A Glimpse into the Action at the Compass Youth Camp 2016

A year has passed and the Compass Youth Camp (CYC) has once again commenced! This year we have students from all around Asia, coming in from international schools in Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and China. The main activities that these students will be taking part in are System Thinking activities, Amoeba roles, and Presentation tips. From these activities students will be able to gain problem solving skills for them to apply when they visit an indigenous tribe’s village to solve the central problem.

This year’s facilitators are Jason, Kaymin, Naia, and Sara and I asked them what they were most excited about for the coming week.

[quote]“Helping students and understanding the effect of their action in the everyday world” – Jason[/quote]

[quote]“To helpfully see students get inspired so that they their knowledge back and share it with others” – Kaymin[/quote]

[quote]“Meeting new people and getting to explore the world of system thinking with new people” – Naia[/quote]

[quote]“To see the participants point of view on sustainability and what they are passionate about” – Sara[/quote]

Not only will it be a long week of learning but also a week for these students to socialise and have fun. Make sure to be updated through the CYC Facebook page and Instagram @compassyouthleaders picture of the day!

[box]Written by Koh Okuno, 2016, CYC Media Facilitator[/box]

On Opportunities, from a Youth

My trip to Nanjing, China, as a student co-facilitator was an experience that taught me a vast amount about an exciting time for education and sustainability work. As well as learning a tremendous amount about myself as a student pushing for more youth empowerment in this field. I was extremely fortunate to have worked with twenty-two passionate and engaged students who are eager to change the way the world thinks about K-12 and sustainability education. Not to mention working with the faculty who were just as ambitious to learn more about this growing field.

Among the twenty-two students were teenagers who shared numerous similarities with me, the only main difference was that I had already been exposed to the possibilities youth are beginning to have access to. The most inspiring parts of the workshop was when I saw the students click with the idea that they have the power to make some significant changes in the world. The interactive and engaging activities that I co-facilitated demonstrated just how much there is to learn about the way we think and the possibilities that a new way of thinking forges. The polished activities that the students facilitated with their own teachers revealed that everyone has things to learn and that the educational community is excited to learn.

Nanjing was an unimaginable experience for me; however, what excites me the most is picturing the next steps forward. It is unmistakably clear that the right things are being done when students come back from their own workshops asking, “So, what are we going to do next.”

Submitted in cooperation with Kaymin Martin-Burnett, 2016, as a Grade 10 student of UWCSEA East Campus Singapore and co-facilitator of Student Empowerment Training Programme for Compass Education at Nanjing International School, China

How My Thinking has Changed

by Nishant , Grade 8, UWCSEA Singapore

At the start of the BTC¹ course, I had a very basic understanding of sustainability being about the four Compass points, and about finding solutions that benefit all of the Compass points. I had learnt this while working on my Grade 7 BTC action project, and I thought the whole concept was a bit overwhelming. I was fascinated with systems, and knew that they involved causes and effects, but didn’t know much about how systems can be mapped or used, and hadn’t thought of high leverage or unintended consequences. I was intimidated by the idea of using a system to achieve sustainability, but I was also curious to know how systems can be used and manipulated.

Over the weeks of BTC, by using tools like the Compass model, Iceberg model and Toast model, I have learnt a lot about how systems work. While mapping out the system for my own central issue, I found that if I was patient and open-minded, I was able to find a good leverage point. The concept of systems is still a bit intimidating, but I feel I am able to work with them well now. The challenge is making sure all the important nodes are present and the connections are accurate; sometimes research is needed to make sure of this. Once this is done, however, everything falls into place, and the solution is clearly and obviously apparent.

During the few weeks that I was working on my action project, I thought less and less about sustainability and coming back to it, my entire view of what it is has completely changed. It’s not just about the four Compass points, or about finding solutions that benefit them; sustainability is the ability of any system to continue functioning in balance. And since everything is a system, it’s really less about finding a ‘solution’, and more about making sure nodes aren’t modified so much that the entire system deviates from its state of rest.

