Friday, December 19, 2014

From the Mouths of Sixth Graders

Sometimes when the holidays come around everyone rushes out to buy presents. Sometimes we're happy to be with the ones we love. Sometimes we find warmth in the words of our young. And hope. As the semester ends grade six is asked what a global citizen means to them. It's part of their unit by the same name. Here is a smattering of their definitions. May their words lead the way to a wonderful new year for all of us!

  • Global citizens are interdependent individuals that collaborate to make a difference in the community.
  • Global citizens are helpful and make a positive difference.
  • Global citizens are people who think about the effect of their actions on the present and the future.  They do what is best to benefit our world, making it a better place.
  • Global citizens are future-focused, empathetic, warm-hearted individuals.
  • Global citizens are ethical people who work collaboratively with others to improve lives.
  • Global citizens are collaborative, interdependent individuals who help build community.
  • Global citizens help to build communities that put a smile on people’s faces and a bigger smile on the world.
  • Global citizens care for others both in and out of their community.
  • Global citizens solve problems to make the world a better place.
  • Global citizens show that they care for others and the global community by being accepting and empathetic.
  • Global citizens impact communities by cooperating, being inquisitive, and expanding their knowledge.
  • Global citizens care for the environment.
  • Global citizens are future-focused people who believe that they can make a difference in their community.
  • Global citizens are proactive and interact with the global community in a positive way.
  • Global citizens are welcoming and let anyone join their community.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Action Packed Final Two Weeks

Just over the past two weeks a good amount of things have happened related to our school. In focusing on nature and sustainability here are some highlights:
  • The MS ISTA trip to Telunas, Indonesia featured 40 ISKL students performing (physical theatre, dance, clowning and storytelling) in natural settings along side SAS and AISS (Singapore).
  • Grades 1, 5 and 6 welcomed d'Arcy Lunn who focused on global citizenship and what it means for our students.
  • Grade 8 is well underway on their newly-revamped unit on Climate adaptation. A big part of this is the role playing of students with regard to a variety of global issues as they relate to specific countries; a sort of MUN meets GIN format. 
  • Grade 7 is well underway for planning their Ecology Symposium which will take place in January.
  • Grade 6 service learning classes are already honing their skills and interests to global issues and will be identifying a specific service learning experience soon. One class has decided to focus on poverty. 
  • Our grade 1 students combined their global citizenship voices to create a video about sustainable Christmas celebrations (here). 
  • Grade 3 has been incredibly active on the "green" front this past month
    • They welcomed Ecocentric Transitions to build their own vermi-composting bins. Four bins now reside in our grade 3 classrooms. 
    • They visited the Klang Gates stream to do water quality testing with the Global Environment Centre.
    • They have also been working on identifying appropriate tree species for the outside of our Melawati campus wall where the new wall has been build just outside the gym. 
  • Our Preps have been planting seedlings for their new Garden Tower. 
  • HS Earth Club organized our very first Farmer's Market which, small though it was, was heralded as a great new direction for our community. And, of course, the on-going Community Recycling continued on that same day bringing in over 1 tonne of recyclables. 
Can you believe all that has happened just in a past few weeks at ISKL?  Thinking about it, it's a whole lot of work, effort and great learning going on!  Just the type of thing you like to see before heading into a long break. Happy Holidays to everyone!  See you in 2015!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Serving Learning

Cathy Berger Kaye is one of those people who, once met, is never forgotten. She is engaging and passionate and enthusiastic and walks the talk of service learning. She travels the world sharing best practices on education, teaching and learning methods, action planning and ties it all together beautifully. Last week ISKL was fortunate to have her visit with us for two days of direct support with our teachers and students followed by a two day EARCOS Weekend Workshop on service learning. 

