How to be a Mosquito

By Rachael Westgarth on 21/02/2018

At the heart of the Round Square ethos is a shared belief that the foremost task of education is to inspire and equip students to be active and engaged global citizens.

In pursuit of this goal, the schools in our network encourage their students to be courageous adventurers, champions of equality and diversity, and compassionate leaders who understand that to lead is to serve. They promote positive environmental stewardship and a commitment to sustainability. And above all else they encourage students to reach beyond their comfort zone to make a positive difference in the world. This recognises that as educators, we have the responsibility but also the capacity to change the world one student at a time.

But can individual students really make a difference?

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” The Dalai Lama

The Round Square movement is perhaps best-known for its service-learning programmes. Each year the RS network collectively engages more than 60,000 students a year in social service initiatives, partnering with, and supporting, more than 1,800 communities throughout the world. That’s 60,000 individual students that share the same ethos and commitment to be of service to others.

Service learning in Round Square is, of course, a two-way-street, and in working with these communities, students come to understand, through practical experience, that every positive and sensitive intervention or act of support, however small, can make a difference.

And the benefits of students’ participation in service activity extends far beyond the project itself.

More than 60 years ago the educational philosopher, Kurt Hahn, on whose principles Round Square was founded, talked about the ability of all educators to “accelerate developments by example through our democratic participation in the societies in which we operate.” Simply put: If you involve students in a positive service learning experience, and encourage them (with the right support, and in the right context), they are likely to go on to emulate and replicate its practices. Students’ personal involvement in service programmes inspires and prepares them to seek and develop their own opportunities to make their mark in the world.

Last year this was demonstrated by the many entrants for Round Square’s Anniversary Challenge Awards which recognised students’ efforts to make a difference in their local or wider community. With more than 80 entries, the initiatives demonstrated the breadth of ways that society can be improved through service-minded interventions. For example, our students found innovative ways to build bridges with the elderly community, reduce the mortality rate for pregnant women in developing nations, improve awareness of cancer symptoms and causes, support malnourished children and improve access to educational resources.

Service-learning is perhaps the most obvious way in which Round Square students develop a passion for local and global community engagement and activism. But they also connect with, come to understand, and develop compassion for, those communities through the broader opportunities available via their school’s membership of Round Square, from Round Square Conferences to Exchanges.

These activities are further underpinned by a broad range of inter-school collaborative programmes and initiatives that are inspired by the Round Square IDEALS, and help connect students with their peers in Round Square schools throughout the world.  

Through this broad spectrum of approaches, and infusion of IDEALS at their school, students develop a range of competencies, skills and values applicable to positive global citizenship. These have now become a formal part of Round Square’s DNA via the RS Discovery Framework which captures and describes the 12 “Discoveries” that students make on their learning journey: inquisitiveness, tenacity, courage, compassion, inventiveness, ability to solve problems, self-awareness, sense of responsibility, appreciation for diversity, commitment to sustainability, communication and team-working skills.

The RS Discovery Framework offers a structure that supports integration of the spirit of each of the IDEALS into curriculum programming, through signposting ways in which they can be given purpose and value in an academic context. Through an inclusive approach accessible to students of all backgrounds, cultures and abilities, it offers a framework for the development of attitudes and skills for responsible citizenship, via a range of desirable, but hitherto unmeasurable, “soft” skills and qualities.

As Natasha Pretorious, a former student of Round Square School, Bridge House School and now Business Studies teacher at St Andrews’s College explains: “Round Square lives in your life: it enters into the entire fabric of it. I am so grateful for the opportunities I was given through Round Square in my school. I’m fortunate to now work at a school that is also a Round Square Member, and with the RS Discovery Framework, there’s the opportunity now to do even more to bring it all together.

The ultimate goal of the RS Discovery Framework is to demonstrate to students how they can infuse their life, and their chosen career, with a principled approach that is values-based, and seek opportunities for positive social impact in whatever field of work they go into.

The true test of this is whether the passion that is ignited in students through their Round Square experiences, to understand, engage with, and make a positive difference to the world, continues into their adult life. Do the RS IDEALS become an enduring, hard-wired set of personal values, and do Round Square school alumni actively and democratically engage with the societies and communities in which they live and work?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many Round Square Alumni continue to volunteer as a lifelong commitment, but a significant number also pursue a service-oriented career.

Josceline Cluff, a former pupil of Round Square School, Cobham Hall, in England, and now logistician for international disaster relief charity, All Hands Volunteers, describes how the Round Square philosophy inspired her deep commitment to a career in support of communities in need: “Everything about the Round Square IDEALS is about justice and service and helping people who are most in need,” she says. “The longer I have spent out of school, the more I have appreciated how fortunate I was to be part of such a wonderful philosophy. It’s quite a rare thing to have received an education that nurtures your desire to explore, learn and care in such an organised and exciting way.

