Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Wishes!

It's that time of year. Within minutes of closing the Panther News you'll be rushing into the back room to finalize the wardrobe that goes into that suitcase, slamming it shut and rushing down to the waiting taxi. Then it's off to the holiday races and to waiting family or sharing special moments in exotic destinations. But while you're enjoying your down time take a moment to teach your children about what is truly important:
  • Positive time with family is important for appropriate development and healthy balance
  • What matters most is the quality of interactions with those around you, not whether you've managed to find the newest tech item whose obsolescence is planned for six months down the road. 
  • You can share the gift of giving by giving things other than "things". Consider the gift of volunteering and help making the world a better place while spending time with your children.  
  • Try to impress on your children that every day offers a chance to make lasting positive impact on the world. Did you know that the vast majority of Melawati students want to plant a tree? Holidays are a good time to do just that, in your back yard or down the street. 
  • Children watch what we do. We all know that. This holiday season take a break from the new messages that incessantly arrive in your smart phone, look your son/daughter in the eye, share a game, a story and a smile, ask them to help you make dinner, decorate the house (with recyclable materials, of course), and share the moments we all know will one day be gone and we'll wish they weren't.
  • When new year's resolutions come around, take the time to resolve that you'll help the world in one way or another... yes, losing weight and exercising more are both very admirable, but reaching out to others - human or otherwise - is just as noble and perhaps more impacting
Then, when you return with that suitcase and a head (and camera phone) full of memories make sure that it hasn't just been a week or two that's served as a parenthesis in your life (though we all need that respite, for sure). Live simply. Love deeply. Enjoy the moments, during the holidays and beyond. All the best for a wonderful holiday season to all!  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Making Connections with the Community

I just had the pleasure of accompanying a number of our students - Alysha Alizan and Deanna Anuar from the Green Council and Zijia Kee and Sun Woo Kim from the HS Earth Club - to the 2nd International Eco-Schools Conference. The delegation participated in a number of activities ranging from experiential game-based activities to school presentations or their initiatives and projects. Our students also had the opportunity to run two hands-on workshops for the students from other schools. The biggest benefit, though, was the interaction and networking that took place in the five short hours we were there. The level of engagement went from an expected cautionary arrival to a thrill of being around peers who share a genuine concern for the environment. 

This got me thinking about the connections that we have with the community around us. It also brought me back to a conversation with two representatives from the MPAJ. They mentioned that the them ISKL has an "invisible wall" at the limit of our campuses, seeming out of reach to the common passer by. One of the aims of the Green Council and our community service teams is to provide a corridor of interaction between two parallel worlds that benefit from each other. 

So it was with this in mind that I was perusing the latest issue of the Hornbill. It includes a number of articles that deal with global issues, diversity, community connections, service and environmental action. It is a bit of a "wow" to read through it and makes one realize just how much is being done at ISKL in terms of connections with the various communities we work with. Add that to the community service projects that are being done on a weekly basis at the HS and you have a highly engaged population. 

Data collected from our HS community service programs that our programs have, until now, added up to 1,558 hours. Though the amount of time is not as essential as the value added by the quality of service, it is none-the-less important to recognize that what works best is on-going, authentic connections with the community. Certainly time with others, particularly those outside "the expat bubble" allow our students an engaging connection to learning from those they interact with. 

Of course we would love to do more. We are planning to have workshops and/or conferences set up for Eco-School members locally. Likewise we are working on developing connections with local schools for environmental projects such as tree planting along the Klang River in Ampang and the establishment and development of a Nature Education Center - along with local NGOs and/or schools - in the Klang Valley. 

Overall we are doing very well. But our impact as a school is made greater by the collective positive interactions we have with the world around us. Experiential in its nature and authentic in its setting, community involvement is essential to the growth of our students in the formation of socially conscious global citizens. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The New Campus Comes Alive in Grade 5

It was a Friday. I was tired. Like most things the set up had been a bit of an issue and technical difficulties are always the norm, aren't they?  But come 1:15, when the fifth graders walked into their pod area, the place came alive!  They had been waiting for this for close to three weeks and the (renewable) energy - fittingly the unit topic - was palpable. The visitors?  The team directly responsible for creation our new campus. Architects. Check. Director of Operations. Check. Project managers. Check. Sustainability expert. Check. Engineers. Check.  All here to link our new facility to exceptional learning. 

The students were offered a glimpse of the plans related to sustainability in very informative and pretty snazzy posters focusing on nearly everything from daylight harvesting to grey water reuse to solar power to green spaces and traffic flow. The kids listened intently. At the midpoint the tables were turned. Visitors scampered across the way to the respective breakout rooms based on four main themes: Water for Energy, Pressure Points, Water harvesting, Solar/Wind energy. Other groups walked around in a gallery walk of posters and plans for the new campus. The wow factor was palpable and the questions coming at machine gun speed. 

In their respective classrooms the students impressed us all with their thoughts, intended to be "outside the box" practical things that we might consider as we plan the new campus in years to come. Ideas on the table? How about harnessing the energy from playground swings or using self adhesive, transparent solar panels on windows or cork floor tiles that absorb human weight and capturing kinetic energy? The kids were full of wonderful ideas and the visiting team loved them!  

As an observer of this sort of event it's difficult to not find inspiration in watching students engage in an authentic manner with practitioners in the field. Above and beyond the ideas presented and the sharing of thoughts and questions, it was equally impressive to see how fifth graders, only 11 years old, carried themselves as they made presentations to their peers and the visiting experts. Their poise and confidence were only superseded by the obvious level of deep understanding of their topic. 

When we all drifted away from the event the adults had a real "wow" look to their faces. The interaction alone had been a heart warming event, but they carried with them a bit of inspiration too for recognizing that our students might just be able to put sustainability into their daily practice, at our new campus and beyond. A subsequent email from CK Tang, the lead sustainability architect, noted "It was great fun for me to have the opportunity to interact with the kids and to learn from them. The great thing about them is that there is no boundary in their imagination and it is great, because they are thinking out of the box!" 

Wow. The future looks bright.