Last Wednesday, March 26th, the St. John’s Middle and High School Library hosted the first ever Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Encounter for students of the international schools of the Brussels area and one team of students from the Catholic University of Louvain (KU Leuven). The TOK teachers of these schools have been meeting on a regular basis, but in their last meeting they decided that it was time to organize something bigger and different where their students would be the main protagonists. This Encounter, hence, brought together students and teachers who are passionate about today’s big questions and challenges. This year’s main topic was “What is an International / Global Citizen?”
Zoe and Eduardo, two St. John’s seniors, started off the discussion by presenting their TOK research project entitled “Third Culture Kids and Global Citizenship.” They explored the idea of how growing up in a foreign country fosters global awareness and respect for diversity. Following the student presentation, Middle School teacher and PhD Candidate Mr. Young explained part of his dissertation in a discussion entitled ‘The Aspirations of the Global Citizen.” His research on 8th graders and their perception of identity opened a dialogue concerning the difficulty many international students have answering the simple question, “Where are you from?”
After the opening remarks the students were broken up into 6 smaller groups and were asked to engage in topics and issues raised by the two presentations. The library was filled with a rich enthusiasm as our students and those from the international schools of Antwerp, Brussels, and KU Leuven shared their mutual experiences of growing up abroad. Each small group was also asked to create and deliver an original presentation involving the ideas and discussion carried out in their respective groups. The results included a variety of presentations where skits, debates and even a courtroom style cross examination of a Belgian student volunteer claiming to be an international student were used as pedagogical tools. All in all, the day was a real success and students left with new friends and new insights into their own identities.
By the end of the day, the TOK Encounter students came to maintain a consensus idea: To be truly internationally minded, one has to integrate with the local culture, not only stay in the “International Community Bubble.” Vice versa “local” students also saw the need to be open to interact with students coming from other geographical areas and cultural backgrounds. They all agreed that next year the event should include more students and teachers both from Belgian and international schools.
By Boone Pilkington, MHS Library Intern