1. Empowering Local Knowledge For a Resilient Future

    June 13, 2023 by Luiza B. and Santi D.

    Driving Question:

    How can we effectively engage with local culture, language, and service to foster learning and inspire change ?

    Project Summary:

    Luiza B. and Santi D. concluded their research project by highlighting the critical role of local and indigenous knowledge in tackling global environmental challenges. Through their extensive research, Luiza explored the knowledge of Amazonian indigenous groups, emphasizing their stewardship practices that protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity in the region. She underscored the threats these communities face from activities like mining and deforestation, which endanger their lands and ways of life. Luiza advocated for empowering these communities through their own knowledge systems to build resilience against environmental threats.

    Meanwhile, Santi D. delved into the Philippines’ community-based disaster management system, showcasing how local communities effectively handle natural disasters. He highlighted the system’s success in involving communities in decision-making and utilizing local knowledge to develop resilient infrastructure and disaster response plans. Santi argued that this approach not only safeguards vulnerable groups but also allows communities to guide external support to meet their specific needs.

    Both Luiza and Santi emphasized the need for participatory decision-making that respects and integrates local perspectives. They stressed the importance of empowering local communities to apply their generational knowledge in tackling modern environmental challenges. By listening to and protecting local knowledge, they argued, we can create more effective and sustainable solutions to global environmental issues.

    In their presentation, Luiza and Santi challenged the prevailing approach of neocolonial decision-making and advocated for a paradigm shift towards empowering local communities. They concluded that by recognizing and respecting indigenous and traditional knowledge, we can pave the way for more resilient and sustainable futures worldwide. Their research underscores the transformative potential of centering local voices in environmental policy and action, highlighting the importance of collaboration and mutual respect in global efforts to protect the planet.

  2. Oral Storytelling

    by Rianon T.

    Driving Question:

    In what ways can the art of storytelling be adapted to communicate across disciplines and for different purposes?

    Project Summary:

    Rianon T., a grade 11 student from New Zealand, embarked on a journey of storytelling and cultural immersion during her time in Botswana. Inspired by the diverse voices and experiences of the local storytellers she met—ranging from published authors to musicians and safari rangers—Rianon was tasked with creating her own story based on her encounters and observations. This experience profoundly shaped her understanding of the importance of listening to elders, the beauty of nature and wildlife, and the timeless lessons imparted through children’s stories.

    The core of Rianon’s story focused on a young girl named Impo, who learns the vital lesson of listening to her elders as she navigates the Okavango Delta. Through encounters with various animals, including a hippo and a crocodile, Impo learns not only about the unique characteristics of each creature but also gains wisdom about the consequences of not heeding advice. Each encounter in her story serves as a metaphor for the deeper cultural and moral lessons imparted by the elders in Botswana.

    During her presentation, Rianon shared a snippet from her story, where Impo encounters a hippo while crossing a river. This scene beautifully illustrates the importance of paying attention and listening, as Impo attempts to identify a zebra based on her limited knowledge, only to learn from the hippo that listening to one’s elders is crucial for survival and understanding. The encounter with the hippo also emphasizes the gentle and wise nature of the elder animals, who impart their wisdom to the younger generations.

    Rianon’s story resonates not only with the audience but also with her own personal growth and understanding of the world around her. It showcases how stories can transcend cultural boundaries and impart timeless lessons that resonate with people of all ages. Through her storytelling, Rianon not only honors the traditions and wisdom of the people she met in Botswana but also carries forward their teachings to inspire others to listen, learn, and grow.

  3. AgeWise

    by Gabriel T.

    Driving Question:

    How can virtual assistant technologies be utilized to design a safe smart home for the elderly and dependent individuals?

    Project Summary:

    Gabriel T., one of our seniors from Ecuador, has undertaken a project to address the challenges faced by elderly and dependent individuals through the integration of virtual assistant technology into their homes. Motivated by the struggles his grandparents faced with dementia and limited mobility, Gabriel sought to enhance their daily lives while lightening the load on their caregivers. This project was driven by the belief that technology could significantly increase independence and quality of life for the elderly and dependent, while also supporting caregivers in their essential roles.

    The heart of Gabriel’s project lies in the strategic deployment of Amazon Alexa devices throughout his grandparents’ home. These devices were carefully placed to address specific needs: improving communication, enhancing organization, and providing entertainment. For instance, Alexa enabled his grandparents to communicate more effectively with their caregivers, despite challenges such as a weak voice. It also helped caregivers stay organized by reminding them of tasks that are easily overlooked in the busyness of daily routines, like adding items to the shopping list or remembering to administer medication.

    One of the most impactful aspects of Gabriel’s project was the introduction of routines and entertainment options through Alexa. His grandparents now had access to audiobooks, music, and routines that provided structure to their day. For instance, Gabriel programmed an alarm system that alerted caregivers if something was wrong, providing immediate assistance when needed. These enhancements not only improved the quality of life for his grandparents but also provided them with a greater sense of security and independence.

