Agent Hickman reports from Ringwood School about what they have been doing this spring term.
Question Time with our MP
Students were treated to a stirring and impassioned speech by Mr Swayne who made clear his personal commitment to helping producers in developing countries get a better deal clear. In a rousing speech he described the importance of Fairtrade in supporting those living in poverty without enough money for food, clean water, medicine, books and education.
To a backdrop of projected images of Fairtrade at Ringwood, prepared by students, a lively question and answer session followed in which the MP was quizzed about his knowledge of Fairtrade, his own Fairtrade habits, and about practices in the House of Commons. Students learnt that he practises what he preaches and that he buys his own products after church on Sundays! And yes, he had certainly signed up for The Guardian’s 1010 campaign, as has Ringwood School. A further question, from a Chrono-Bot 851 caught him slightly unawares, “What was the last non-food Fairtrade item you bought?” However, in answer to a question from a Chronobot 101, “Where, Mr Swayne, does Fairtrade come in your list of priorities?” he made it quite clear that it was at the top. The fervour of his argument meant that most were fairly convinced that this was the case.
Ringwood School embraced Fairtrade Fortnight with the enthusiasm one would expect from a school with newly designated Fairtrade status. Students made an eye-catching display in the main entrance lobby, enlisting the help of a local store whose owner provided us with a variety of non-food Fairtrade and ethical products. It was designed to catch the attention of visitors to the school and particularly those attending evening performances of the school production.
Year 10 students made Powerpoint presentations of Fairtrade, the concept, the reasoning and the school’s actions to date and were used in all tutor groups. They introduced the 2010 Fairtrade Fortnight’s theme, The Big Swap! We know that many students and staff pledged to swap, for example, their ’usual’ chocolate bar with a Fairtrade bar.
A final action in Fairtrade Fortnight was a huge sale of Fairtrade food – juices, fruit, bars, biscuits and cakes – in the school canteen. All cakes were made by students in the Fairtrade group whose size has tripled since September.
Fairtrade Tea Dance
When sixty elderly visitors were invited to take part in a Fairtrade Tea Dance at Ringwood School, no-one really expected that much dancing would take place. How wrong we were! Sixth formers and younger students enticed the delighted visitors to the dance floor and danced the afternoon away.
Students have already carried out work with the Town Council on Fairtrade, for instance they attend the council meetings. However, they were keen to share their Fairtrade ideas with another section of the local community, the elderly. Thus the ambitious idea of a Fairtrade tea dance was born. Sixth form students Lily, Alex and Abbie who have regular contact with the elderly, assisted by a school secretary, quickly found visitors. They were drawn from day centres, care homes and the Conservative Club. Some were individuals known to staff members at the school.
Visitors were escorted by teams of students to tables decorated with flowers from a teacher’s garden. Fairtrade bunting and inflatable bananas formed an unusual backdrop to a tea dance! Proceedings were launched by sixth form student Paddy, master of ceremonies for the afternoon, while visitors enjoyed their first Fairtrade cuppa of the afternoon. Sixth formers Patrick and Abigail then gave a short presentation of the school’s work in Fairtrade explaining the concept of Fairtrade, demonstrating what students had accomplished at the school. They then shared their vision for the future with our elderly visitors.
While a second cuppa was served, visitors were treated to a variety of dance performances from student . The various genres represented ranged from exuberant solos and duets to group performances by GCSE and BTEC dance students. All were arranged by the school’s dance teacher. Our elderly visitors certainly appreciated the performances! Joan, one visitor, observed, “It’s wonderful to mix with these lovely young people: we see so few youngsters in our lives. It makes me feel youthful just to be with them.” We hoped that our dancers would inspire our visitors to later get to their feet!
Afternoon tea followed; cucumber sandwiches, prepared by the school catering manager, and her team, followed by Fairtrade goodies produced by the students. All those in the school’s large Fairtrade group contributed, and usually baked an item. The brief was, of course, to include at least one Fairtrade ingredient, and preferably more. Fortunately, our visitors seemed to revel in this student-chosen diet of Fairtrade chocolate cake, banana cake, fruit cake, sweets and biscuits. Several asked for doggie bags! Chrono-Bots were happy to oblige.
While the final Fairtrade tea and coffee was served, food and crockery was despatched to the student washers up and raffle tickets sold. Our caretaker donated the main prize of a fresh Fairtrade fruit basket. Students intend to sponsor a Tchimpounga chimpanzee with the proceeds of the raffle.
A delighted 94 year old lady was invited onto the dance floor by a sixth form student. Others followed as if youngsters.
As the afternoon drew to a close, each visitor was given a tiny parcel of Fairtrade Easter eggs that had been prepared by a team of younger students. Each was carefully labelled with a home-made Fairtrade ‘thank you’ card.
We know that Fairtrade, our students and our visitors benefited hugely from this ambitious event. As one Year 8 student remarked, it was not only successful, but it was enormous fun!
Two big displays of biodiversity are planned. One will focus on the school grounds, the other on biodiversity in tropical rainforests. Eager Chrono-Bots intend to challenge Galaxy ‘s and Kits Kat’s claims to be ‘rainforest friendly’ , displaying the Rainforest Alliance logo, while at the same time, using unsustainable palm oil for their chocolate. Students feel particularly strongly about the impact on animals and action on this will constitutes part of their mission.