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Welcome to BIS

BIS Sustainability Summit welcomes Green City, Fridays for Future Munich, and Organic Garden to inspire students 

Nearly 100 Bavarian International School (BIS) students gathered on Thursday morning in the school’s auditorium in Haimhausen with the clear understanding that today would be different from any other school day. 

Emma Morris, BIS Teacher and environmental activist, held the microphone in her hand as students settled into their chairs, smiling and waiting. 

Once silence filled the room, she asked the students one question: “How does one inspire change?”

A tradition of many years, the BIS Sustainability Summit brings together all of the school’s grade 9 students as part of the Service as Action (SA) and Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) aspect of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The day opens with impassioned speeches from leaders in environmentalism, including the school’s own student-led “Green Team.” After listening to speeches from experts, students are asked to come up with their own ideas, campaigns and persuasive speeches, and to compete for the favour of a panel of judges at the end of the day. 

Exciting external guests

“Food is the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability on earth,” said Dimana Mitova, of Organic Garden, the nutrition partner of BIS. 

Dimana is a Nutritional Scientist who spoke about sustainable food culture and how this philosophy shapes the meals BIS students are offered everyday in the cafeteria.

Etienne Denk, representing Fridays for Future Munich, gave a compelling, raw and direct speech. He spoke about the important difference between knowing about climate change and truly understanding it.

“Fridays for Future is a great example of what can happen when people don’t accept things how they are; what happens when people come together and stand up for themselves,” said Etienne, who is 20 years old and engages in lobbying, public affairs and other work for Fridays for Future Munich. 

Martin Betzold, Brand and Innovation Manager at Green City, took the stage to deliver the final speech. His main call-to-action for the students was to ask inconvenient, and possibly uncomfortable, questions of themselves, of their teachers and of their parents.

“Right now, we aren’t just stopping coronavirus. We’re building a new world. What we do now will not only alter the course of this pandemic; it will also shape large parts of our collective futures,” said Martin. “Restoring the status quo shouldn’t be our goal. Decarbonising the economy and strengthening social safety nets is the best way to ensure a more stable, healthy and prosperous society going forward.”

Green City is an organization focused on improving the quality of life in urban areas via urban design, energy, education and mobility. The group works politically and entrepreneurially.

Tough competition 

After listening to the speakers, students worked in small groups for many hours to define a compelling campaign that would inspire people to make meaningful changes that benefit the environment. 

“The energy among the students was great. They were buzzing! Lots of ‘blue sky’ thinking. They came up with some real gems!” said Emma Morris. 

The final four teams pitched their ideas in front of a packed audience, in the beautiful chapel of the Haimhausen castle (part of the BIS campus). A panel of judges (Marcus Fischbacher, BIS Supervisory Board Member, Andi Pichler, BIS Teacher Assistant and BIS Biodiversity expert, and Dr. Rohan Skene, BIS Secondary School Principal of Grades 9-12) deliberated and decided to name the “Giving Greens” (Aurélia, Lena, Henry, Louisa, Josephine) group as the top idea and winners of the day. 

Tradition breeds progress

Emma Morris has personally led this event for three years. She knows the event is succeeding at inspiring grassroots, student-led change when she sees ideas from years past being brought to fruition and integrated into campus life. 

“We are trying to create projects that live over many years. ‘BIS Blooms’ was an idea that came out of this event a couple years ago and now we look outside and see that field blooming with flowers,” said Emma. 

“This day is an investment in the students’ passion for the future and in their capacity to see how their plans and ideas can come to life. They come to understand that their ideas can happen! It starts with having the time to be creative and to rethink their lifestyles.”