    The initiative also highlighted the broader potential of technology to support elderly and dependent individuals across different households. By documenting and sharing his approach, Gabriel aimed to create a replicable model that could be implemented in other households facing similar challenges. This approach not only illustrated the transformative power of technology but also emphasized the importance of compassion and human touch in caregiving.

    In conclusion, Gabriel T.’s project represents a significant step forward in leveraging technology to support vulnerable members of society. It demonstrated how digital solutions can be integrated into daily life to enhance independence, improve quality of care, and provide peace of mind to both caregivers and their charges. Through his efforts, Gabriel has shown that with thoughtful design and implementation, technology can play a pivotal role in promoting dignity, security, and happiness in the lives of elderly and dependent individuals.

  4. Waste Disparities

    by Siphokazi S.

    Project Summary:

    Siphokazi S., a senior from South Africa, highlighted the unfulfilled promises of democracy in South Africa since 1994, particularly focusing on the persistent challenges faced by the 47 million South Africans living in townships. These townships, originally designed to segregate non-whites, continue to be plagued by unsafe conditions, poor education, and high unemployment, all exacerbated by economic disparities and failing municipal services.

    Faced with this vast systemic problem, Siphokazi decided to address the waste management aspect, leveraging her education, expertise, and connection to the community. Fluent in Isizulu and deeply familiar with the local issues, she aimed to create impactful change at the grassroots level.

    Siphokazi partnered with Birches and Eco School, whose curriculum focuses on sustainable lifestyles, to implement a similar framework in a government school. She taught life orientation (ALO) sessions to grade three students, emphasizing their rights and responsibilities, which were inadequately addressed by the current educational system.

    In collaboration with DSW (Durbin Solid Waste) and PET Recycling, Siphokazi drafted a contract to bring waste management education and facilities to the school. She conducted three sessions with the students, teaching them how to manage waste effectively. Additionally, she set up a Waste Management Center at the school and created Isizulu posters to reinforce the teachings.

    The initiative resulted in the collection of three tons of paper, two tons of plastic, half a ton of tin, and a ton of cardboard, generating 400 rand per month. The revenue was reinvested into the school to improve classroom environments.

    Siphokazi’s project demonstrated the significant impact young students can have on their community. She envisions expanding this framework to other schools across South Africa, believing that true freedom requires more than just voting—it demands active, meaningful actions and services.

    Siphokazi’s efforts reflect her mother’s advice: to act on what she believes in, striving for a better, more sustainable future for her community.

  5. The Little Frog’s Dilemma

    by Samara M.

    Driving Question:

    How can I use my personal life experiences to write and illustrate a children’s book that explores the topics of race, culture and identity?

    Project Summary:

    Samara M., one of our senior students, shared a deeply personal project inspired by her multicultural background, having lived in Kenya, China, Malaysia, and Tanzania. Despite loving books like “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and “The Gruffalo,” she felt a lack of stories that reflected her unique experiences.

    Identifying as a third culture kid, Samara highlighted the challenges and feelings of isolation that come with this identity. To bridge this gap, she created a children’s story that resonates with the third culture experience and beyond.

    Samara conducted research across schools in Kenya and Tanzania, revealing a significant underrepresentation of black characters in children’s books. Motivated by these findings and Susan Sontag’s belief that stories shape our world, Samara wrote “The Little Frog’s Dilemma,” a tale set in a pond divided into four regions, each with distinct skills.

    The protagonist, a frog with parents from different regions, embodies a blend of these cultures but struggles to excel in any single skill. Despite initial failures in dancing and magic, the frog’s unique croak, a metaphor for its mixed identity, ultimately earns it the honor of performing for the queen.

    Through this story, Samara aims to reflect diverse experiences and foster connection. She encourages everyone to embrace and share their personal narratives, believing they have the power to ignite empathy and break down barriers.

    Samara’s hope is that “The Little Frog’s Dilemma” will resonate with readers and become a cherished story, inspiring others to create bridges through their own unique tales.

  6. Foodstainable

    by Andrea D.

    Driving Question:

    How can I reduce food waste, help dog shelters, and start a campaign in Peru and Oman by creating dog food?

    Project Summary:

    Andrea D, a Grade 11 student from Peru, observed the plight of stray dogs and the immense food waste generated each year. With over 300 million stray dogs globally and six million in Peru, many of which forage in garbage dumps, she saw an opportunity to tackle these issues simultaneously.

    In 2021, it was reported that half of Peru’s food was discarded, and Andrea realized that this wasted food could potentially feed countless stray dogs. Motivated to make a difference, she founded “Sustainable Kibble,” an initiative focused on creating dog food from food waste.

    Through extensive research, Andrea discovered that many commercial dog foods contain harmful preservatives and artificial colorings, which can cause health issues like allergies, high blood lipid levels, and cancer. She found that natural preservatives such as cabbage and beets not only preserve food but also provide natural coloring and make it more appealing to dogs. Additionally, papaya seeds were identified as an effective natural dewormer.

    Andrea experimented with different formulations and flavors, even testing the kibble on her own dogs to ensure its effectiveness. Her research, which demonstrated the viability of using natural ingredients in dog kibble, was documented in a paper she encourages others to read.

