(P) Cambridge School of Bucharest: A Green Education in the Twenty-First Century
For Academic Year 2020-2021, Cambridge School of Bucharest (CSB) embarks on a new stage of its 26-year history as it has moved to a new campus in Pipera.
Situated on the edge of Baneasa Forest, the campus offers the students of CSB, from EYFS-Kindergarten through to Year 13, the opportunity to learn in a beautiful setting, surrounded by tress and open green spaces.
Rita Hayek Maalouf, school director, describes some of the motivations for the new campus. “We are located between a major street and Baneasa Forest, and our aim is to create a green campus by inviting the forest inside the school.”
“We believe it will create a healthy, calm, and serene atmosphere. Plans to establish an urban farm will put our students in contact with nature and agriculture and to allow them to engage with important ecological issues.”
As the issues of preservation and environmental sustainability come to form a greater part of the global conversation, schools face a growing responsibility to nurture students equipped to tackle these challenges.
CSB places great importance on its place within the community and the change of location makes this possible. Rita Hayek Maalouf adds, “The school will be integrated into the urban community. It will be a place where the school community can find cultural and sporting activities, right alongside rigorous academics.”
CSB provides a wide-ranging international British education that emphasises the importance of hard work and intellectual curiosity, but also encourages students to feel a responsibility for their environment.
As part of the building of the new campus, more than 1,300 new and imported trees have been planted, including oak, birch, and maple trees, with 400 more due to be planted. Three hundred trees already standing on the site have been kept, with Rita Hayek Maalouf adding, “We tried to preserve the maximum number of healthy trees, and we even kept a tree in the centre of a roundabout.”
Integral to the planning for the new campus was allowing students to make a meaningful connection with nature. “Many studies have proven that a green environment exposes children to better mental and physical health conditions. As CSB is located in a major city, it is easy for students to lose touch with the natural world. In the end, our aim is to educate well-developed and environmentally aware citizens, who have an understanding of the world that surrounds them,” says Heath Renfroe, deputy school director at CSB.
The green spaces that can be seen all over the campus “will allow students to develop a love of nature and a will to preserve it. Students will have a lot of fun learning opportunities planting fruit and vegetables, all while developing their self-confidence, independence, responsibility, and sense of co-operation and duty,” he adds.
Recent guidelines (2019) from the World Health Organization explain the importance of physical activity for children. They show that 80% of adolescents are not physically active enough, which is especially important as “if healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep habits are established early in life, this helps shape habits through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.”
Dr Juana Willumsen, World Health Organization focal point for childhood obesity and physical activity, says, “What we really need to do is bring back play for children. This is about making the shift from sedentary time to playtime, while protecting sleep.”
This is supported by research by the National Trust in the UK, which found that children are spending half the time playing outside that their parents did. It found that being outside can boost vitamin D levels, while the adventure of being outside and navigating different outdoor spaces can help to develop motor skills and spatial awareness.
Katie Shanahan, head of teaching and learning at CSB, says, “Teaching staff are eager to begin planning lessons, and activities that will take students outside and allow them to learn and explore in the sunshine and fresh air.”
The presence of so many trees will allow the students of Cambridge School of Bucharest, as well as the local community, to witness the full beauty of the four seasons. Ioana Simonia, head of lower secondary, says, “You will be able to see the changing of the leaves in autumn, and it will be wonderful in the winter with snow in the trees. The sense of freshness for the students in such a space is so important, as well as the comfort zone that each student will be able to find on this campus.”
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