JEM (Joint Environmental Mission)
Through our Joint Environmental Mission (JEM), our students partner with their peers in other countries to better understand environmental issues and to advocate for more environmentally sustainable practices. In Ecuador, for instance, seventh and eighth graders learn from their friends in the Amazon about sustainable agriculture and the effects of the fossil fuels industry on indigenous populations and the rainforest environment. In Russia, students from grades six, seven, and eight work with their peers in St. Petersburg to consider the Earth’s “rights” to clean air, clean water, and healthy soil. During a recent visit to BFS, students from India and Russia learned about regional fracking from a Delaware Valley College professor and toured Philadelphia Water Works. A Model Congress style symposium was led by students to further explore the complicated issues surrounding the demand for and conservation of water.
History of JEM
JEM was initially formed in 1991 in collaboration with Soviet (now Russian) and Buckingham Friends School teachers, and now consists of permanent partner schools in Russia, India, China, Australia, Ecuador, Kenya, and Hawaii. JEM partner schools engage in yearly home-stay exchanges. Every four to five years, Buckingham Friends School hosts an Earth Summit with student and teacher representatives from all of the JEM partner schools throughout the world. The Earth Summit provides a unique opportunity for elementary-aged children to develop friendships and cultural understanding as they collaborate on joint Earth Summit projects, engage in simulation games, and discuss their environmental concerns and hopes for the future.
Over the past 26 years, 45 travel exchanges have taken place with participation from schools in seven different countries and six continents. Over 1,870 children and adults have been directly impacted through traveling or by hosting, and countless others through their association with the schools and families supporting this program. Buckingham Friends School students have ventured into the rainforest of Ecuador to stay with indigenous peoples, with the Maasai tribe in Kenya, and have walked the Great Wall of China. They often return and say that these experiences, and exposure to other ways of life, have been life changing. After leaving Buckingham Friends School, graduates have gone on to spend time volunteering in Ecuador and Kenya, as interns in Asia, and serving with the U.S. State Department in Russia, to name just a few. The School is committed to making exchange opportunities accessible to any student who wants to go on a JEM trip, provided they meet the good ambassador criteria.
Outreach is a secondary tier of the mission. Through the JEM program, we have helped to fund school education for children in Haiti, and are currently funding schooling for children in Kenya. School-wide fundraising efforts provide scholarships to assist with travel expenses of less fortunate students from our partner schools in Kenya and Ecuador.
JEM Earth Summit IV
“We wanted to express our most heartfelt thanks to all of you for providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Alex and his friends on the St. Petersburg trip. Every aspect of the trip provided a wonderful growing experience and Alex is now experiencing the satisfaction in knowing that he successfully accomplished this significant personal challenge. Not only did he survive the experience, but he wholeheartedly enjoyed it!
…experiences such as these helped to open Alex’s eyes to appreciate the possibility in the unfamiliar.
Our son has grown in so many ways as a result, and so have we as parents. His confidence in himself has been enhanced, and he clearly has grown as a person.”
-Greg and Sue Dwornikowski, Parents of Alex ‘16