    To broaden the impact of her project, Andrea created a multilingual website (available in English, Spanish, and Chinese) where people can access her research, donate, share information, replicate the project in their communities, and purchase affordable dog food. Her ultimate goal is to establish a non-profit organization funded through donations and sales, with profits used to sterilize stray dogs to help reduce the stray dog population.

    Andrea’s vision is to feed and deworm stray dogs while reducing food waste, fostering a compassionate community, and promoting sustainable practices. She invites everyone to join her in making a positive and lasting impact on both the environment and the lives of stray dogs.

  7. English for Afghan Women

    by Mehdia S.

    Project Summary:

    Mehdia S, a senior student from Afghanistan, embarked on a mission to support women in her home country facing severe restrictions on education and social participation imposed by the Taliban since their takeover in August 2021. Recognizing the critical impact of these bans, which have left millions of girls without access to schooling or higher education, Mehdia launched the “English for Afghan Women” program to enhance English language and soft skills among Afghan girls.

    Far from Afghanistan, Mehdia found a way to contribute meaningfully by founding the English language program under the Afghan Youth Empowerment Camps, an organization she co-founded in 2019. This program, initiated from September to December, focused on developing reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills to elevate students’ proficiency from beginner to intermediate levels.

    The program attracted around 300 applicants, from which students were selected based on their academic needs. Mehdia and her team organized classes, assigned tasks, and provided weekly feedback and quizzes to monitor progress. The initiative also involved recruiting volunteers who received letters of recommendation for their contributions.

    The project concluded with the distribution of certificates to participants, marking the successful completion of the program. Through this initiative, Mehdia aimed to empower Afghan women, believing strongly in the transformative power of educating women for the broader societal good. As she noted, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual; but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”

  8. The Hindsight Podcast

    by Raf W.

    Driving Question:

    How can I document the Successes of TGS alumni to inspire current and future students while simultaneously creating a TGS legacy?

    Product output from this module:

    The final product of this Mastery project will be a podcast show that continually releases episodes. In the episodes will be interviews with TGS alumni about where they are at now in life, what role TGS played in that, and how they define success.

    Project Summary:

    Raf W, a senior from the Netherlands, recognized the paradox of living in a digitally connected society where true connections often remain shallow. Despite over four and a half billion active social media users, many people, including 60 percent of the U.S. population, report feeling lonely. This disconnect between perceived and actual social connectivity is a significant issue, even within innovative communities like Raf’s boarding school, TGS.

    Understanding the unique bond shared by TGS students due to their shared experiences and challenges, Raf saw an opportunity to strengthen this community. Inspired by the need to combat global loneliness, Raf took it upon himself to create a more active and supportive environment within TGS.

    To address this, Raf launched the “Hindsight Podcast” as part of his Mastery project. This podcast serves as a platform for TGS alumni to share their work experiences, lifestyles, and personal journeys. The goal was to create a framework where knowledge and experiences of past students could benefit current and future students, reinforcing lifelong learning and community bonds.

    Over eight months, Raf produced and published four episodes, with another one on the way. The podcast has been well-received, providing comfort and reassurance to current students about the value of their unique experiences. Through these conversations, Raf himself learned that success is not a one-size-fits-all concept but a personal journey defined by individual criteria and fulfillment.

    Raf’s “Hindsight Podcast” exemplifies his commitment to making a positive impact on his community. By fostering deeper connections and sharing valuable insights, Raf aims to combat loneliness and strengthen the TGS community in a meaningful way.

  9. The Farafina Tales

    by Yeli K.

    Driving Question:

    How might I promote gender equality to a young population using traditional African tales?

    Project Summary:

    Yeli K, a senior from the United States, has written a children’s book titled “The Farafina Tales” aimed at promoting gender equality in West Africa. The book addresses critical issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, and violence against women, which are prevalent in countries like Senegal, Guinea, and Liberia. Through interviews with experts across the continent, Yeli K identified factors contributing to these issues, including lack of legislation, ineffective law enforcement, negative cultural perceptions of women, and lack of economic opportunities.

    Inspired by a study showing how children’s literature can shift gender perspectives in Rwanda, Yeli K sought to promote gender equality among young West Africans through literature. This led to the creation of a 30,000-word novel manuscript for 8 to 12-year-olds, which won a Scholastic Gold Key for the New York region and a National Silver Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing competition.

    The story follows a 13-year-old girl named Mariama, who, with the help of a secret society of African heroes, saves her school from developers aiming to turn it into a mall. To write this book, Yeli K undertook a 150-hour course on writing for children, receiving a distinction. This was followed by detailed world-building and character development, guided by feedback from mental health and gender-based violence experts, children’s book authors, mentors, and the target audience of children.

    Yeli K wrote 1,000 words daily during November, utilizing National Novel Writing Month resources and community support. After completing the initial drafts, the book was distributed to eight children aged 8 to 12 in Lagos, Nigeria, for critical feedback, which was incorporated into the final draft.

    Through this project, Yeli K aims to inspire young people globally to use art to ignite profound social changes, demonstrating the power of literature in addressing pervasive societal issues.

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