Voices (ISL Stories)

A Conversation with ISL's Student Energy Vision Team

Lily-Anne, Beck and Lucas at the Upper School Library

At ISL, we embrace sustainability schoolwide. With a focus on student learning at its heart, our commitment to sustainability extends far beyond the classroom. Today we want to introduce you to our Student Energy Vision Team, a dynamic group of students dedicated to change our approach to energy consumption.

It all began when three forward-thinking students from the graduating class of 2024 - Lucas, Lily-Anne, and Claire - submitted a proposal to our Director, Dr. David Condon, for a student innovation grant. Their vision? To monitor and reduce ISL's energy consumption. With the support of a generous grant, they embarked on their journey, later joined by Beck, another student from the same graduating class. Using their grant money, they became members of the Green Schools Alliance (GSA), a global network committed to fostering sustainability in educational institutions. With the power of the GSA's Sustainability Tracking Analytics & Roadmap Tool (START), our Energy Vision Task Force now employs 53 metrics to measure, monitor, and report our progress towards a more sustainable future.

Their impact extends beyond our walls as they allocated a portion of their grant money to assist three schools who otherwise couldn't afford to access the tool, ensuring that sustainability initiatives are accessible to all. Join us as we discuss their project and the strides they've made towards a more sustainable tomorrow.

Could you please introduce yourself briefly before we start discussing your project?

We are Lily, Lucas, Beck and Claire, four Grade 12 students who founded the Energy Vision Team.

Could you briefly describe your project, "ISL Student Energy Vision Team"?

At first, our project mainly consisted of helping the school reduce its energy consumption. However as the project developed we decided to broaden our scope and focus on helping the school address the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, one of our main goals is to encourage clear communication between all the stakeholders at the school in terms of sustainability. With this we want to raise awareness and educate the students, parents and staff about their impact, while generating new ideas for the school to meet sustainability targets. To achieve these goals we wrote a detailed proposal to apply for the school’s Innovation Grant, which we successfully received from the director. These funds were then used to apply for the START program enabling us to benchmark our sustainability school-wide, set, track and report ambitious targets while also collaborating with schools all over the world.

Poster showing United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals

What motivated you to focus on sustainability for your service learning project?

With this project, we want to help our school community address the Sustainable Development Goals. We chose sustainability specifically, as during our IB journey this topic is a key feature of our courses: our aim is to promote the importance of the relationship between people and the planet.

We are all very aware of the effect we have as a school on the environment, and together we want to take the initiative to have a better influence on the environment, the school and the students. We believe that by focusing on sustainability we are able to make the school an even more environmentally-concerned place, where students are aware of the change they can make in regards to this.

Throughout your service learning project, what are some key lessons or insights you've gained about energy consumption and sustainability?

We have learned many key lessons which we are sure will serve as a ladder for our project's success in the future. For example, we have learned the importance of having common sustainable targets between all involved stakeholders which everyone clearly understands. With this, it is equally vital that there is a clear method to achieve those targets and a clear method to measure success when the goals have been achieved. This ensures effective collaboration and is a catalyst for motivation. We rapidly came to the conclusion that our school can undoubtedly become more sustainable through small everyday actions, such as switching off the lights when leaving the bathroom or making the effort to sort waste correctly. Another valuable lesson is that there are a lot of creative minds at the school, which only need to be engaged in the topic of sustainability to help the school become more and more sustainable. Besides our future goals on sustainability, we will therefore also seek to engage the entire school community on this topic.

What were some of the key challenges you faced during the project, and how did your approach help address them?

  • Ensuring continuity and momentum in the project despite changes in leadership or team dynamics has been a potential challenge, as we are in Grade 12 and will soon be imparting on new journeys. To mitigate this, we've established clear responsibilities within the team and documented key processes and procedures through our action plan and meeting notes. We've also provided mentorship and support to new team members to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Assessing the effectiveness and impact of our sustainability initiatives has been challenging due to the complexity of measuring progress. To address this, we've used robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks with clear performance indicators and targets, we’ve invested in these systems (such as START) as well as ones already integrated within the school.
  • Ensuring active participation in the entire ISL Community has been a challenge for us, this includes: teachers, students of all ages, leadership and parents. However, by taking interest in the PYP exhibitions on climate change, we were able to broaden our audience and engage more demographics in what we are doing and what others in our community are achieving as well.

Can you share a memorable moment or experience from working on this service learning project?

A standout moment for us was when we gathered in the library study rooms with new members from grades 9 and 10. The room filled up quickly, and we had to find more chairs. Seeing everyone's enthusiasm made us realize we had chosen the right team to carry on our project. It was a reassuring moment, knowing our project was in capable hands, and incredible conversing with others who shared a similar passion for climate change.

What do you hope the broader school community will take away from your project?

In general, we hope that the school community will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of sustainability and its impact on local and global level. By broadening our focus to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we want to inspire a sense of empowerment to take action towards a more sustainable future. We want students, parents and staff to know that they can play a crucial role in driving positive change, whether it’s through energy conservation, waste reduction or promoting sustainable initiatives. By sharing our ideas and targets, we hope to spark dialogue and collaboration, which fosters sustainability that also extends beyond the school.

How do you think service learning initiatives like yours contribute to fostering a more sustainable life within the school and beyond?

Projects like these provide direct learning experiences that allow everyone involved to directly engage with global issues, leading to environmental stewardship. Through our project, students have the opportunity to understand and apply classroom knowledge about topics related to sustainability to real-world challenges. In general, by involving the broader school community and communicating our aims, we create a sense of shared responsibility, which leads to greeting long-term commitment. By sharing our experiences and successes also with other schools locally and globally, through for example the Green School Alliance and the Global Issues Network, we can inspire similar initiatives.

Moving forward, do you have any plans to continue or expand upon this project, or explore other aspects of sustainability through similar initiatives?

We have set both short term goals, which include measuring the schools energy consumption before and after the installation of the photovoltaic cells to clearly communicate its impact, and long term goals, which include the initiation of a team that will assist in the maintenance of the motion detectors already installed in the high school building. To successfully achieve these goals, we are confident that the new leaders of this project will be able to continue and enhance our current projects and also initiate their own projects.

As we wrap up our conversation with the ISL Student Energy Vision Team, we thank Lily, Lucas, Beck, and Claire for their commitment to sustainability. Their project has made a significant difference within our school community, inspiring us all to take steps towards a more environmentally conscious future.

Their initiative exemplifies the impact of student-led efforts in driving positive change. We appreciate their contributions and anticipate the continued progress of their work at ISL and elsewhere.


*** To learn more about ISL's Sustainability Framework, visit our sustainability page.