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Under the Dome

November, 2014
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Opening of Impressive Sports Facility in Beijing

bsb-dome-ribbon-cuttingOn 25 October, Students, teachers, parents and friends of The British School of Beijing celebrated the official opening of the school’s impressive new sports dome with a morning of activities and sports tournaments.

Measuring 66 metres by 19 metres, the dome covers the school’s external basketball courts and can house several activities at the same time. It features a powerful air handling and filtration system and is fully temperature controlled to create a safe and spacious play space for students all year round.

The dome was officially opened by Laura Ferrer Del Pra (Year 10) and Kirsty Macleod (Year 11), Captain of the school’s Netball team, in a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by parents and guests from embassies and the world of business. Guests then enjoyed a tour of the dome and school, seeing the great addition the dome makes to the school’s already extensive sports facilities.

“This is much better now with such a beautiful facility. When the air is polluted during PE lessons, the students won’t be all crowded in the gym. We can do sports more comfortably and do not have to worry if the air is good or not,” said Laura, who was really excited about cutting the ribbon to open the sports dome. “The air pollution has really affected my life. I really like sports so before, when the air was polluted, we have to cancel games or tournaments outside, which is really unfortunate. With the new dome, it’s really good because we can still carry on with the tournaments.”

Andy Puttock, Principal of The British School of Beijing, Shunyi, said at the opening ceremony, “We are delighted that the dome has come to fruition, meaning that students can now play in safe, healthy air, whatever the conditions outside. As parents, we want our children to learn well and be happy at school, but their safety is the number one priority for all of us. Our thanks go to Nord Anglia Education for the investment, but also for all the teachers, students and parents who have helped to make this fantastic facility a reality.”

The dome has been specifically equipped for a wide variety of sports including football, badminton, basketball, handball, volleyball and netball, and is already fully used in the curriculum and in the wide-ranging After School Activity Programme.

bsb-dome-1Principal Puttock added that the purpose of building the dome is to benefit BSB students and even students from other schools. “We hope it will benefit BSB students, students from other schools and our wider community – we see them all as members of the BSB family. We take our students’ safety very seriously and we don’t let them play outside when the air pollution is above certain levels (different for different ages) and PE lessons have to take place inside. By having the dome, it means that children can still get the physical exercise and activity they need to stay healthy without breathing in polluted air, ‘outdoor’ PE lessons can continue in the normal way, and sports tournaments do not have to be cancelled so much. When the air is good, which is a lot of the time, it also gives us a third gym space for teaching and sport – for example, we can host two major volleyball matches this week at the same time.”

The dome is only part of the picture of creating a safe, healthy and quality learning environment for BSB students. This summer, the total investment was approximately US$1 million as part of an on-going commitment to children’s health. As well as the dome, BSB installed a brand new, integrated air purifier system (177 ceiling mounted air purifiers in all areas, including every classroom) throughout the school, which has brought the AQI down to extremely good levels in the building, even on the worst days outside. The school also installed a number of new doors to make sure that the air tightness was good, and air curtains and lobbies on the majority of outside doors.

“At the heart of all this, however, is the air quality policy, which not only defines the safe practice under which we all work, but also provides training for all staff on a regular basis in how to operate the building safely and in the best interests of children’s health. We also have regular presentations from doctors and air quality consultants, for parents and the community – our belief is that we need to manage the air quality situation and not simply hide from it,” said Puttock.

Educating the students to lead a green life is a very large part of the BSB curriculum programme, ranging from geography and science to projects in all sorts of subject areas, including mathematics and English. It also features highly in the Personal, Social, and Health Education programme and in the daily school assemblies. But it is not just about air pollution. BSB also strongly encourages recycling and environmental management throughout the school, including in the school restaurant, and a Student Council led project last year to almost eliminate the use of paper and plastic cups has been highly successful. BSB students have already identified the right to a healthy environment as one of their central themes. They also have a flourishing ‘Roots and Shoots’ group, part of a network shared by a number of schools in Beijing, which focuses, along with the Student Councils, on making a difference on environmental issues.

“Schools are educating the leaders of tomorrow and we see it as an essential part of that mission to engage our students in making the world a better, safer place now and for the future,” said the Principal.

Domes Next Door

The British School of Beijing is only 4th international school that has built an air dome on campus. The other three schools are International School of Beijing, Western Academy of Beijing and Dulwich College Beijing.

isb-domes-clearAs the international school across the street to BSB, International School of Beijing (ISB) opened two purpose-built sports and recreation domes in early 2013, enclosing a combined six tennis courts and wide range of indoor/outdoor sports and fitness areas. The total area of the two domes is more than 8,500 square metres. Students from ISB and other schools compete throughout the year in the domes in various sports including tennis, soccer, volleyball, basketball, badminton, table tennis, dancing, and track and field. The pressurized domes also have several gyms and learning spaces, and can be used to accommodate school-wide events.

In addition to school-wide events, the domes have hosted key sporting matches and championships involving Middle School and High School teams competing in the International Schools Athletic Conference (ISAC), a league involving Beijing and Tianjin international schools.

The construction of ISB’s domes aligns with one of the school’s strategic initiatives by nurturing the whole child, in terms of academic, social-emotional and physical well-being. The domes ensure ISB students are able to exercise and participate in sports and recreational activities all year round, irrespective of the weather or air quality. ISB has a rigorous athletic programme and believes a strong after-school sports programme can foster leadership, camaraderie and sportsmanship. The domes are a key facility in helping to achieve these outcomes.

Besides the dome, in 2013-14, ISB upgraded its campus-wide HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system to significantly improve air-filtration levels in all indoor areas. Although much attention has been paid to the excellent air quality inside the domes, comparable standards are the benchmark in all classrooms and indoor areas. Air quality throughout the school’s indoor areas is assessed daily as part of the school’s commitment to continuous improvement. On a broader scale, ISB has a robust strategic plan that cultivates inspirational and creative opportunities to develop each student’s unique potential. Regarding safety, ISB maintains strict safety standards on campus through a visible, professional security team on patrol 24 hours a day.

A tour of ISB reveals the high level of engagement the students have with the environment and global issues, such as climate change. ISB students develop a healthy environmental consciousness at an early age through the school’s standards-based curriculum, which includes a strong emphasis on experiential learning. Many of ISB High School students also support or participate in student-run clubs that encourage environmental protection and sustainable living practices, including Greenkeepers and Roots & Shoots.

ISB further instils the importance of such issues through its network of external partnerships that provides students with access to expertise from inspirational figures in many fields. On 29 October, American climate activists David and Lindsay Kroodsma spoke to ISB students about their cycling odyssey across Asia. Earlier this year, some ISB High School students deepened their understanding about the environment and importance of “green living” by participating in biodiversity field research in Honduras as part of Operation Wallacea, an environmental conservationist NGO.



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