During her visit she worked with the following groups:
  • The ES service learning committee in expanding service learning in the curriculum
  • The MS grade level core teams on their integrated units (grade 6 impact unit; grade 7 ecology unit; grade 8 climate adaptation unit)
  • The HS service team leaders, CAS and Community Service Coordinators working on infusing the service learning framework in our out-of-class experiences
  • The grade 5 students doing an activity called "four corners" which focused on crating guiding questions, determining skills and interests as well as identifying methods of investigation for topics that matter to students
  • The HS Service team student leaders focusing on motivating and engaging others.
  • 31 ISKL teachers and administrators (and 25 non-ISKL teachers) doing a two-day service learning workshop on teaching and learning.
Four days are rarely enough. One generates more questions than one has answered, as a reflection of what learning should be. 

The biggest take away from her visit was that teaching should reflect the real world, should give students "voice and choice", should be a true connection to community and/or global needs and focus on the learning. It was an inspiring end to the week and, considering the ever-growing number of people who are being touched by her work at ISKL, it's fills us with motivation to make learning even more authentic and engaging as we continue to build spirited, socially responsible global citizens".

Monday, November 17, 2014

Big Shifts. Big Hopes.

Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced its recommendation that humanity had 86 years to rid itself of fossil fuels altogether. I couldn't help but think about the enormity of that statement. Could an international organization of scientists really be asking the world to change everything it has done over the past 150 years so drastically?

When I saw the news on BBC I was sitting in a hotel room in Borneo. I had taken two taxis and a plane to get there. I would do the same to return home. If the statement was correct than these two modes of transport, for one, would need to be redesigned in order for someone in my shoes to be able to have a similar experience and result in zero carbon emissions. Is that even possible? The stress that could cause is already palpable to many - particularly in our global community - but humanity is already in a position to deliver.

Humanity's ability to create, to think divergently, to problem solve, and to deal with crisis is singular. It is the reason at ISKL we focus so heavily on our School wide Learning Results: Think Creatively; Learn Enthusiastically; Communicate Effectively; Reason Critically: Collaborate Effectively: Live Ethically.

The days in Borneo were crystal clear and brilliantly beautiful, a far cry from the haze we sometimes experience in Kuala Lumpur. It was looking up to that that I realised just how wonderful the vision of a carbon emission free world could be. How fantastic for all of us to think of new ways of being, living, doing. How wonderful to take the great minds that already collaborate but do so with a higher cause in mind: Humanity.

Optimism replace the initial dread.  My concern about how I might address it in this very post was replaced with a sense of faith and purpose for all of us, whether we work in schools or businesses or embassies or energy. Faith that, though there is much to be done, and our existence is bound to be shaped in ways that we cannot yet fathom, we have the tools to build a pretty awesome future.

And therein, I found a strange sense of calm and urgency both in one. Calm in that it can be done. Urgency in that, if we have 86 years to change the world we have to get started today. Education, though powerful, takes time to take shape, meaning that now is an apropos time to start. They say hope springs eternal. There is work to be done by us all. The future awaits. Our students have the power and skills to invent it. I find that - our students - the best reason for hope of all. 

Laurence Myers
Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator

Monday, November 10, 2014

Planting for People & Planet Alike

"Never Doubt that A Small Group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."  The quote above by Margaret Meade is the perfect statement for the weekend that just passed. Seventeen members of our community - a group of "thoughtful, conscientious" students, parents and faculty, came together to plant some trees. It was the culmination of several months of coordination with a local NGO, The Global Environment Centre, focusing of its efforts on rejuvenation of peat forests in Malaysia. The funding for the event was graciously provided by the ISKL Annual Fund. 

This particular group head out at 7 am on Saturday, November 8 on a day that competition was high for perspective volunteers, with HS athletics and the Google Educators conference underway at Ampang and SATs going on simultaneously off campus. The morning rain gave way, just in time it seemed, to cloud cover that kept the heat at bay. The troop arrived shortly after 8:15 and walked 1.25 km down a rugged mud road to the location of the planting. There they changed into boots, were given gloves and ponchos and headed out - after a short briefing on the importance of planting and the species to be planted - to plant and plant some more.

