What do school mottos mean and does your school truly live by it? Most international schools and schools around the world will have their school motto proudly emblazoned across their campus, website, and uniform. Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA) is no different and works hard to live up to theirs.
School mottos have been around for as long as we have had schools and universities. Harvard University’s motto is one simple word – ‘truth’, while Yale University’s is slightly longer, translating from Latin as ‘light and truth.’ The UK’s famous Cambridge University is longer still, translating from the original Latin as ‘from here, light and sacred draughts’ which means that scholars and students there provide knowledge and thinking that can be trusted and believed. The whole point of a school motto, just like a company’s mission statement, or a nation’s slogan, is that it gives members of the community a simple phrase to guide their thoughts, words, and actions.
Yet a motto is just a meaningless word or phrase unless the school truly lives by it. And this means that the school motto should be evident in everything the school and its community does.
Since its inception in 2001, BWYA’s school motto has always been ‘locally grounded, globally aware.’ What this means is that while the school is a forward-thinking, innovative, international school which takes part in international events, gets involved with global issues, and has its graduates go on to leading universities around the world, it never loses sight of its local community, Chinese culture, and customs and traditions that are also a big part of its identity.
Being ‘locally grounded’ has two main aspects. The first is being an active member of the local community, supporting it, and giving back whenever possible. For international schools this can include fundraising activities, hosting fun events, or putting on entertaining performances for everyone to enjoy. For BWYA, students regularly create their own fundraising campaigns as part of their own personal projects, Service & Action projects or Community, Activity, and Service activities, raising awareness and funds for deserving causes such as migrant children and disadvantaged communities. And it’s not just about money. Sometimes giving up your time can be even more beneficial and you can find BWYA students volunteering and helping out all over Beijing. For example, grade 10 student, Stephanie Choi, recently organized a Walk-A-Thon charity event that raised over 4,000RMB to help a local migrant school renovate its bathroom facilities. Grade 9 student, Maria An, has set up and coordinates a team of students who prepare and present English lessons to orphaned children. For the performance side of things, BWYA students are regularly showing off their music, acting and artistic talents at events such as the BWYA Evening of Arts, the student-led Spring Musical, and the annual Christmas performances at Indigo Mall and Oasis International Hospital.
An appreciation of local customs and traditions is also part of being ‘locally grounded’ and at BWYA this has been woven into the curriculum of the school. For example, Chinese classes include in-depth studies of Chinese literature which students adapt into dramatic performances. Chinese Calligraphy lessons are also part of the BWYA programme. Recently, thanks to the Education Committee of Chaoyang District Beijing, BWYA students were given an enjoyable reminder of what it means to be a young learner in China. Students enjoyed traditional Jingtailan painting, Chinese lantern making, and a very special Tai Chi Fan demonstration. BWYA also has a student-led club called the Intangible Cultural Heritage Redesign Club (ICHR Club), set up by grade 9 students with the help of their parents. The Club has been traveling around the countryside in Hebei Province experiencing local ancient customs and traditions, and encouraging more young people to get involved by using modern media and arts and crafts projects.
The second part of BWYA’s motto, ‘globally aware,’ is just as significant, and means more than just regularly traveling to foreign countries and enjoying the sights. It also means engaging with global issues and the wider global community.
One example of how BWYA students stay ‘globally aware’ is via the extremely busy Model United Nations Club (MUN Club). The MUN Club regular participates in international events at which students represent nations and debate topics just as the real UN does. The Roots & Shoots Club is part of an international organization that follows world-wide themes each year and BWYA’s Classrooms Without Walls programme also includes trips overseas. In previous years students have volunteered on local projects such as building shelters for disadvantaged communities and wildlife conservation.
Back in the classroom, as an IB school, there are global elements to all programmes including design, the arts, science, and humanities, encouraging students to look beyond their own borders. This includes design projects that are inspired by human rights issues in developing countries and humanities projects centered on the habitats and dwellings of indigenous cultures around the world. Students studying subjects such as design or business and economics benefit from visits to some of the global companies who have their Chinese headquarters in Beijing, and science classes regularly relate the topic under investigation to a global perspective such as how humans have impacted bio-diversity around the world. Students at BWYA’s Lido campus recently undertook a study of how observing birds can act as a way of monitoring an environment. This study has global relevancy but was carried out locally in Beijing’s Olympic Park.
Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk
So next time you hear about a school or company motto, give some thought to what it means and ask yourself if they truly live up to it. BWYA clearly does.
This post is provided by Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA)
Photos courtesy of Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA)