Located in Täby, north of Stockholm, this bilingual school for grades 6-9 offers a combination of the Swedish curriculum and the International Middle Years Curriculum. Part of the Futuraskolan International network of seven pre-schools and seven schools in the greater Stockholm area, around half of the schooling at Bergtorp is in English and half in Swedish.
The school’s vision is to be “the best stepping stone for future world citizens” and while that permeates everything at Bergtorp, perhaps nowhere is it more true than among the students in the Grade 9 Communication profile class, who have now set up their own charity.
Human rights for all
For one of those students, Jordan Watts, being a global citizen and making a difference go hand in hand. “I think of being a world citizen as being involved in global problems and trying to fix them by doing whatever you can to contribute,” he said.
Watts and his fellow Bergtorp students draw a lot of inspiration from how Thunberg has shown that little actions can end up making a big difference.
“We talk a lot in school about Greta Thunberg. Even though she’s around our age, she’s done a lot to affect the world by just going outside to protest. We then talk about how we can do our own small things to support global human rights,” said fellow ninth grader Stella Steen, who is half-Swedish and half-German.
The Grade 9 Communication students, who are part of the school’s Global Citizenship project, have studied and drawn inspiration from the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, global frameworks for creating a better future and securing basic human rights for all.
On their own initiative, they created a charity organisation called ‘Futura for the Future’ to play their part in these global challenges. Through it, they support a mix of international charities, like The Red Cross and Save the Children, as well as local groups.
So far, they’ve raised almost 3,000 kronor by selling ‘fika’ in their student café with more charity fundraisers coming soon. Younger students at the school are working on an EU-financed ‘Climate Change and the Future – Food for Thought’ Erasmus + project with peers in France, Italy and Greenland.
So far, they’ve raised almost 3,000 kronor by selling ‘fika’ in their student café with more charity fundraisers coming soon. Younger students at the school are working on an EU-financed ‘Climate Change and the Future – Food for Thought’ Erasmus + project with peers in France, Italy and Greenland.Photos: Jordan Watts and Stella Steen/Futuraskolan
An education in empathy
Learning to be a global citizen does not stop the children from also wanting to make a difference in their own backyard.
“Last year we had a project in the city centre to collect Christmas gifts for the less fortunate,” Jordan said. “There are people here in Sweden who also need help, so even doing something like that helps affect greater change.”
Kevin Munro, principal at Futuraskolan International Bergtorp, said the Christmas gift collection, which supported the non-profit organisation Stockholms Stadsmission, was a good example of the school and its students embracing the “think globally, act locally” approach.
“We try to find relatable ways to deal with these larger issues. There are already a lot of big organisations working on eradicating global poverty but Stockholms Stadsmission helps people living on the streets here,” he said. “The students thought that was really a good, concrete way to contribute to the larger problem of poverty.”
Munro said such projects help give children at Futuraskolan International Bergtorp a well-rounded education that goes beyond learning through textbooks.
“In most Swedish schools, it’s all about the curriculum and grades. Those are, of course, very important but here it’s all about preparing kids for the future world,” he said. “It’s not purely about academic knowledge, we also want children to develop skills like communication, the ability to work together, flexibility, being open and empathetic to those who do not have the same opportunities as us.”
The Global Citizenship project is one of three after-school enrichment programmes that students can join to complement the core curriculum, along with Fitness and Wellness and Creative Arts. Each of them is run by a board of students who constantly bring forward new ideas. Stella was ready to join the fitness programme but changed her mind after hearing of the chance to go on a student exchange trip to Germany to help the children understand cultural heritage.
Jordan, who has a Swedish mother and an American father, also loves the chance to learn more about other countries. “No friends of mine at other schools have gone on school trips abroad like we have,” he said. “We really get deeply involved in other cultures.”
The way forward: small but concrete steps
Both students said that, despite the many serious challenges the world faces, what they are learning helps them better relate to global issues like human rights and climate change and feel they are not insurmountable.
Jordan said taking concrete actions, whether recycling in one’s own home or helping others less fortunate in your community, makes things seem more manageable. “If I can do little things to help, so can everyone else,” he said.
“We’re doing the best we can, and I know there are others out there doing the best they can, so I’m hopeful,” added Stella. “I think in another ten years we’ll have had some really big positive changes.”
One thing is for sure: if everyone follows these students’ example and remembers that no one is too small to make a difference, Stella’s optimism will surely prove justified.