By the end of the event (around 12:00 noon) the group had planted 210 trees that will benefit the peat forest ecosystem by providing food sources (small berries in this case), attracting birds and insects to the area in greater numbers. It was important for everyone to recognize not just the benefit of planting directly, but also how the planting fit into the big picture of the haze in SE Asia, the relationship between education of local communities versus typical slash and burn behaviors, the economic benefits of supporting local nurseries and involving locals in the planting process as well as their participation in the growth of peat swamps around Malaysia. In short, it was important to recognize how interconnected ecology, economy, society and politics are and how a systemic approach to solving global issues is necessary and already underway. 

The conversations were timely. The planting was a win-win for people and planet alike. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Planting for the Planet: An Invitation

I am always amazed that, after all the time I spend in trying to work out best practices and appropriate behaviors for sustainability, arguably the best thing is to just add to nature and let it do it's thing. 

Students note that recycling is a helpful behavior, and it is. But the assumption is that one is helping because they are doing less damage that they might otherwise. 

Perhaps we should be turning everything on its head and start looking at things from a positive starting point. Let's not assume that our behaviors need to be detrimental to the environment. Why not actually add our share to the natural capital of the world?  A simple act of growing a plant will provide benefits that far outweigh the time and energy expended in planting it and provide a meaningful service to the planet and its inhabitants. 

On Saturday, November 8 from 7:00 am to around 1:00 pm or so, our HS Earth Club and Green Council are running a tree planting Plant-a-thon that will support the UN Plant for the Planet program. Open to the entire ISKL community (aged 10 and above) the idea is to head out with our partners, the Global Environment Centre, and plant 300 trees at the Raja Musa Forest Reserve (north of KL). Bussing will be provided from our Ampang campus and back.

Why not come out and help get some carbon out of the atmosphere, return some of the natural spaces and provide some of that ever-elusive clean air around these parts. Then, once we plant, just let nature take it's course.

If we're want our son's and daughters to exemplify global citizenship, we would be hard pressed to find a better example of humble yet positively impactful service to the world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Building Global Citizens: GAP & BCP

In the past two weeks both students and teachers have been involved in a plethora of initiatives and learning aimed at building communities and developing global citizens. It's a sustainability and service learning dream come true!  

It would have been difficult to avoid getting sucked into the enthusiasm revolving around the high school Global Action Program (GAP). In large part GAP is about building bridges. Bridges between different people and places and systems and structures. Bridges between ecological, social, economic and political sustainability. Bridges of experiential learning for our students and those we meet. Every trip is integrated with a service program that is powerful and authentic.

In the case of Cambodia 9, which I was privileged to participate in, it was through the building of a home for a rural family whose daily income, on days when work is available, hovers around USD 3. Our students also taught English to children around Seam Reap for whom the language can, quite literally, be a one way street out of poverty. We also initiated the building of a library in a community school, using discarded plastic bottles and waste. The arrival of subsequent school groups, during the fall semester or school travel, should see the building completed by November. 

It was in conjunction with one of those GAP trips to Bali that our elementary librarian, Suji Dehart, was doing her bit for global citizenship as well. She has been integral in establishing a partnership between ISKL and a rural Balinese community to support literacy there. The Bali Children's Project has just begun by providing a library for the young children in the area with obvious benefits to literacy, education and beyond. It was particularly meaningful that a group of GAP students supported the establishment of the library and the reading to children there.

Extending it even further, Suji and David Herbert, our new Elementary School Service Learning Coordinators, are using the Bali Children’s Project as the focus of fundraising for Melawati, largely through our grade five Red Hats initiatives. These are the baby steps in long-term commitment to sustainable development in communities where need is highest.

These are but two examples of how, at ISKL, the pursuit of global citizenship is taking form.  One need only to look around to see ISKL’s community doing it’s bit in making the world a better place without fanfare or pomp or circumstance.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tying ESD, Service Learning & Eco-Schools Together

Often in chats and meetings the concepts of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Service Learning seem to get blurred. Also confusing is the Eco Schools program which we are proud members of. Consider this article it an eco-education 101 for new and returning families.

