Blogs >> A student's perspective - by Birte Schulze

A student's perspective - by Birte Schulze

Birte Schulze

As part of our last studio module we, the Ecological Design Thinking (EDT) students, had the chance to visit Woodstock School situated in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. There, we cooperated with the Centre for Imagination (CFI) which EDT graduate Amy Seefeldt had founded after completing the programme.

It was an immense pleasure to observe how Amy held this physical space and to be given the opportunity to act within it. Our work started off as separate projects, covering student safety, the food system and the girls' dormitories at the school. However, soon it became evident that the topics were all interconnected strands of the larger project of embodying the school new guiding principles: pursue wholeness, tread lightly upon the earth, value compassion, seek wellbeing and elicit greatness.

The project I worked on was mainly concerned with the students wellbeing and while in this frame engaging with them, we could strongly feel their vigour, their joy and their creativity. However, some of our exercises also highlighted the stress, pressure and uncertainty the students are facing. In this respect, Amy and the CFI play an immensely important role in their holistic development.

The mainstream educational system expects us to be full of factual knowledge which can easily be tested, to be goal-oriented and to be in control of our next steps. This means that a lot of the students felt stressed with school work, applications to higher educational institutions and various extracurricular activities.

This leaves them little time to ask the important questions of 'Who am I?' and 'How do I pursue to live in relation to the rest of the world?'.

The CFI, while operating within the system of the school, manages to address these questions. There, the students are encouraged to examine the way they perceive the world through independent seminars. Moreover, they are supported in creating committees, like the 'cheating committee' in which they dig deeper and reevaluate their responsibility in respect to their friends, to society, to the environment and eventually to themselves.

The students learn how to think in systems and their enthusiasm is fostered to translate this mindset through (community) projects into the real world. The CFI's aim is to break taboos, such as harassment on and off campus and to bring about students who are confident in themselves and in their future path.

For me, it was very touching to witness how the interactions with Amy and our artistic participatory methods allowed the students to express their 'weak' side. They could show their vulnerability and uncertainty, voice their frustration of feeling overwhelmed and reveal how day-to-day interactions can be painful.

How can we achieve that such moments become part of our culture, especially in the educational field rather than being occasional events? It felt empowering to feel students and staff respond positively to the tools we used and to see them tweaking and adapting them for their own inquiries.

I have great hopes that these highly energetic, creative students will carry the projects we ignited further and that they will acquire additional skills along the way which will in one way or another benefit our society and planet in future.

I am extremely grateful to Amy Seefeldt with Woodstock School, to Roberto Fraquelli and Mona Nasseri with Schumacher College and to the EDT students for making such an incredible experience possible!

Birte has been a student on the MA Ecological Design Thinking master programme