What We Learned About Leading by Building “The Dome” - UWC ISAK Japan

What We Learned About Leading by Building “The Dome”

Getting Started

At USC ISAK Japan, leadership is a central concept. We endeavor to weave a thread of leadership into all of our programs, but it’s in our core leadership courses—Leading with Self and Leading with Others—that this thread ties everything together. These courses encourage students to not only think about leadership concepts, but to try them out, and this is where the fun comes in.

Two of our Grade 10 students, Aideen and Olivia, recently began to stretch their leadership muscles with a new project to build a geodesic dome on campus. Both of them had individually identified a community need for a “fureai” space, which is the Japanese word for coming together, and the duo felt such a space could help foster unity and community spirit by bringing people together and get their minds of schoolwork. So it is fitting that when Aideen and Olivia came together they discovered a shared passion for this idea and decided to collaborate.

Speed Bumps

When the time came to actually get to work, these intrepid Grade 10s soon found that doing what is important is not always a smooth process.

“They told us our concept would cost too much,” commented Sweden-native Olivia. “But thankfully, we had been talking to a number of people about our idea and it turned out that most of the materials we needed we already sitting around, waiting to be used.”

It was a fortunate turn of events for the duo, but also a powerful lesson in the importance of taking action. Good things can happen just by taking that first step.

Brendan McGibbon, who teaches Learning with Others at UWC ISAK, has been impressed by the efforts of his two new students, commenting, “I enjoyed the girls persistence and enthusiasm. Every class they came in with a clear picture of what needed to be accomplished, and despite many setbacks, they always found a way to move forward. The work excited them and the wonderful puzzle in front of them compelled them to do more.”

Other Challenges

“Ironically, the biggest challenge we have faced is actually getting people together to work on it,” Aideen commented. “We were able to assemble a team of 6 to help, but everyone’s schedules were so different and it seemed it would never come together. We were spending so much time asking people to help and trying to rearrange schedules and it was really draining our energy. But after thinking it over a bit more we realized that our real problem was a communication one. Once we addressed how we were communicated with our team we were finally able to get enough people gathered at the same time to begin building.”

Measuring Success

Despite being less than 4 months into their UWC ISAK Japan careers, Aideen and Olivia are demonstrating a strong grasp of leadership, evidenced by their perspective on success.

“While we hope to complete actual construction of the dome in early 2019, we don’t think we will ever consider it complete,” Olivia emphasized. “We need to constantly gather feedback and find new ways to improve the user experience.”

Aideen added, “Having a physical space will be a source of pride for us because it will remind us everyday what we can do just by taking action. But we always need to be looking at the positive impact the dome is having on the community, which is the most important measure of success.”

While the two girls have a long way to go until the end of Grade 10, their teacher thinks they have a great outlook. “I was really surprised that they see this as a long term project as most students settle on finishing at the end of a unit,” commented Mr. McGibbon. “I attribute this to the work they did uncovering the needs of the community – and when you are addressing genuine needs the work can take on extra special meaning.”

To learn more about this project, check out their project video here.

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5827-136 Nagakura
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