Our ESD curricular framework was the first to be established at ISKL, four years ago. The idea behind it is that students who complete their studies at ISKL have a solid understanding of sustainable development, its dimensions and interconnections. To complement that, of course, are a host of skills that are essential for 21st century learning: Collaboration, multiple perspectives (what we call "lenses") systemic thinking, etc.  

Two years ago we took the extra step in making ESD more meaningful with the introduction of service learning. Service learning is a teaching approach that we utilize both in classroom and out-of-class learning. It complements ESD very well in terms of skills developed and understandings generated but can also be utilized independently, making it particularly effective. 

The use of service learning works very well in any capacity. Case in point: The Green Council which is largely the school-wide leadership group with regard to Eco-Schools initiatives. The Eco-Schools program has fit us "like a glove" in that it allows our students to work with local organizations, to form authentic links with the community and ensure that our internal programs go hand-in-hand with external ones. But it is also about focusing on community needs and addressing them in an authentic manner: Authentic learning by doing.  

For example, numerous IB CAS projects (which are sometimes counted as Eco-Schools projects) utilize the service learning approach. More times than not such projects also relate to the ESD curriculum either directly or indirectly, More importantly, they also increase the capacity for change making and community building, both pillars of molding global citizens. 

The versatility of these three elements - ESD, service learning and Eco-Schools - has created a win-win situation for student learning at ISKL. From gaining the knowledge of ESD to practicing authentic learning through service strategies, and extending themselves to out-of-school authentic collaboration the learning is quite exceptional.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grade 6 Service Learning: The Gears are moving

ISKL is a dynamic place. In the classroom our students are exposed to hundreds of new concepts and ideas and theories and frameworks and discussions and, and, and... This 'buzz' however, continues even after they have gone home. It's the sound of a great school working on making education "exceptional". It was during those meetings that the idea of a service learning elective for grade six students was born.

16 students are taking service learning this trimester (and it's offered again next trimester as well).  I had the pleasure of joining the two classrooms last week as they deliberated what would be most appropriate fit for their interests, the needs of the community and the limitations given by the trimester. It needed to be authentic but also something that would allow them to have an impact. Conversations ebbed and flowed from issues of self esteem to waste to energy to respect for others to animal rights. Students had a number of questions for me - "where does our waste go?" or "why do we have so many plastic bottles?" - and the answers invariably led to more questions, slowly opening the door to the understanding of issues and their complexity. 

The power of conversation and analysis should not be lost here. Given time to deliberate, to discuss and to recognize the nature of addressing complex issues one can really see the learning clicking into high gear. The sixth graders have no lack of energy and they'll need it because they are ready to tackle the issues of nutrition, waste and energy use at Ampang!  Tall orders for 12 year olds but with such potential to be mini change makers.

I like to tell people that you can't build an NBA player by asking them to start playing basketball in college. Using the same logic, you can't expect kids to become change makers and future builders by asking them to understand theoretical constructs without also giving them the chance to put things into practice. I am not privy to the action plans of grade six yet, but given the depth of conversation and the interest of the students I am sure that they'll be great! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Little Steps: Solar at Ampang

There's a Chinese proverb that says that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. In it's essence this statement recognizes that even in enormous tasks the journey is often in small increments but purposeful. This is often how sustainability seeps into our school culture as well. 

Case in point: How many of you have, as you arrived at the Ampang campus, noticed the new solar panel that sits atop the guard house?  Have your children told you about the four new fans that are now placed there for their convenience as they wait for a ride in the afternoon?  Do they know that a small plug is now available for charging their phones/computers?  

The project - entirely "off grid" was made possible through an Annual Fund donation last year and was put into place as our first school days of the year were underway.  It also charges battery with enough energy to last for over five hours over the course of the night and, of course, during daylight as well.  

The project serves the purpose of intertwining the physical campus with the learning of our students, and providing an example of the use of alternative energy including its benefits and, of course, challenges. Already the structure is being studied by a group of IB students for their group four projects. 

