Insights on CAS trips, education and sustainability by Stephanie Cooke

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Insights on cas trips, education
and sustainability


Halcyon International School in London’s Stephanie Cooke shares her insights on cas trips, education and sustainability.

Insights on cas trips, education and sustainability


Halcyon International School in London’s Stephanie Cooke shares her insights on cas trips, education and sustainability.

1. How long have you been at Halcyon and how has the school changed during your time there?

I have been at Halcyon since the school opened in 2013. The school has grown a lot in that time as we started with just 39 students!

2. Halcyon is known as a champion of sustainability. What are some ways in which you implement these ideas into daily life and classes?

We run an Eco Committee which means that students can really drive the projects they think are important. Last year we achieved the Eco Schools Green Flag Award. Our canteen is 100% vegetarian and we do cycle training and walk to school days to encourage students to travel in a non polluting way. Students learn about sustainability in many of their subjects and we even had a whole day dedicated to climate change workshops during the school strikes for climate in September.

3. You’ve been on five CAS trips to Croatia and tried several different locations and activities. How do they compare? Did anything stand out?

The different locations and activities have all been very different, yet the students have enjoyed them all. In the first few years we visited Veli Losinj and students worked with the Blue World Institute to learn about biodiversity and the marine conservation work that is done, including coastal walks and litter picking and going out on the ocean to monitor dolphins. They also did a diving course to help give them a personal reason for wanting to conserve oceans. We’ve also visited the Pegaz equine therapy stables near Rijeka. This was also a great experience because the students got to work directly with both horses and children. They also loved the beautiful orchard setting with all the other animals that have been adopted by the dedicated staff who work there.

4. How important are CAS trips to students? What, in ideal circumstances, do such trips bring out of them?

CAS trips are very important to the students. I carry out interviews with CAS students at the end of every year and the trips are invariably what many of them remember the most. They get to do rewarding and meaningful work, building closer relationships with each other and learning how to behave professionally with the organisations we have worked with. There is no substitute for doing hands on work and learning at the same time.
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5. The COVID pandemic has stopped the world in an unprecedented way. What do you think are some ways in which we can emerge as a better society?

I think the pandemic has forced a lot of us to appreciate each other and our key workers, to notice the vulnerable and try and ensure they are protected in the future. I hope that in the UK there is more investment in our NHS and more regulation to protect those in precarious jobs from hardship. I also think that many people might reconsider excessive long-distance travel, so that we can maintain the benefits of improved biodiversity and cleaner air and water that we have seen since the pandemic started. Croatia is a beautiful place to visit and is in Europe.

6. As we move down the road, how would you change education to better reflect the needs of the world today?

I think students need to be taught critical thinking, transdisciplinary understanding and independence in their learning. The pandemic has helped us to see how many different issues fit together, such as the environment, trust in government and caring for our vulnerable. Lots of different subjects can be used as a perspective on an issue - this is something that the IB already does well and other education systems could learn from. The use of technology is also very important. Halcyon is already using a lot of digital technology and I think the pandemic is forcing many other schools to catch up.

7. What is your fondest memory from Croatia?

It’s hard to pick one, but I love animals so I really enjoyed my time stroking Yagoda the donkey, who was from a neighbouring property and joined Pegaz after making friends with one of the horses living there. I really loved the atmosphere at Pegaz which was one of welcome and respect for all life - people, plants and animals and a warm and fun place to be.


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