Having been inspired by her exchange experience at The Indian High School, Oman and participation in the Round Square International Conference, Josceline undertook a number of voluntary roles in between her ongoing studies. In her current role Josceline oversees provision of the life-essential logistics required when a community is hit by a natural disaster, from building emergency latrines to prevent the spread of typhoid to constructing community centres and leading clean-up drives.

Claire DesBrisay, an alum of Round Square school St. Clement's School in Canada, is now Director of Communications for Smile Africa, a grassroots NGO that originated in Accra, Ghana, and promotes STEM in Africa through volunteer based initiatives. Claire recalls how the experiences of her 6-month exchange to Round Square school, St Cyprian's School, in Cape Town, “shaped who I am today.”

She says: “It allowed me to explore all aspects of the local community and organised volunteering opportunities at a local public school and children’s hospital. It was really difficult to see the contrast between the experiences of the rich and poor; differences which only seemed to be heightened by the fact that these groups were living in close proximity. It was so different to my experience of living in Toronto and made me think deeply about where my place is in the world, what I can do to make a difference, and what I can do to educate other people about these issues.”

Beyond her exchange experience, Claire says that: “Round Square gave me the confidence and opportunities to explore a more internationally focused and service driven path (studies and work focused on human rights, social justice, service, democracy). I try to embody all of the IDEALS in my day-to-day life whether it be making (and educating those around me about) environmentally conscious choices; always adventuring at any opportunity, exploring and immersing myself in new places and new cultures, looking for new learning opportunities (and making life-long friends at the same time). Round Square allowed me not to just meet people from other parts of the world, but to engage with them on real, important issues, creating a platform to truly learn from one another and open our minds to other cultures and perspectives, all with an underlying sense of a shared humanity."

Stories like these can be found throughout the alumni of Round Square Schools and show how their values and skills remain influenced by the IDEALS.

BBC broadcaster, Mishal Husain remembers “the internationalism of the Round Square movement, which helped spark my interest in international news and broadcasting from around the world”.

Farhanul Islam, Bangladesh-born Entrepreneur, magician and Founder of the Magicman Farnhaul Cancer Foundation, says that “Round Square took fear of challenges out of me. I knew I could achieve anything if I worked hard.” Now running his own tutoring business in Canada, Farhanul traces his determination to make a positive difference in the world back to the spirit of service he developed via his school’s membership of Round Square.

Research Analyst, Shivam Jumani, says that: “The IDEALS of Round Square perfectly encapsulate the concept of being a global citizen. Service isn’t just about volunteering or working for a charity, Environmentalism isn’t just about planting trees. I believe you can still make an impact by expanding the definitions of these IDEALS so that they can be imbibed seamlessly in one’s day-to-day life, regardless of one’s passion and career.

And John Russell, former pupil, and now Dean of Students, at The Marvelwood School says: “My foremost calling remains to learn from others, serve others, and while working alongside young people, help guide them to tangible accomplishments that will have profound and lasting impacts on their lives.

Students’ first encounter with the RS IDEALS is usually through activities (through ‘doing Round Square’), but through repeated behaviour and reflection, for most the IDEALS soon become a core set of values, (‘being Round Square’) that they carry with them throughout the remainder of their lives. In our quest to track down and share the stories of Round Square School Alumni we are increasingly finding that, whilst the IDEALS influence individuals in different ways, an overriding impact felt by everyone is the development of a strong social conscience and a lifelong desire to be an active and engaged global citizen.



If you are an Alumnus of a Round Square school and would like to share your story as part of our project, we would love to hear from you! Please get in touch via our web site.



Round Square will be presenting on the topic of Global Competence through Global Community at the Global Forum on Girls’ Education II in Washington DC from 18-20 June 2018.

The conference headlines with a commitment that, “that the most powerful message a girl can receive is there are no limits to what she can pursue. Regardless of what problems she wants to solve when she grows up, she needs to know nothing stands in her way.”

Anticipating attendance of over 1,000 delegates from more than 25 countries, the Forum promises to be a multi-cultural gathering of educators that play a critical role in empowering girls with the tools and an informed perspective to reach their full potential and become influential contributors and leaders in our complex, changing world.

If you would like to sign the Conference Pledge you can do so here.

Round Square schools that wish to join us at the Global Forum on Girls’ Education are invited to register here.



Round Square schools that would like to know more about the RS Discovery Framework are invited to register for the April 2018 workshop to be held over two days at ABS Jordan in Amman.