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Back to the future

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By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Some amazing things have happened in the 40 years of the International School of Beijing (ISB), but Friday was the first instance of time travel. On the 40th day of ISB’s 40th anniversary year, students reached out to future generations at the school as they buried a time capsule – a historic cache of goods and information to be opened on the 50th day of the 50th anniversary year.

Time capsules are a popular way of communicating with future people, to help historians understand and appreciate past cultures. During Friday’s Time Capsule Ceremony, representatives of the Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, alumni, the ISB Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, and the Parent Teacher Association deposited items ranging from ISB-branded clothing to academic schedules to campus maps in the 40th anniversary time capsule.

The items were chosen to encapsulate ISB’s present excellence and four decades of education services dedicated to Beijing’s inspiring international community. The contents of the time capsule will also provide a snapshot of the unusual period we’re living in – they include decorated masks, messages inside a hand sanitizer bottle, and a newspaper as mementos of our battle against Covid-19.

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The Time Capsule Ceremony featured speeches by Head of School Patrick Hurworth and Board Chair Su Jin.

“Our time capsule includes artifacts of the ISB of 2020 – its warmth, its progressive nature… I’m sure that those artifacts, when they are examined in 2030, will be a source of great pleasure for all who find themselves here, opening up this memory box. I expect that the very best parts of ISB in 2020 will endure until 2030 and beyond,” said Mr. Hurworth.

“That’s in our hands and the hands of those who follow us. I’m confident that our school’s key traits and values are here for the long haul.”

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In her speech, Su Jin focused on ISB’s new facilities as well as contemporary events, saying, “The selected location for the time capsule is symbolic, right beside the new ‘bridge’ connecting our legacy buildings with the newly opened spaces where new memories will be made... It is indeed a bridge to hope and the future.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt been a profound test of the resilience of our school. Good times build confidence and tough times build character. Today, we are here to celebrate achievements and commemorate the events that made this year unique, using the vehicle of a time capsule to send a clear message of hope to the future, that as a united community, we can get through anything.”

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The Middle and High School Choirs also starred in the ceremony as they performed Resilience, a special song that has been developed as an ISB anthem since the emergence of Covid-19. With the lyrics “Resilience, we are strong; Shoulder to shoulder, keep movin’ on,” it’s a fitting tribute both to the community’s current fortitude and its uniting for challenging and joyful learning since ISB was founded in 1980.

The Time Capsule Ceremony is just one of many anniversary events that ISB is holding throughout this academic year. Everyone is invited to join in. Visit the Celebrating 40 web page for more details.

Head of School Patrick Hurworth's speech in full:

Today is the 40th school day of our 40th year, a milestone day and year. On August 30th, 2018 I stood on this same spot and spoke a few words of the ceremony that began our construction projects. It seems like just yesterday and those construction projects now provide the lovely background for this ceremony today. At the time of that ceremony in 2018, the school’s 40th anniversary seemed so very distant. Time does pass so fast. And what seems like an expansion of time from the 40th to the 50th anniversary in 2030, it will be here before we know it.

Today’s ceremony will be to bury our time capsule and to leave it there for the next 10 years. There are times during 2020 I might have volunteered to jump into the time capsule myself. On those occasions when that may have sounded appealing, I had inspiration from the resilience of our students, families, and my colleagues all of whom themselves have been very resilient and offer such optimism as we looked to our 40th year.

Our time capsule includes artifacts of the ISB of 2020 – its warmth, its progressive nature. On the 50th day of the 50th year the time capsule will be retrieved, opened, and its contents will be examined and maybe a 50th anniversary time capsule will be buried in its place. Those artifacts in 2030 when they are examined will be a source of great pleasure for all who find themselves here that day. Not least our second graders who by 2030 will be seniors and I hope very much that they will all be part of that ceremony on the 50th anniversary. And I expect and I hope that the very best part of ISB in 2020 will endure to ISB 2030, the 50th birthday and beyond. I am confident that our school’s key traits and values are here for the long haul.

Our next decade will indeed pass quickly and this year has been a reminder that none of us have the ability to predict our future with any accuracy or confidence, yet I will be bold enough this morning to predict a bright future for our school for great learning, innovation, growth, and a reputation and heart by the inspiration we provide to each other. Thank you again to everyone who was involved in this opening ceremony. Happy 40th day ISB and once more, happy birthday ISB!

Board of Trustees - Board Chair Su Jin's full speech: 

Good morning, ISB,

My name is Su Jin and I am the Chair of the Board of Trustees. It is a privilege and honor to represent the Board at this joyful and momentous occasion.  Today, on the 40th day of our 40th year anniversary, we gather here to celebrate a milestone in ISB’s history with a tremendous sense of school pride.  

ISB is an extraordinary school with a proud history spanning four decades.  A time capsule is such a great idea to preserve a segment of our school’s history, and hand it to the future as a gift.  The selected location of where it rests is also symbolic, right beside the new “bridge” connecting our legacy buildings with the newly opened spaces where new memories will be made after an unprecedented prolonged campus closure last year. It is indeed a bridge to hope and the future.

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt represented so far, the most profound test of resilience of our school.  As they say, good times build confidence and tough times build character.   Today we are here to celebrate achievements and commemorate the events that made this year unique, using a vehicle of a time capsule to send a clear message of hope to the future, that as a united community, we can get through anything.  We are now standing stronger than ever, and as a Board, we could not be more grateful for all those who have been instrumental to our success today, no matter where you are now in the world. 

By the time we open the time capsule on the 50th day of our 50th year anniversary, the second graders here today will be graduating seniors including my son.  He and his fellow classmates will gather here in 2030, right at this spot to witness the opening of this capsule which will remind all of us how much we’ve grown and come along.  

Let’s use our imagination:  What will ISB look like then?  How will students be learning?  What would the world be like?  It is up to every one of us to set high expectations and build strong relationships, in order to build a better future, empowered with purpose and compassion, as following the guidance of our new mission and vision.   There is so much to look forward to in the next 10 years, and my heart is filled with strong hope and optimism.  Congratulations, ISB.  The best is yet to come.  Go Dragons!

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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