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Collaborative Thinking Conquers Challenge

11 November 2019

The recent visit from Dr Richard Harris, Joint Australian of the Year 2019, where the courageous story of the 2018 Thai cave rescue was shared, stirred the minds and hearts of our Junior School teachers and students.

With our Year 5 students continuing their investigation of the central idea ‘Significant events can shape the identity of a nation’, and our Year 6 students commencing their inquiry on ‘Challenge requires creative thinking and responsibility’, Dr Harris’s visit was timely. He reminded us of the profound impression that oral storytelling has on the human spirit and the powerful connections that the Pembroke community can offer our students.

Underpinning his narrative was a sense of social responsibility and care for others. From the initial phone conversation with lead diver Rick Stanton MBE GM to the priming of the first needle to sedate the young soccer players, it became evident that Dr Harris had a highly sought-after skill set that could contribute significantly to the rescue mission.

His longstanding passion for diving, combined with his professional knowledge as an anaesthetist, became the gift of life for the 12 soccer players and their coach. However, these skills did not stand alone. The courage and perseverance of Dr Harris and the hundreds of other volunteers who mounted the complex rescue are what in fact prevailed.

Dr Harris’s story highlighted the relevance of international mindedness and collaborative thinking, two key elements in the IB Primary Years Programme. He spoke with admiration of the disparate group of international people who were drawn together in their mission to save the lives of the Wild Boar soccer team. During their time together this diverse group of humans, representing a kaleidoscope of cultures, drew on one another’s skills, knowledge, understanding and attitudes. This impressive group of humans listened intently to one another, shared their ideas, and collectively devised and executed a rescue plan to save 13 lives.

Being of a similar age to the children who were trapped in the cave, there was a strong feeling of empathy and curiosity among our Years 5 and 6 students. This was authentically communicated in the questions that they posed:

‘How did you feel when you were inside the cave?’

‘Did the thought ever pass your mind that you were not going to come out alive?’

‘Was there ever a time that you questioned yourself and your plan?’

‘Did any of the boys get upset about getting the anaesthetic?’

And the burning question was ‘How did you decide who would exit first?’ In an effort to achieve a perfect result in order to nurture much-needed optimism, Dr Harris requested that the strongest, most robust and resilient soccer players be rescued first. Unbeknown to him, the coach asked the players who would like to go out first. The order in which the rescue eventually happened was decided by the boys themselves.

They sent the players who lived furthest away from the entrance of the cave before those who lived close by. This decision grew from the logic that they would all get home around the same time! Our Years 5 and 6 students smiled when Dr Harris told them that he did not find out about this until the rescue mission was over!

There were two powerful messages that Dr Harris left with us: ‘All’s well that ends well’ and ‘Whenever you think you don’t have something to smile about, spare a thought for Titan, the smallest soccer player trapped in the caves. Titan was always smiling and showed hope and courage every day’.

Belinda Reitstatter
Assistant Head of Junior School