What does "international mindedness" mean at the Western Academy of Beijing?
WAB actively nurtures and champions its Mosaic of Diversity. Consequently, it is not surprising we are Beijing’s most culturally diverse learning community. During this time of shifting demographics in Beijing, our diversity is deeply and increasingly valued by our students, parents and teachers. It is our intention to continue growing the diversity of our community. Being a diverse community with Mosaic of Diversity as one of our Core Values does not alone create a caring and connected community. We actively cultivate opportunities to strengthen our mosaic.
Our task, as an International Baccalaureate school, was to create a definition of international-mindedness that would be accessible to our whole school community and beyond.
Our journey of formulating a visual representation began with groups of stakeholders, including parents, students and staff, who were asked to discuss, research and create written definitions of international-mindedness though their perspectives. For each group, every discussion evoked a mosaic of ideas. We sought to capture the energy of these meetings and synthesize the ideas to create one all-encompassing definition. The definition is designed to provoke meaningful discussion, inquiry, and critical thinking.
We wanted to ensure that our definition would be accessible to all of our multi-cultural, multi-lingual school community: from graduating high school students to the youngest elementary school students; from teaching faculty to support staff; from parents to the wider community.
It was decided that a visual representation would be the best medium through which we could effectively communicate to the community and allow stakeholders to formulate and develop their own understanding of international-mindedness.
INTERPRETING THE VISUAL DEFINITION
The artwork for our visual definition was designed to be thought-provoking and to provide an entry point into further discussion on the concept of international-mindedness.
The central figure is a ‘word cloud’ of all the definitions generated by our different groups of stakeholders. The figure is intentionally gender-neutral.
Each individual symbol represents a connection that helps to challenge and inspire us towards international-mindedness. The symbols were chosen by our students.
The Chinese character, 人 (ren), meaning “person”, represents China, our host country.
The background mapping is an interpretation of the Beijing subway system, reinforcing our connection to China and Beijing. The mapping also represents communication, global connections, building relationships, computer circuitry, roots of plants, brain connections, strong bonds, and choosing different paths.
The black background provides the contrast to emphasize the connections created by the networks, symbols, and text. In Chinese painting, purple represents the harmony of the universe because it is a combination of red and blue – yin and yang respectively.
On one level, the circular shape represents the globe. On another level, this shape represents the continuous cycle of life-long learning and our evolving understanding of the world.
Engaging with the Definition - Promoting Inquiry
Visual literacy is “the ability to evaluate, apply or create conceptual visual representations, and to understand the knowledge that is communicated by the visual.” (Middle Years Programme, International Baccalaureate Organization. "Language Acquisition Guide, pre-publication, " 2013).
As with all visual definitions, ours will need to be “unpacked” to be accessible to the audience. Our visual representation allows learners of all ages and linguistic abilities to engage with and begin to “unpack” the definition independently. The visual definition will promote critical thinking. Stakeholders can ask questions and begin to analyze the elements of the artwork, including color, shape, symbols, and the central figure. From there, they can construct and share their own understanding of international-mindedness.