Sorry teacher, what does it mean to be a Global Citizen?”

This is the question our students keep asking since Global Citizenship has become the main theme, as well as a primary aim, of our educational activity at Istituto Massimo, in Rome.

It is not easy to give a prompt and correct answer, as people immediately think of a person who likes travelling, can speak several foreign languages and can easily adapt to different living conditions.

In fact, it is far more than this! The above mentioned characteristics are certainly useful, but they are meaningless without that ‘Magis’ able to help Ignatian students to make the difference.

How is it possible for a young person to understand that he or she can change the world?

It sounds like the ‘Butterfly effect’: the flapping of the animal’s wings is said to be able to cause a typhoon on the other side of the world. Who can believe it?

From a holistic perspective, the faster we become aware of how tightly we are interconnected with the environment and interdependent from each other, the better we will know ourselves and live a fulfilled life with and for our neighbor.

This is the objective of Istituto Massimo:

educating competent, conscious, compassionate and committed global citizens, able to face the contemporary challenges with creativity and courage, following Jesus Christ’s way, in an open dialogue with any other religious perspective, taking care of the others, in particular of those in need, and of the world, our common home, according to justice, love and peace.” (from the Istituto M. Massimo’s document about “Pedagogical Method”)

In order to hit the target, we do not compartmentalize the subjects we teach or the projects we propose to our students; on the contrary what the community does is helping children and adolescents recognize the thread that ties together all the activities developed and performed at school.

It is generally acknowledged  that the Ignatian Student is curious, attentive, sympathetic, passionate, active and contemplative at the same time, responsible, creative, endowed with critical thinking, able to communicate, aware of the world. In 4 words: COMPETENT, COMPASSIONATE, CONSCIOUS and  COMMITTED.

A precious instrument we are using to foster the pursuit of such characteristics is Pope Francis’s Encyclical Letter ‘Laudato Si’.

In our programs and contests is kept the same message referring to the concept of Integral Ecology. Through the respect for our common home, we can live in fullness and peace.

For this purpose, this year a team of colleagues has organized the Concorso Laudato Si’, a contest aiming at promoting the message of the Holy Father, which invites people to an ecological conversion as main feature of the Christian experience, so to preserve the world we live in.

Students attending the first two years of high school, had to produce an unpublished short video. It should refer to the main themes of the encyclical letter re-elaborated in a personal way.

It is not merely a question of fighting pollution: it goes far ahead. We are talking about sensitivity, love (for nature, for other human beings, for animals), respect for the environment with its rhythms and laws.

Some years ago another group formed by colleagues and parents, anticipated what Pope Francis states in his encyclical about techno-science: it is a product of our creativity, which is itself a gift we received from God. It is potentially able to better living conditions all over the world, favouring a sustainable development. Since that moment, students have been involved, from primary to high school, giving life to a series of STEAM labs called Making Open, which led to the creation of fair software. It has been used, for example, with  3D printers, thus enabling the production of artificial limbs in the hospitals of African villages. Drones were also built in the labs (one was given to the Pope during an official hearing); simple instruments have been transformed into useful technologies to diagnose malaria or to analyse water. The common objective to the different projects has always been to help students boost their knowledge and discover their talents, engaging for the benefit of solidarity.

And then has come Educate Magis which always offers some more food for thought, inviting us to take part in contest or projects through which we get in touch and make friends with people from all over the globe, overcoming  socio-economic or political differences. What matters is to raise the awareness that we live under the same sun, we share the same ideals, we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the last years we have had the opportunity to involve students in the creation of videos which have offered them the possibility to analyse and reinterpret their educational path so promoting their personal growth:

  • The Red Chair  (2017) – teachers of all Jesuit and Ignatian schools, have been invited, as Global Citizens, to raise awareness of the millions of children who still don’t have access to education;
  • The Mannequin Challenge (2017) – a contest in which schools were asked to show how their children and teenagers could achieve the 4Cs characterizing an Ignatian student;
  • Young Global Reporters (2018) – a project aiming at a better knowledge of the Jesuit schools all around the world;
  • Bgreen (2018 and 2019) – young people are asked to react to the serious level of pollution, due in particular to the huge quantity of plastic which is threatening the oceans, causing the extinction of several marine species. The requested final product was a video to sensitize everybody in order to convince all of us to change our behavior, because the future is in our hands.

Last but not least, pursuing the Priority #8 of JESEDU-Rio 2017’s Action Statement and finding a natural convergence between UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Holy Father’s Laudato Si’, the school has started a training program for its teachers. More and more of them are getting involved in seminars and workshops, in collaboration with Fondazione Magis and Fondazione “Gesuiti Educazione”, to share their ideas and projects on how to improve Global Citizenship’s inclusion in all academic departments.

Moreover, recently at Istituto Massimo an award has been introduced, addressed to the teachers of the school to reward the most innovative proposals and the most effective educational projects: the so-called ‘Premio Magis’ (or the ‘Magis Reward’).

It is a recognition which favours and enhances  the circulation of project ideas, an effective tool for a three-dimensional growth of students. Knowledge itself only represents the basis for an integral development. It is widely recommended to take care of the human, spiritual and academic aspect altogether: they all deal with excellence and, if well combined, allow its achievement.

The whole of these and many other initiatives[1], integrated in the Ignatian education, help shaping a Global Citizen. This grants teenagers the future accomplishment of their goals, which will have a positive impact on theirs and their neighbor’s life, thus bringing a message of hope to humanity.

To sum up, going back to the former question “What does it mean to be a Global Citizen?”, we can definitely answer that a Global Citizen  is a person who loves and respects all Creation, as he knows to be part of It and at the same time reflects It. To have full cognizance of this, he must be a Competent person, that is to say Compassionate, Conscious and Committed at the same time, able to speak the three languages so dear to Pope Francis: the language of the Mind (to think what you feel and what you do), of the Heart (to feel deeply what you think and what you do) and of the Hands (to do well what you think and what you feel).

Of course, if he can speak a couple of foreign languages as well, … it does no harm!

Ad maiora!

Students from Istituto Massimo showing the Holy Father the artificial hand they created with a 3d printer
Crowdfunding at Istituto Massimo
P. Giovanni La Manna sj and some young students with Pope Francis receiving a drone built in the STEAM labs at Istituto Massimo.
Winners of this year’s ‘Magis Reward’.
A well built in Malawi by ‘Africasottosopra’, thanks to a crowdfunding supported by Istituto Massimo.

[1] Model United Nations, Nutritional Education, Didactic Vegetable Garden, Class for the Planet, Legambiente, SMOM,  EYM, Scout, Caritas, JRS programmes, Teaching Italian to Refugees, Social Week.