Students lead global conversations by Zoom

Posted: 02 June 2021

In the days before Instagram, it was traditional to send postcards from our travels, to share with friends and family back home a glimpse of the world we were exploring, to share stories, and to let them know we were thinking of them.

The Postcard cliché “Wish you were here?” is the concept behind the weekly Round Square Zoom “Postcards”, which have been running since May 2020, keeping students and classrooms connected across the world during the pandemic.

Each week students in a RS school somewhere in the world send a “Postcard” from their school to the rest of the Round Square community as an invitation to join a Zoom call 2 weeks later, on a topic of their choice.

Students from any RS school can join. Their teacher registers them with Round Square, who manage the technical hosting so that the students can focus on their content. Calls last 60 or 90 minutes, and include presentations, show-and-tell, quizzes and discussion in breakout groups. The whole thing is led and facilitated by students for students. On average around 20-30 schools participate from 15-20 countries.

Topics are at students’ discretion, and range from the serious and sophisticated, to the downright silly.

Sometimes we are introduced to the place we are visiting. We have been welcomed to Toyko by students from Keimei Gakuen, to India by Dhirubhai Ambani International School, and to Multicultural Dubai by the Indian High School Dubai. We have been “behind the scenes in England” with students from The Kingsley School, explored California with Chadwick and The Athenian School, learnt about Life in Vietnam with Renaissance International School, Saigon, and had an Aussie Backyard Adventure with Scotch Oakburn College, Tasmania.

We discussed tourism in Tanzania with St Constantine’s International School and took a “deep dive” into Canberra’s culture with Radford College in Australia, Roedean School in South Africa invited us to learn about Africa’s culture, and share our own, through exploring language, names, cultural dress and traditions. We shared Folklore and Legends from our culture or country, with Palmer Trinity in Miami, or discussed mottos, identity and heritage with St Philips College in Alice Springs.

During the first part of lockdown when most students worldwide were learning at home, we shared our experiences of e-learning, hosted by students from Gut Warnberg in Germany and discussed what it means to be adventurous with The Doon School in India,

We shared with each other our “Adventures at Home”, on a call hosted by Colegio Gran Bretana in Colombia, and Riverdale Country School in New York invited us to create and share art inspired by our homes. VDJS in India encouraged us to “Be a Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud”, St Clement’s in Canada led a discussion on the “power of optimism” and St John’s Ravenscourt in Winnipeg asked us to “Be the Difference” for Mental Health and Happiness.

Through the RS Postcard Zoom Calls, Students have found value in the opportunity for empathetic and open dialogue about issues relating to social isolation or feelings of helplessness or anxiety in the face of the pandemic. Simply connecting with students across the world to find out that they are not alone, has had a positive impact on many participants.

Over past months, these weekly Zoom calls have become a safe space for more challenging conversations as well. Stifung Louisenlund invited us to talk about Antisemitism in modern Germany, and Appleby College in Canada discussed the process of truth and reconciliation with indigenous cultures. MLC in Sydney asked “Women of the World: Where do we Stand”, Cheongshim International Academy shared insights into dynamic international relations and diplomacy between South and North Korea & DMZ, and Colegio Los Nogales in Colombia raised the question of Fake News.

Issues of sustainability and Climate Change have also been recurring themes. For example St Mary’s Colchester, UK reminded us that “No Man is an Island” and asked us to weigh up the thrills and threats of our natural world, and Park City Day School challenged us to consider the impacts of our actions on the ‘Sea Around US’, whilst. Ryde School on the Isle of Wight, UK explained the Circular Economy and led a discussion about how it can work in a school.

With a degree of protection through adult supervision, and careful management of passwords and zoom links, as well as managed hosting during the call to ensure duty of care and behaviour management, there is a level of safety behind- the scenes, that preserves the student-led feel but protects the space in which the conversation takes place.

If there’s one thing this past year has taught us it’s that open and honest dialogue, and the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal is a privilege and a luxury of immense value, particularly when it comes to understanding your own circumstances relative to the situation of your peers in other parts of the world.

So much of the Round Square ethos, and the learning it brings, stems from personal interaction between students from different schools, countries and cultures, we just knew we had to find a way to keep it going.

So, the postcards are a reminder that we are still here, an acknowledgement that we wish we could be together in one place, sharing a learning experience, but this is at least the next best thing. It’s a shout-out from one school to the rest, and it’s been heart-warming to see that shout-out answered.

In fact, what we have now, and will continue to have even when our travel-based programmes return, is great way for larger numbers of students to connect on a regular basis than is possible through travel-based programmes alone.

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