation. Now all major event committees have a compass included in their forms to encourage Sustainable Thinking in all planning and decision making.

We have integrated the compass tool into our curriculum at every grade level (K through 12). During the academic year of 2011-2012 almost all grade level teachers were presented with how to implement compass in at least one unit per grade level. It was hoped that we could use the compass directly to promote Sustainable Thinking around content within the units. In the MYP, we have asked our Community and Service (C & S) groups to use the compass tool to devise their action plans. For the past two academic years this has been very successful, and we anticipate students (and their advisors) will continue using compass in their planning.

We currently have two Sustainable Thinking student groups called Eco-Revolution (one each in elementary and secondary) that aim to monitor sustainability efforts across the school. Students gather and publish data, propose new ideas, and liaise with community members on and off campus to encourage Sustainable Thinking. Eco-Revolution will use the compass to look for gaps in services and actions throughout the school year (for example, do we need to revisit Nature because not enough recycling is being done, do we need different fundraisers because there are too many bake sales in Economy, etc.). Eco-Revolution will also ensure that all service groups in both schools are contributing in some way to our annual Community Farmers Market (held in the last week of school).

Our first annual Community Farmers Market in 2012 was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our efforts toward sustainable actions and thinking, not only during the event itself, but also throughout the planning and coordination process. Initial planning happened within a faculty committee with input from Eco-Revolution in the secondary school. During Earth Day 2012 the entire student body from grades 9 through 12 was involved in planning efforts. The event planning group used compass to decide whether we had enough representation from Nature, Economy, Society, and Well-being, as well as connections between those areas. By the end of Earth Day, we had great enthusiasm built up, event planners and advertisers, builders of stalls, and had solicited thirteen C & S groups to contribute something to the market as well. While it is extremely difficult to find organic foods in our part of China, we did have open-range/drug free hotdogs and hamburgers, whole grain breads from a local bakery, local vegetable sellers and one truly organic vegetable seller. We had flash mobs, open-mics, awareness stalls, games and more! It was one of our most successful events of the year.

Submitted by Chris Watson, 2011, while serving as MYP Science and DP Biology Teacher, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Coordinator at International School of Tianjin, China.

The Green Team

Students in Grade 2 through Grade 5 joined a co-curricular activity that ran after school for five weeks. One of the most successful portions was a trip to the campus snack shop, where students were asked, “What is the most positive choice for all four areas of the compass?” Once the group made a choice, they ate the snack and discussed their ideas. The group chose two items: a Thai meat snack cooked on the grill, and watermelon. The students noticed things like:

  • neither of these items had wrappers, so there was less waste (N)
  • the number of pieces offered good value for money (E)
  • fruit is renewable, since the plant grows more fruits and more trees/vines can be planted; farmers can also raise more animals for meat (N, E)
  • both foods were traditional Thai snacks and foods the kids enjoyed eating (S)
  • fruit is healthy, tastes sweet, and provides energy (W)

The teacher, Kate O’Connel, hoped that requiring students to make a choice might prompt students to think more deeply and even change a behavior outside of school. She was very pleased with how it challenged and stretched the kids. Another activity everyone really enjoyed was testing water quality at the campus farm. Students used nets to scoop sediment, plants and water out of drainage canals and collected living things in bowls. Then they marked a scorecard that gave point values for each living thing they had found. The students discovered that the water was considered very clean because of the types of living things it could support (such as those requiring oxygen). The activity gave them a tangible way to experience and understand ecosystems and humans’ effects on water quality.

Submitted in cooperation with Kate O’Connel, 2011, while serving as Grade 2 Teacher at Prem Tinsulanonda International School.