Thursday, April 25, 2013

EW 2013 Daily Digest: Uniform Swap & "Celebrations" Show

The morning at Melawati was a pretty filled one. Before students even got off the bus many of them were outfitted in "Earth Day" colors and themes. Walking down the hallways one could see the greens and the browns, the recycling signs emblazoned on a variety of t-shirts. Then, walking down the corridor toward the playground, just at the end there, is a table set up with nothing but blue and white uniform shirts. Grade 5BW was busily helping out a number of children there to swap outgrown uniforms for slightly bigger ones brought in by older students. It was abuzz with activity!

Then, at 8:30 the show went on and what a show it was. The grade 2 students impressed everyone in the audience with their ability and skills, but even more so with the message that diversity is a strength, the wonder of cultural variety in traditions and celebrations and, finally, that we can really make a majorly positive impact on our environment, starting here and now. It was hard not to walk away with pride for a job well done and hope for a better tomorrow. The show goes on tomorrow at 8:30 am as well so if you have the time please consider going. It really is worth it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

EW 2013 Daily Digest: Malaysian Garden & Can Crushing

Did you know that 100 aluminum cans can be quite successfully crushed in just over one minute?  In what was probably the shortest event in ISKL history, the Inaugural Can Crushing Competition took place today in the HS Deck areas. Though slow to get going, the event attacted close to 50 students who watched, cheered and applauded their favorite contestants. In what appeared to be a near photo finish ending the 20, Greg Robertson of IASAS Rugby greatness, won the competition.

Later in the afternoon a much quieter, but probably more long lasting, event took place. The first phase of the Malaysian Garden (possibly to be renamed later on) was completed. In total 32 plants - pandan, cat's whiskers and one lime tree - were planted as part of our Eco School initiatives. The next steps include the planting of lemongrass and the placement of a sitting area (perhaps a rock or bench).

One fast. One slow. Both great! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

EW 2013 Daily Digest: FRIM & Earth Hour

Sunday was a good day to be outdoors. Relatively cool and dry it was great for clean uppers, rock climbers and hikers alike!  The pictures above are from the FRIM hike, organized by a naturalist and field guide friend of ours "Green" John Chan.  He does trips with groups nearly every weekend and has often led ISKL group walks in a variety of locations. This time is was only a small group but given that FRIM is closed on Sundays we expect that the experience was probably close to magical.

This morning the ISKL Earth Hour took place. Both Ampang and Melawati teachers, staff members and students were invited to participate for one hour (8 to 9 am). I was at Melawati at the time and realized just how powerful turning off the lights and A/C is in getting classes outdoors. All sorts of wonderful sights could be seen with children and teachers engaged in reading, discussions and story telling, all outdoors. In one side the students sat and read quietly. Another group or art students took the opportunity to draw plants. Other groups visited the green space, or participated in planting (Prep Senior) activities in the Prep garden. All in all it was an hour of outdoors learning. Absolutely awesome!

Monday, April 22, 2013

EW 2013 Daily Digest: Community Service

We could have called it "Service Weekend" but it was called "Outdoor Day". Either way you look at it, the weekend brought with it a hive of activity for our community both on and off campus. The pictures above are from the Community Recycling Drop Off on Saturday and from the grassroots organized KDE Loop Clean Up. Both were particularly well subscribed.  There was more - Climbing at Batu Caves and a Hike at FRIM - but more on that tomorrow!  Happy Earth Week Everyone!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Earth Week: A little of this. A little of that. A Lot Going On!

Earth Week is upon us. On Saturday the week's events will start flying at us faster than we can keep up. There are events for the little ones, events for the bigger ones and even events for everyone!  The schedule can be found on the Panther News, on the Sustainable ISKL website and around our campuses!  If you take a moment to peruse it you might find something that looks interesting. 

Truthfully I have very little to do with it apart from organizing it into a rather complicated-looking schedule. Interested students, the HS Earth Club, the Green Council and various classes have combined to make this week one filled with opportunity, awareness of the Earth and a celebration of nature!  It's the kind of week that is impressive in that so much is done to ensure that our students, teachers and community have a chance to engage, even a little bit, in something related to nature.

Of particular note are the many opportunities offered on Sunday, April 21, aptly named Outdoor Day. The waterfall hike for ES families led by Lisa Nazim, the Rock Climbing for Everyone! at Batu Caves (if you're interested in signing up, click here) and the KDE Loop clean up are great opportunities for community members to get out and interact with nature, for fun, for service, for appreciation.  The Rockin' 4 the Reefs event that same night, though not an ISKL event, will feature a number of nature-inspired artworks done by our MS students. If you have a chance to head to Publika Mall (Mont Kiara) on Sunday night please consider doing so. Of course Sunday also marks the departure of our Malaysia Week groups who will spend the entire week outdoors. 

On Monday we will be hosting two university professors of environmental education who will represent the Eco-Schools program as we vie for the coveted Green Flag award. We are hopeful that the results will be positive, though we recognize that we are new to the whole Eco-Schools program and learning is part of the process. Our efforts will be represented by our two new Environmental co-coordinators, Deanna Anuar and Tunku Alysha. It's a bit of a 'baptism by fire' in their second week in the post but they are confident. So am I.

Elementary School students will be exposed to nature, environmental and sustainability issues largely through their classes. There are a number of curriculum-based connections that teachers are proudly sharing with me and the sheer number of ideas has been impressive. There are also some school-wide events including the Uniform Swap, allowing students the chance to either hand in outgrown (but in good condition) uniforms, or alternatively to hand in an outgrown one for someone else's larger sized one. The swap, organized by Grade 5BW, will take place on Thursday as students get off the buses.  Our grade 2 will be doing a show called Celebration Speak of Who We Are, which will include an environmental element as well. It promises to be a great event!

