Monday, August 27, 2012

Eco-Schools & Biodiversity: What is it all about?

As of March 2012 ISKL is a member of the Eco-Schools program ( We proudly post that tidbit on the Green Pages website and our TV monitors for all to see as we enter our campuses. We invest a good deal of time and energy in moving toward the highest level of the Eco-Schools program: The internationally recognized Eco- Schools Green Flag. One of our goals for the upcoming year and a half is to reach that standard of international recognition, a prize in and of itself, but much much more.

For those who don't know much about the program, let me shed some light on the set up. The Eco-Schools program is sponsored here in Malaysia by WWF Malaysia, an internationally-recognized entity in and of itself. In Malaysia, 27 schools are presently participating, of which only ISKL is an international school. There are two main elements to the program itself: The theme to focus on (one of nine themes determined by Eco-Schools) and a seven step methodology that needs to be applied in addressing the theme chosen. 

Here at ISKL we have a Green Council, the remnant of the teacher-led Green Team, which is presently organized and run by students, headed by Samantha Lee (the HS Environmental Officer) but which represents all elements of our community, both adult and student. The Green Council's job, for this academic year and next, is to move us toward that Green Flag status which represents the top of the Eco-Schools Ladder. To get there, we need to move systematically through the afore mentioned seven step methodology: Creation of a committee (the Green Council), carrying out an environmental review, creating an action plan, monitoring the progress, linking the theme to our curriculum, informing the community and, finally, creating a school-wide Eco-Code. In many ways ISKL is already well on its way in many of these elements and that puts us in a strong position to pursue the Green Flag.

This year the Green Council has chosen the theme of "Nature/Biodiversity". In doing so the Green Council has formalized its intent to work diligently on issues of biodiversity on campus and support of programs deemed important for conservation. The ideas area already flowing and students at different levels and in different capacities are moving toward creating action plans. The brainstorming has identified concepts of ecosystem conservation (on campus and locally) to educational programs in local parks to adopting the panther at Zoo Negara (given that the panther is our school mascot). Recognizing, of course, that this is a community affair, we invite classes, committees, clubs, organizations and community to share their ideas, and to assist us in moving toward that end.

But to reach Eco-Schools Green Flag status, ISKL needs to go through the process at least twice. Under the guidance of Angus Carmichael (the previous Environmental Coordinator) and Nathaniel Zacharias (last year's HS Environmental Officer) we have already gone through this process once... to deal with waste management last year. Last year's initial baby steps were essential to our learning the process and recognizing where our strengths and weaknesses lie as a community when dealing with sustainable issues. In learning from these we are working hard to move in a more engaged manner this time around and hope to engage the community in sustainable action!

So, being part of the Eco-Schools program is not only about the receipt of a nice Green Flag to wave at the entrance of our school campuses. It's about students and community learning and engaging in a systematic approach to problem solving, communicating their initiatives (as I am doing here) and about collaborating constructively toward a more sustainable future. The Green Flag is about building community and recognizing the benefits of positive change. It is about empowering our students (and the rest of us) to act for it. It is about helping all of us understand our relationship toward nature/biodiversity and do our part to move toward a sustainable tomorrow and beyond.  Come, walk with us! 

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