In a society where our lives are filled to the brim with busyness, it can be hard to find a little time to dedicate to voluntary work. Many of our boys have been fortunate enough to have experienced the benefits of volunteering during their time here at school, and those that have tell us how rewarding it is for them, in particular in opening their minds, giving them a better awareness of the outside world, reducing stress and providing an enormous sense of purpose. The act of giving in general also helps to protect the boys’ mental and physical health.
Once our boys reach Sixth Form, they are fortunate to have the opportunity to study the International Baccalaureate (IB). One of the main benefits of the IB is that it offers boys a more holistic approach to education. Not least because of the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) element, which helps develop curious, knowledgeable and caring young people who contribute to making the world a better place through understanding and respecting people who are different to themselves.
Every Wednesday afternoon, all IB boys from the Lower Sixth head out into the local community in small groups to carry out voluntary work. All activities must provide a challenging and formative experience for boys, while fulfilling a genuine need in our local community.
One small group of boys have been undertaking crucial conservation work in Bedford’s Priory Park, where they have been clearing the woody material from around the lake in order to maintain the important reed bed habitat around the edge. Their work has the added benefit of improving the view across the lake for some 200,000 people who enjoy the park each year. Boys have learnt some important conservation techniques and gained an understanding of the ecology of the area.
We spoke to one of the boys from this group, Felix Lange. Felix is from Germany and boards full-time with us. He chose to help with the preservation work at Priory Park because he likes to work outdoors and because, he said, “I want to play a small part in helping to preserve the park so the people of Bedford can enjoy a better experience.”
In turn, Felix has also learnt how to cut down trees to give more sunlight to the wildlife on the edge of the lake thus preventing the sandbank from eroding – all of this knowledge he can take back to the classroom to help him with his Biology studies.
Felix also told us, “It feels great to have a positive impact on the environment while benefitting the local community. I’m also learning about a local ecosystem and developing some conservation skills.”
Another group of boys have been helping disabled children learn to horse-ride with the charity ‘Riding for the Disabled’ in Willington. Through their work there, they have brought joy to many severely disabled children, while benefitting themselves by broadening their horizons, developing their equine and interpersonal skills, and increasing their engagement with the local community.
Director of IB, Mr Adrian Finch, commented, “CAS is an essential part of an IB education and something we treasure at Bedford School. It enables students to learn through experience and develop as people through opportunities for self-determination and collaboration with others, fostering a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment from their work.”