Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eco Schools: More than Planting Trees

As our Eco Schools programming begins to move from the planning stages to the tangible it's heart-warming to see our students move forward and through difficulties. When one thinks of planting a tree, for example, one is not apt to think about the type of tree, the location of the nursery and contact person and how helpful they might be, or even the costs associated with the choice and transport of said tree to it's planting destination. So when the Eco Schools program asks our students to come up with a Plan of Action students might not realize exactly how much effort is put into putting 20 trees into the ground. 

For Diksha Srishyla and Belinda Gil, the coordinators of the on-campus tree planting activity that will culminate on Friday (the very day you read this article, perhaps), it's been a journey of several months. They could not have known, back in August when they said "let's plant some trees on campus" how much time and energy it would take to make it happen. Now they are both able to step back and recognize the amount of coordination. collaboration, communication and planning that takes place for such an event. No less than five nurseries from as near as down the street and as far as Johor Bahru were contacted regarding pricing, transport and species identification. Research was done on appropriate native species of trees that might provide both fragrance and flowers for insects and birds, but without attracting those menacing monkeys. Discussions and walk-arounds were done with our school's administration on several occasions. Outside experts were consulted. Countless emails were shared, threading together thoughts, ideas, reflections and ways to reach the planned goal.

Now, five months after it's start, the girls and their team stand ready to plant. Frangipani and hibiscus will adorn the front of our school's Ampang campus, highlighting our regional fauna and celebrating our host nation's majestic flower.  Similar trees will be planted around campus along with three sentol trees next to the bussing lane. Sentols are relatively fast growing trees that bear fruit too bitter for monkeys and humans, but much appreciated by insects like butterflies and bird populations.

When all is said and done those walking through the entrance of our campus on Friday afternoon might find a small legion of students moving, digging and placing the trees. Next week will find some new trees among us. They will stand small at first, and then taller as they get grow into their surroundings. But they will also symbolize many things:  The amalgamation of research, decision making, collaboration and ethical living that goes with being members of a caring and active community. These trees will not be merely trees. They will carry a story with them. The story of students working collaboratively to make a positive difference around them. The story of recognizing ways to work together and ensure a better community. The story of bringing nature back in. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eco Schools Update

Our ambitious goal of moving toward Green Flag by 2014, our Green Council has worked its way through a semester of planning for a variety of initiatives. Ideas are being implemented with the top three being those of the sensory garden, the hydroponic project and the tree planing going on at Ampang.   The plan for the upcoming semester is to steadily move our documentation on the new Green Council website (https://sites.google.com/a/iskl.edu.my/greencouncil/), created by Deanna Anuar ('14). Among other things the site (currently still under construction) highlights the action plans aimed at the theme of nature/biodiversity that we have chosen for this academic year. 

The tree planting project (organized by seniors Diksha Srishyla and Belinda Gil (president and vice president of the HS Earth Club) is underway with the goal of planting trees at the front of the Ampang campus as well as augment the existing trees on the side of the bussing area (facing Mardec). It is hoped that the trees will be delivered and the HS Earth Club (as well as other groups?) will assist in their planting. We hope the planting will be complete by the end of this month.

On the hydroponics front, the student coordinators, Deanna Anuar and Alysha Alizan, have met with John Hollenbach (Project Manager) and Saha Narsiman (Ampang campus Supervisor) to identify sites where the creation of a hydroponics garden seems appropriate. We are hopeful that the project, which doubles as a CAS project for the girls, will be up and running by the end of this semester. 

The Green Council is also working away on the creation of an eco code, which comprises part of the requirements for our participation in the Eco Schools program. As one might suspect, the wording for such a code needs to be 'just right' and the council is working hard to ensure that it represents our school's values toward nature and sustainability before becoming a public document. 

All these initiatives, in conjunction with things we already do with regard to nature/biodiversity (e.g. Grade 1 nature walks, environmental studies classes, Malaysia Week and GAP trips to support ecosystem habitat, etc.) are essential components to moving forward with the Eco Schools program and, more importantly, to allowing our students to experience and learn about the benefits of nature and how we can make a positive difference in ensuring natural sustainability. 

Of course, we will continue to update you as the developments take place, but we are confident that we'll be able to approach Eco Schools with an application for silver certification quite soon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year... New Resolutions... Same Sustainable Thinking

Happy and healthy new year to one and all!  New beginnings are a great time to assess and set goals for a brighter future. Perhaps it's losing some weight, or getting higher grades. On a global scale too, people tend to do just that. In that light I'd like to share a bit of news from the Harvard Business Review, "Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2012" by Andrew Winston (http://blogs.hbr.org/winston/2012/12/top-10-sustainable-business-st.html). It was shared with me by a colleague and I felt it a great link to this post.  I invite you to take a look at the article which, among other things, has done a nice job of piecing together things that are being done with what must be done moving ahead. 

We often speak of the fact that, at ISKL, we hope to instill a sense of positive leadership in our students who, one day, will become leaders in their field. The school has high expectations of its students and graduates. As such, sustainable decision making is imperative for their future success. Winston's article is a shining example of the types of things that are already being done by governments and multinationals (no different from the demographic of our community) to account for global climactic changes and increasing resource scarcity. 

As a school and as a community we resolve to move forward with sustainable practices, learning and decision making. We recognize that Education for Sustainable Development is not a 'bonus', but an imperative to ensure that our students have the knowledge, understanding, skills and disposition to further our commitment to brighter future. What better a new year's resolution to make than this? 

All the best wishes to all of you for a bright and wonderful year!