I have also learnt a lot about leverage points, what they do, and how to find one. Leverage points are nodes that can be modified to have the maximum impact on the system; they are usually nodes that affect people’s mental models. This is the category that should be targeted, and we should find such a node within our sphere of influence that we think won’t have any unintended consequences.

I think a knowledge of systems thinking and sustainability will be immensely useful in the future, not only for Global Perspectives and action projects but also for everyday decision making. This knowledge has allowed me to come up with a much more impactful action plan this year compared to last year in BTC, and as I gain more practice in systems thinking, I think I will be able to find better leverage points and implement better solutions.

¹Be The Change, a subject in Grade 8 at UWCSEA in which students learn about solving global issues

[box style=”rounded”]Submitted by Nishant (Grade 8), 2015, while studying at United World College of South East Asia, Singapore[/box]

Learning to Lead in a Changing World

by Tegar Laga Joebhaar, Year 13, Lanna International School Thailand

CYC Organiser and Participants with Dara Ang Representatives

CYC Participants and Organiser with Dara Ang Representatives

What steps would you take to maintain a sustainable nation?

Well for five nights this summer, I was part of the Compass Youth Camp at Prem. The camp was a mix of outdoor activities and a workshop on sustainability. With a focus on youth leadership, the camp involved a great deal of team work and most importantly the aim of promoting sustainability through the four points of the compass: Nature, Economy, Society and Well-being.

10501744_10153913938878362_1420928399446859098_nIn order to learn more about the third point, Society, we visited Pan Daeng Nai village and stayed there for a night to interview the local hill tribe villagers about their way of life: how much they rely on their crops and the forest; their thoughts on the younger generation working in the city; their reflections on whether their traditional customs can be preserved in our fast developing world.

While at Prem, my camp mates and I visited the Traidhos farm and interviewed the local farmers on how they provide a living for their families. We also analysed the farming system used at Traidhos. The last few days were filled with more team-building and a trip to the night bazaar. On the final day, my teammates and I presented our ideas of how we can maintain a sustainable environment to the hill tribe members of Pan Daeng Nai.

This camp was a great experience for me, teaching me a number of valuable lessons: the importance of maintaining sustainability; the important skills required in leadership and how we can apply them in our daily lives. Overall it was a wonderful experience.


[box style=”rounded”]This article was published in the October-December 2015 issue of LQ, the Lanna International School Thailand student magazine. The full issue can be downloaded from lannaist.ac.th (the current issue is accessible from the main page and magazine archives are available at http://www.lannaist.ac.th/lanna-quarterly/).[/box]

Students Teach Teachers about Sustainability at DAIS

by Michael E. Baldwin

This summer eighteen Dalian American International School (DAIS) students took part in leadership training and then provided professional development for the entire teaching staff of the school on sustainability. The leadership training which took place on August 5-6, 2015, was offered to students who demonstrated interest in leadership through summer internships or were enrolled in Environmental Applied Studies. On August 7, the students then taught the teachers about sustainability in their community using the Compass Sustainability model.

The students were trained in the Compass model and systems thinking through a variety of hands-on activities. After two days of training, the students engaged the entire teaching staff in thinking about how communities and individuals can organize and cause positive improvements in their environment. The Compass model is a tool for thinking about community issues from the perspectives of nature, economy, society, and well-being. This model helps us to have a balanced view of community and global issues that includes the important factors linking individual perspectives and group needs. Through the use of this model we become better problem solvers and systems thinkers.

[twocol_one][/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last][/twocol_one_last]One teacher commented that “I believe it is an excellent model, and would serve our students well in the classroom” and another said “It is a good framework for understanding reality and the messy implications of interconnectedness”. Overwhelmingly, teachers have asked for concrete ways to implement the model in the classroom. Presently students are planning how they can present the model to all the secondary students through the advisory class. In the future the students hope to share these activities with parents and community members.

