This week the school adopted our street, er soi (in Thai) and spent Friday afternoon on our first clean up. Leading up to the day, my homeroom spent some time talking logistics. In the midst of the discussion of what to wear, when to go, what to do, one of my students raised his hand and asked, ‘Why do we have to do this?’ For many – including me just after the comment was made – the question was taken as apathetic and disinterested. Grade 7 angst. However, as I continued to probe, we realized he was asking much bigger questions.
- Why doesn’t government services take care of the island?
- What can we done to solve this problem?
- How can we as students created larger change?
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to make the effort to clean up our community. In fact, he was trying to work through solutions so that we don’t have to do that again in the future. I encouraged the kids to think deeper, broader and more strategically. Some ideas that came back included: plastic bag ban on Phuket, CCTV cameras on every street with fines and punishment for those who liter, signs at the airport in all languages to encourage tourists to keep Phuket clean, and improved government services to address the problem. Now what? The soi is ours now, but I’ve already told the kids: next year I hope we don’t have to clean it again.
If approached correctly, I truly believe that service can lead to deeper thinking, meaningful action and systemic change. It starts small…