Stockholm school celebrates global citizens

As Nobel Week kicks off in the Swedish capital, Stockholm International School held its own event celebrating learning and global citizenship at the Nobel Museum.

Stockholm school celebrates global citizens
Students from Stockholm International School. Photo: The Local

International ambassadors, diplomats, politicians, and brilliant minds gathered at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm on Monday to mingle with students, parents, and the “Nobel laureates of the future” from Stockholm International School (SIS).

“You might ask yourselves, why this celebration now, and why in this setting? We wanted to combine the celebration of International Education Week, the last week of November, with Nobel week, as a time when the greatest achievements of human intellect and leadership are being celebrated,” said SIS Director Marta Medved Krajnovic as she welcomed guests to the museum. 

Stockholm International School, which offers a truly international education for preschool through grade 12, is home to students from more than 60 countries.

The school was a fitting host: the aim of the evening was to honour the international nature of the Nobel Prizes, and the international learning and global mind-set that can lead to a better world for all.

Gustav Källstrand, Senior Curator at the Nobel Museum, pointed out that Alfred Nobel himself was a “global citizen” who spoke six languages and spent much of his life travelling.

“If you look up at the ceiling, we have 900 flags hanging, representing all the Nobel prizes and their global distribution,” he pointed out.

“A few years ago at the awards ceremony, everyone receiving an award was a dual citizen – or triple citizen. So Nobel laureates are also truly global citizens.”

Students from SIS then treated attendees to a poetry reading in 13 different languages, highlighting the diversity found in the school community and sharing their vision of the future.

“I see a world where people feel safe,” 11th-grade student Elle recited in English. “A world where no one is waif, and people do not feel the need to chafe. I see a world where we all are fed, a world where no one needs a bed or a roof over their head.”

“I want to see a world where we all are equal. In order to see that world, we must stand together and open our senses,” fellow 11th graders Sofia said in Swedish.

Together the diverse students also read in Arabic, Croatian, French, Danish, German, Kiswahili, Malay, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish sign language, and Ukrainian.

Meanwhile, ninth-grade drama students from the school wandered the museum, clad as Nobel laureates of the past, entertaining guests with their portrayals.

But the main highlight of the evening was perhaps the two speakers: Pedrag Petrovic and Dona Hariri.

Neuroscientists and psychiatrist Predrag Petrovic enlightened guests with a lecture about “Decisions, Leadership, and the Brain”, providing insight into how and why emotional systems affect our behaviour and leadership abilities.

The lecture also touched on how so-called “executive abilities” and meta-cognition can predict how skilled a decision-maker an individual really is.

Lawyer Dona Hariri also warmed hearts and inspired minds with her personal tale and presentation about her work as founder of Counsellors without Borders – a new foundation which gives free legal advice to refugees in Stockholm’s Central Station.

“Everyone has the right to know their rights,” she proclaimed.

Hariri, a professional lawyer who also spends much of her time giving free legal advice to residents of Stockholm’s relatively impoverished suburb of Husby, said she came straight to the event from the city’s central station, where she had been welcoming refugees.

Hariri also hosts the Swedish TV show Justitia, a programme about simplifying the law for children and young people. Hariri argued that learning about legal rights should be a central part of school education. “Children are usually aware of their rights, but not their obligations,” she added.

The speakers’ inspiring words, combined with the event’s international flavour were a perfect kick-off for Nobel Week when Sweden finds itself squarely in the global spotlight, SIS Director Medved Krajnovic added.

“We want to celebrate the international community we belong to, but also to honour our host country, Sweden.”

This article was produced by The Local in partnership with Stockholm International School.


US duo win Nobel for work on how heat and touch spark signals to the brain

US scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian on Monday won the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch.

US duo win Nobel for work on how heat and touch spark signals to the brain
Thomas Perlmann (right), the Secretary of the Nobel Committee, stands next to a screen showing David Julius (L) and Ardem Patapoutian, winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

“The groundbreaking discoveries… by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world,” the Nobel jury said.

The pair’s research is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain. Julius, who in 2019 won the $3-million Breakthrough Prize in life sciences, said he was stunned to receive the call from the Nobel committee early Monday.

“One never really expects that to happen …I thought it was a prank,” he told Swedish Radio.

The Nobel Foundation meanwhile posted a picture of Patapoutian next to his son Luca after hearing the happy news.

Our ability to sense heat, cold and touch is essential for survival, the Nobel Committee explained, and underpins our interaction with the world around us.

“In our daily lives we take these sensations for granted, but how are nerve impulses initiated so that temperature and pressure can be perceived? This question has been solved by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates.”

Prior to their discoveries, “our understanding of how the nervous system senses and interprets our environment still contained a fundamental unsolved question: how are temperature and mechanical stimuli converted into electrical impulses in the nervous system.”

Grocery store research

Julius, 65, was recognised for his research using capsaicin — a compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation — to identify which nerve sensors in the skin respond to heat.

He told Scientific American in 2019 that he got the idea to study chili peppers after a visit to the grocery store.  “I was looking at these shelves and shelves of basically chili peppers and extracts (hot sauce) and thinking, ‘This is such an important and such a fun problem to look at. I’ve really got to get serious about this’,” he said.

Patapoutian’s pioneering discovery was identifying the class of nerve sensors that respond to touch.

Julius, a professor at the University of California in San Francisco and the 12-year-younger Patapoutian, a professor at Scripps Research in California, will share the Nobel Prize cheque for 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, one million euros).

The pair were not among the frontrunners mentioned in the speculation ahead of the announcement.

Pioneers of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which paved the way for mRNA Covid vaccines, and immune system researchers had been widely tipped as favourites.

While the 2020 award was handed out in the midst of the pandemic, this is the first time the entire selection process has taken place under the shadow of Covid-19.

Last year, the award went to three virologists for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

Media, Belarus opposition for Peace Prize?

The Nobel season continues on Tuesday with the award for physics and Wednesday with chemistry, followed by the much-anticipated prizes for literature on Thursday and peace on Friday before the economics prize winds things up on Monday, October 11.

For the Peace Prize on Friday, media watchdogs such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been mentioned as possible winners, as has the Belarusian opposition spearheaded by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Also mentioned are climate campaigners such as Sweden’s Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future movement.

Meanwhile, for the Literature Prize on Thursday, Stockholm’s literary circles have been buzzing with the names of dozens of usual suspects.

The Swedish Academy has only chosen laureates from Europe and North America since 2012 when China’s Mo Yan won, raising speculation that it could choose to rectify that imbalance this year. A total of 95 of 117 literature laureates have come from Europe and North America.

While the names of the Nobel laureates are kept secret until the last minute, the Nobel Foundation has already announced that the glittering prize ceremony and banquet held in Stockholm in December for the science and literature laureates will not happen this year due to the pandemic.

Like last year, laureates will receive their awards in their home countries. A decision has yet to be made about the lavish Peace Prize ceremony held in Oslo on the same day.