This student leadership and professional development opportunity is part of the DAIS initiative to become the Sustainability Campus for Northeast China. According to our project goals, the DAIS Sustainability project will permeate the curriculum, inspiring and empowering students to contribute to the local and global community. Our school will serve as a “lighthouse” and resource for sustainability practices and education for the greater China community. We will develop students who say “This is who I am” in the context of sustainability.


The Compass Training was provided by Michael Lees and Robert Steele of Compass Education. We would like to thank them for bringing this internationally recognized program to our students and teachers. Our students hope to provide these exciting activities soon to our local community. Contact me if you would like more information about how students can become leaders at your school.

[box style=”rounded”]Article reposted with permission from Michael E. Baldwin www.dinomike01.blogspot.co.id, 2015, while serving as Science and Curriculum Coordinator at Dalian American International School, China[/box]

Student Empowerment Training at Dalian American International School (DAIS)

11872285_983745831645645_8181394579886642958_oRobert Steele and Michael Lees, two of the Compass Education’s trainers, had the great opportunity to continue to spread our CE tools and methods to the Administration, Faculty, Staff and students of Dalian American International School (DAIS), located in Dalian, China. On the 4-6 August 2015, they trained eighteen amazingly talented and passionate High School students on sustainability and systems thinking, utilizing games and tools from AtKisson Group (Compass) and The Systems Playbook (Booth-Sweeny and Meadows). These students then trained seventy-five of their teachers and other invited guest on the same materials. It really was empowering for both the students and teachers, as they were able to reverse roles and perspectives as teachers, facilitators and learners.


Michael Lees also inspired the school faculty with a personal relevant keynote address, followed later by a whole school sustainability and leadership seminar for the school sustainability leadership team.


Visit the blog of Michael Baldwin,the science teacher and sustainability guru of Dalian American International School, which describes what has become of this training for students on sustainability and what it means for their school at www.dinomike01.blogspot.com.

Compass Youth Leadership Camp: Becoming Sustainability Leaders

CYC Organiser and Participants with Dara Ang Representatives

CYC Organiser and Participants with Dara Ang Representatives

On 22-26 June, we launched our first ever Compass Youth Leadership Camp (CYC) at the lush and green campus of Traidhos Three-Generations Community for Learning in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Based on the foundations of systems thinking and sustainability, the camp is specially designed by youth for youth with goals to help them to be powerful and effective change makers in their schools and communities.

Fifteen passionate youth participants from seven different countries – Vietnam, Thailand, US, Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, China – participated in the six-day camp. They worked really hard and had a great time learning about sustainability, systems thinking and how to apply to community service and development, along with learning how to facilitate training others using the Compass and Systems Thinking tools. Some of the participants were awarded full or partial scholarship through a thorough selection process. The funds for these scholarships were raised through our crowd funding Indiegogo campaign in March.

This year camp was facilitated by Jason Fresnedi, a Senior School student from International School Manila (ISM). Jason has been actively using the Sustainability Compass and Systems Thinking tools through various programs and events, such as GINila 2014 and 2015, at his school over the past 2 years, which is why he was chosen as the Lead camp student facilitator. He did an amazing, amazing job of taking up the challenge and excelling in every way.

CYC activity at Traidhos campus

CYC activity at Traidhos campus

The highlight of the CYC week was the community investigation using the Sustainability Compass and the subsequent development of the students’ community sustainability Action Plans, which they presented to the community representatives on the final day of the camp. The group spent one full day, an overnight (which campfire and cultural exchange) and morning session in the hill tribe community of Dara Ang. They also did a service project with the local school, painting all the schools student desks and chairs in bright colors, and redesigning and organising the school’s small library along with donating many new and easy to read books for the library.

CYC activity at Dara Ang hill tribe community

CYC activity at Dara Ang hill tribe community

On the final day of the camp, six representatives from the Dara Ang community came down from the mountain to listen to our young change agents’ presentations and their recommendations strengthening the resiliency and sustainability of their communities. They came up with three sustainability action plans, all of which are very quite feasible for the Dara Ang community. The proposals for action and recommendations were well received by the community representatives and our students did a really great job of thinking through each project.

