The Big Gold Box

Wellington College leads the way in many areas, one of the latest ways being a visit from “The Big Gold Box”. Wellington College is the first UK school to bring the Shared Studios experience to pupils, a collaboration across three College areas, Global Education, the Chaplaincy and Global Citizenship. In times when it has not been possible for pupils to have the direct experience of meeting other communities and cultures through travel programmes, this project provided the opportunity for learning, connection and understanding in a novel way.

Ana Romero, Head of Sustainability and Global Education Co-ordinator explains how the project came about “I came across Shared Studios at a Conference and immediately saw the benefit it could bring to our pupils, allowing intercultural understanding and experiential learning through an immersive experience. By connecting with other communities and organisations across the world, pupils had the chance to really explore global issues and universal themes. The portal provides an experience as if the person you are talking to is in the same room, making it much more effective than other remote ways of connecting.”

In February 2022, the “Big Gold Box” arrived at Wellington College with the aim of building core student competencies and creating lasting connections between Wellington College and communities across the globe through transformative conversations and challenging assumptions.

Each of the five days of the project was given a specific theme and linked with a different community. Day One was focussed on Global Education, linking with Kabakoo Academies, Bamako, Mali, recognised by the African union, the UNESCO and World Economic Form as a major innovator in global education and a top school of the future. Wellington pupils learnt more about cultural differences in learning and learning styles, being very surprised by the lack of a set timetable at the Kabakoo Academy.

Cara (L6th W) linked with students from “We are not numbers” in Gaza City Palestine, a group who present human stories behind the numbers in the news. “I didn’t know much about Palestine before I entered the portal and so I was interested to get involved and hear real life stories and experiences. I was amazed at the strength of the human spirit in the face of such oppression, and how they have to fight for everything, all due to the place someone is born in. The experience has really helped me start to rethink what I want to pursue as a future career, I am passionate about helping others.”

Tuesday was devoted to Climate Activism, linking to The Green Protector in Kigali, Rwanda. Discussions focussed often on the approach to Climate Activism in the differing hemispheres and how impacts can change the approaches on each location, but with the common link of the need for everyone to act.

Hakan (Year 9, L) connected with footballers from the Naki-Football Academy, based in one of the largest refugee settlements in the world (Nakivale, Uganda). “I wasn’t expecting much, then I met these wonderful people. I learnt that when you have more challenges to reach your goals it gives you more determination to do it. I think I should try to be like them. I was surprised by their incredible mindset as I don’t think people in the UK would cope well with their resources – geography is luck. It inspired me.”.

The “Big Gold Box” project took place during Empathy Week and is instrumental in exploring this key competency in a very direct way. “I am really pleased that we have had this project taking place during Empathy Week as I think it really did gives pupils the ability to develop understanding of people in other communities through the medium of conversation, highlighting both the differences but more importantly the similarities we all share”, noted Rebecca Park, Head of Global Citizenship.

The final day saw a celebration of global culture with exchanges of music, dance and performance, helping pupils to understand how these practices inform culture and their significance to each place. Pupils were able to share and connect with communities in Iraq, Uganda, Mali, Mexico and Rwanda.

Adrian Stark-Ordish commented “As College Chaplain I’m really interested in helping people explore their humanity and building bridges across differences. Connecting with other people on a deep level allows us to develop our humanity and understanding. I think this project has been really successful in delivering this aim”.

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