Monday, October 28, 2013

Service and Sustainability in Tioman

As I write this the GAP experience is fresh in my mind and the impressions are still very strong. Last week I was fortunate to participate in the 9th grade GAP trip to Tioman, focusing on coral reef restoration.

The trip itself was an living example a whole lot of "best practices" in service learning and sustainability education as well as our school's school wide learning results (SLRs). Working with a local scuba company (Siput Scuba) and in conjunction with the University of Malaya and Reef Check Malaysia our group of 17 students were fortunate enough to explore a number of reefs, to work on scuba skills and to participating in the creation and set up of an artificial reef. 

For those who don't know (which included myself two weeks ago) setting up a reef can be a difficult talk Students constructed table looking structures of PVC piping and conducted the first "Dive for Debris" analysis in Malaysia (essentially an underwater clean up and debris identification program through PADI Project AWARE).  Once the area was declared clean enough to set up, the students had to identify coral reef "nubbings" (i.e. live pieces of coral that have fallen off the reef and might otherwise die). This in an of itself can be a challenging task. Nubbings needed to be collected in the water and placed on the structures directly so as to allow the coral a higher chance of survival. It was imperative, too, that the nubbings were alive and not covered by algae and this required training and a good deal of trial and error. 

Our 17 valiant divers fought choppy seas, strong currents, ear pressure issues as well as the lack of verbal communication opportunities under water while putting together 20 structures with a total of roughly 450 nubbings. We are hopeful, of course, that ISKL continues work in Tioman for many years to come and that future groups will add on to the success (cross fingers) of this program. On going maintenance will be necessary as well. It is not difficult to envision ISKL 'adopting' a reef and working to expand the entire reef in that area over the long term.

When leaving Tioman I was impressed by just how happy students were throughout the week. It's hard not to be happy when you're underwater and a first row seat to such a beautiful world!  But it's even more empowering to know that you've done a good deal to ensure that world thrives in Malaysia!   

This is but one story of many that GAP offers. GAP brought back with it similar stories from all sorts of places and all sorts of service. Just another example of an exceptional education. 

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