The other event that I'd like to note is the ISKL Earth Hour. Taking place on Tuesday (April 23rd) between 8:00 and 9:00 am, this is a mini-version of the world-wide initiative to turn off electric devises in hopes of reducing energy, but more so in hope of increasing awareness as to the need for minimizing resource use. At both Ampang and Melawati we will be inviting teachers and staff to turn off lights and A/C. Won't you consider joining us from home?  It's early. It's cool(er) and it's usually sunny. Think about it. :-)

Finally, at the HS there are a number of events, largely organized by either individual students (or pairs) or the HS Earth Club. Events to note (and participate in) include Tuesday's can crushing competition (during lunch), Wednesday's showing of "Finding Nemo" (including free popcorn) or planting of the Malaysian Plants Garden (funded by a generous grant from the BOH Foundation and WWF) after school, and Friday's Rockin' 4 the Reef mini-concert featuring a number of our school bands. There is also a week-long lucky draw opportunity, offered by the HS Earth Club, for those who "like" our page. 

If there's nothing that interests you on the schedule, that's okay too. You can still participate, of course. A dinner table conversation will do. Or a moment to watch the sunset. Perhaps a visit to the beach. or a conversation about sustainable choices. In truth, Earth Week is simply a way to focus on what we could be doing daily, and often are. Enjoy the week, whether you are able to make it to an ISKL event of not. Happy Earth Week everyone!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nature: A Great Teacher

A while back, when I first realized that Earth Week was going to take place without the participation (on campus) of our Middle School - who will be getting muddy, wet and tired in the jungles and beaches of Malaysia - I was momentarily disappointed. They would be missing the assembly, the activities, the initiatives  to help them understand  the Earth and nature and all they have to offer.  My next response, as you might be thinking, was almost immediate... don't be silly!  Malaysia Week during Earth Week?!  How cool is that?!

Research has shown that the single most powerful determinant of adults caring for nature is recurring experiences in nature as a young child, ideally with family. Kenny Peavy, who worked at ISKL until last year, in his book (co-authored with Thom Henley) As if the Earth Matters, mentions that it is imporant to feel a sense of belonging in nature before we can become advocates of it and stewards for it. I could not agree with them more. For ISKL Malaysia Week represents a foray into a world of natural wonder. It's the chance for our Middle Schoolers - so filled with enthusiasm (and sometimes concern) - to engage with nature so closely that they learn to do such things as swim in the vicinity of sharks, sleep in the jungle, non-chalantly pull leeches off their legs. What begins with a bunch of somewhat rowdy, and definitely adrenaline-filled, 12-14 year olds, who are sometimes embarking on their fist stint in a natural environment, ends with what seems like seasoned veterans returning from months in the bush. Scrapes, bruises, tan lines and leech bites later, they emerge from their respective buses with a week's worth of natural experience that cannot possibly be emulated in any classroom, nor in the hallways during Earth Week activities on campus.

Minimizing what Richard Louv refers to as "Nature Deficit Disorder" (if you have the inkling, take the time to read the book Last Child in the Woods) has profound experiential influence on our students. In being "out there" they are able to learn about the world, about themselves, about the power of being face-to-face with non-electronic world. They grow to appreciate, to interact, to pay attention to things that previously were overrun by iPad culture. In doing so they also learn to cooperate, to communicate, to collaborate, to lead and to overcome adversity and to celebrate. These are educational outcomes that are perfectly suited for natural settings and yet form the core of what we want to teach at ISKL: The School-wide Learning Results (SLRs). 

So next time I see that Malaysia Week is taking place during Earth Week, my first thought wil be of just how perfect a fit that is. What can possibly be better than taking the time, especially during Earth Week, to be uncomfortable a little, to overcome, to unite with others, to appreciate, to experience, to grow, to develop, to recognize that nature can be as wonderful as we let it. From sunsets to jungle treks, from survivor beach lodging to Ulu Perak rafting, experiencing nature is a living classroom where one is educated in all the senses. 

Malaysia Week during Earth Week!? How awesome is that?!  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Developing an Eco Code

From time to time this column has focused on Eco Schools and the impact that it has had on our inner workings and outer image.The process was just completed with our Envionmental Executive, Samantha Lee, pressing the "upload" button on the Eco Schools website sometime over the past weekend. If you'd like to see what we've come up with, feel free to visit the site at

Though Smantha was the one to press the button, it was the culmination of months of worth of work, deliberation, planning, action, data gathering and evidence by our entire Green Council executive - at times in Samantha's absence - to support what we do at ISKL and how that best fits into the Eco Schools program. Though several of our projects - namely our hydroponics and sensory gardens - are still in the planning or preliminary execution stage we are moving forward on all fronts. The latest front: The finalizing of our school's Eco Code. Though it might seem simple, involving a good number of people in such an endeavor becomes a complicated process, but even more rewarding when a final product reveals itself.

So, after consulting with our Green Council members (some executive, some advisory) and asking for student feedback, the executive members sat down and deliberated all sorts of ideas and thoughts. How do we write something that idenfities what is important, yet not overdo it so that it becomes cumbersome and uninspiring?  The students took close to a month to put their thoughts together, to create a manner of sharing the code and finalize the wording. The final product is based on the concept of "Eco Panthers". The ISKL Eco Code focuses on what is important to our community by way of sustainability, while revolving around the concept of ISKL community, our spirit and the panther that stands as a recognizable facet of our school culture. 

The Eco Code will be reviewed annually so as to establish that it appropriately reflects our schools sustainability culture. Look out for it to adorn our campus walls, classrooms and bulletin boards in the next few weeks. And while you're at it, let us know what you think. I'll be happy to pass along the feedback to the Green Council members.

Go Eco Panthers!