We are really proud of the achievements by the participants, and very much looking forward to the next CYC in 2016!

Promoting Student Leadership for Sustainable Change: Compass Tools at GINila 2014

GINila2014_facilitatorsEighty students; four global issues; two days; and one goal.

On September 5 and 6 of this year at the International School Manila (ISM), delegates from six local high schools joined together to take part in the first annual Global Issues Network Manila Conference. Affectionately known as GINila, this student-led conference strived to empower participants to contextualize and engage with global issues in their sphere of influence by creating sustainable action plans. Global issues for this year included promoting education for all, a massive step-up in the fight against poverty, addressing biodiversity and ecosystems losses and natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Over the course of 48 hours, students participated in service trips, a simulation, student facilitated workshops to help them formulate their initiatives to tackle these issues.

GINila2014_compass sorting

Amidst all the commotion and dynamism of the weekend, Compass Education intern and ISM alumni, Daniel Um, had the opportunity to not only get to know some of this year’s GINila members, but to conduct an investigation into how using systems thinking and sustainability tools enabled GINila to achieve its overall goal. For at the heart of the conference structure was ISM’s own version of Pyramid Lite- an abridge version of the ISIS Pyramid Process developed by Alan Atkisson and used around the world as a sustainability planning tool. The hopes of the students and faculty coordinators or GINila was that by using sustainability tools to structure the conference, it would enable to understand their place in the local system and how they could impact it to address global issues in a sustainable way.

GINila2014_systems map 2

Through the use of a survey, interviews and his own observations, Daniel investigated how well the Compass was able to develop delegates’ appreciation and understanding of sustainability, empower students and educate them on how to effectively use sustainability tool to create action plans. His findings indicated that the conference was successful to some extent with regards to all three categories. Some aspects of the conference that were key to promoting success included:

  • Teaching systems thinking: using games like the systems equilateral triangle game and feedback loop circle game to teach delegates about tough systems concept.
  • Saturday service trips: trips to local service sites to observe, conduct interviews and serve help to contextualize issues and shed light on more pieces of the system.
  • Use of the Sustainability Compass: it helps delegates think about issues in a holistic way
In addition to the aforementioned effective aspects, Daniel also identified some goals for improving future student run conference. These included:
  • Increased facilitator knowledge and practice: more practice before hand helps facilitators become more adaptable and dynamic group leaders.
  • Use the Iceberg Model: many of the initial action plans of GANGs were very superficial. Maximizing the use of Iceberg Model could help deepen analysis.
  • Longer time frame: delegates and facilitators felt rushed. More time might lead to better plans.
Based on the findings of Daniel’s report and the enthusiasm of students involved in conferences like GINila, Compass Education hopes to continue promoting student leadership by encouraging groups like GINila to use systems thinking and sustainability tools to engender postive change in their communities! In the coming months, look for more students leadership video, resources and facilitator tools on our website. Meanwhile, feel free to contact us with questions about how to use tool to begin enhancing leadership at your school.

Watch how students effectively using the Sustainability Compass and Systems Thinking tools to address global issues and create action plans at the GINila 2014 .

Video courtesy by GINila 2014 Kaibigan

Student-led Sustainability Initiatives at Dominican International School, Taipei, Taiwan

After Dominican International School sent 26 delegates to the Global Issues Network (GIN) conference in Manila in February 2012, students across the school have become even more invested in sustainability initiatives. This article outlines several exciting projects students have undertaken.

Dominican International School held a Pyramid building day in January 2013, described in a separate post.

(Click to download the article)

The Ideal of Green & Sustainable at Dominican Int'l School

This article was published in the Winter 2012 issue of ET, the EARCOS magazine. The full issue can be downloaded from EARCOS.org (the current issue is accessible from the main page and magazine archives are available at http://www.earcos.org/ad_magazine.php).

Shared by Mercia de Souza, 2012, while serving as Professional Development Monitor, AP Instructor, GIN Coordinator at Dominican International School, Taipei, Taiwan.