From Antarctica’s icy classroom to student assemblies at Bangkok

Guest Blog by Helen Thew

In March 2017, two members of the Bangkok Patana School community, Rebecca- a year 10 student, and I were invited to accompany polar explorer Robert Swan on his 2041 mission to Antarctica. Why “2041”? This is the year that the Treaty protecting the world’s last great wilderness expires, leaving it vulnerable to exploitation.

Since getting back, Rebecca and I have been involved in so many assemblies and talks to parents spreading the word about 2041 and what we learnt on the expedition. So many primary students now come up to me and ask me Penguin questions … I am known as Miss Antarctica to them!

I think one of my ‘IT’ moments on the trip was seeing the chunks of ice shelves which had broken off from the main continent and floating in the ocean all around us, showing us just how much it has already broken up. I remember Robert said, “If people do not believe in climate change, they just need to come and see this”. He also very powerfully said, “It should not make us depressed but give us the positive energy to not stop sharing the climate message”.

To return to what Robert told us when he visited Bangkok Patana last October, “You can’t all do everything, but you can do your 1%”. I have started my ‘ditch list’ in terms of saying no to single use plastic and takeaway coffee cups and monitoring by own energy consumption at home. By not nagging but hopefully just inspiring I am thrilled to see how many more staff are now also using reusable coffee mugs first thing on a morning!

I am really pleased to say that the positive energy that Rebecca has brought back to the Student Environmental Committee has helped to drive their focus for waste less week happening week beginning 19th June.

There are a few messages from the Student Environmental Committee. The following are brief summaries of the changes we shared during the Waste Less Week.


Saving Energy

–  We would like to change the thermostats to 24 degrees in each classroom at the start of the very day, to help reach a manageable but efficient temperature before classes arrive. This should avoid the need for classes to set the units to the maximum fan and minimum temp just as classes are getting underway.

– Switch off lights as much as possible. Some lights will be lightly taped as a physical reminder to keep the lights off but can be removed when lights are needed

– We will check the thermostat at the very end of the day to see any changes in temperature from the initial 24 degrees which classes might have felt were necessary

– We think these changes are practical ‘baby’ steps to help us all to honor our school’s 2041 commitment


Better Recycling

– House recycling bins placed between the noodle bar and snack bar

– Promote usage of the new recycling centre outside the school

– Brand new recycling bins next to the snack bar (to be confirmed)



Planting Seedlings

The community garden is planning to host a 3-day event where people can come to our stall in the lounge and plant seedlings in recycled bottles. Therefore we would like people to bring used plastic bottles to the lounge where we will have a box such that bottles can be donated.



Reusable Bottles

As part of Waste Less Week, Project Refill would like to encourage students and staff to bring their reusable water bottle to school each day to reduce the environmental impact we make and help shape good habits.



Eliminating Disposable Milk Bottles

We are planning a new system of delivering the milk to students at break time during Waste Less Week; no more throw away plastic Meiji milk bottles! Instead, larger dispensers will be available with all the usual types of milk, and students will have reusable cups.

We hope these changes will help us all to consider our own environmental impacts and choose more sustainable options. I continue to take in all that I see everyone else doing and it helps to keep the journey alive and make me want to do more. I am thrilled to say that Annie (our Primary PE teacher) has been given a place on your 2018 trip so Patana’s connection with 2041 will remain strong.

Helen Thew, 2041 Alumni