So, whether you notice those types of things or not, little changes are being made to our campus due to the support and engagement of our community. It's the little steps that, added together, build on a journey well beyond 1,000 miles.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Education for Sustainable Development @ ISKL

Parents may or may not recognize how much time and energy are spent developing curriculum, ensuring that what we do at ISKL provides an exceptional education for our students and that all we do and say moves in unison with our school's mission statement. With regard to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) we focus on ensuring that what we are teaching our students is realistic, valuable and provides the understanding, skills, values and attitudes to embrace the future. In that light, last years Leadership Council for Sustainability spent a good deal of time working on a new foundation that would guide our ESD curriculum.

The new ESD diagram is based on the UNESCO dimensions of sustainable development. It identifies four main components - Ecological, Social, Economic and Political sustainability. - as the building blocks for sustainable communities.  But what really makes this an integrated educational platform is the dynamic interaction of the different dimensions, particularly as they relate to the global issues found encircling the four main dimensions. 

This diagram also provides a visual representation of our ESD curriculum. Standards have been developed and benchmarks are a priority for this year. The ESD Standards are the following:

Ecological Sustainability
Students recognize the importance of protecting the environment and the role of individuals, communities and governments in doing so.

Social Sustainability
Students understand that personal, social and cultural well-being are important elements of sustainable development.

Economic Sustainability
Students recognize the benefits and challenges of economic development (growth) as well as implications on ecological, social and political systems.

Political Sustainability
Students understand the function of individuals, governments and other organizations in promoting sustainable development. 

As students work toward these standards throughout our curriculum they will recognize the dynamic interaction between the different dimensions, the challenges and opportunities provided by this interconnectedness as well as the need to develop personal leadership capacity to ensure that sustainable development is at the forefront of our journey to the future.  Key in this is the fundamental recognition that balance is important, that things are connected and that each of us - children and adults alike - have a capacity to make a positive contribution to our community and the world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Guides Us

On the Sustainable ISKL website ( one can click on a link to "What Guides Us". It was originally simply a vision statement, but it has grown along side our school's sustainable ethic. Part and parcel with sustainability education - what we call Education for Sustainable Development (or ESD) - is a recognition of the interconnectedness of different dimensions of sustainability and a realization that a sustainable present and, indeed, a future, is something that provides many opportunities for our community. 

The beginning of the year - right now - is perhaps the perfect time to share our new Green Vision Statement with our community:

“At ISKL educating for sustainability, nurturing nature and helping others are essential in the construction of a sustainable future; one that involves a balanced interaction with nature, engagement in stewardship for the Earth and it’s people, adapting to ecological limits and embracing the opportunities offered by a sustainable world.”

The statement itself took a good deal of time to develop, largely because it required the input of teachers, administrators and, most importantly, students. If one looks closely he/she can see a smidgeon of ISKL's Eco Code (Eco Schools), a style of our school's vision statement and a few statements that highlight what we hope our students to imbibe. Though often not written in standards and benchmarks, three key points shine through:
  1. Balanced interaction with nature is essential,
  2. Engaging in making positive change for both the Earth and the people who call it home is part of an exceptional community, and
  3. Tomorrow holds a world of opportunities
The statement will guide us as we move forward through this year and those to follow. It whispers of tall orders and difficult challenges but, perhaps more importantly, it confidently speaks of exceptional people doing exceptional things on an exceptional planet. That is some education, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

...And We're Back!

Welcome to 2014-15!  Whether new or returning, there is something warm and wonderful about ISKL. As ISKL's Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator it comes to me to ensure that the word is out about things "green" on our campuses and programs. This academic year is not about building new sustainable campuses just yet. It's about ensuring that sustainability are part of the vocabulary, part of the manner by which things are done here. In some cases the conversations are difficult and in some cases they just pour out but the need is there to move ahead with creating opportunities for our students and community. 
This year is about putting the leadership in the hands of students and making students leaders of their own circumstance and community. It'a about empowerment and engagement. It's about making difficult decisions. It's about  recognizing both the limitations and the opportunities of a green economy, thinking and future. The sky is the limit, and we intend to use the opportunity that provides us to move in a sustainable direction. 
Apart from an increased presence and hard work, we hope to focus on the following things this year:
  • Increasing leadership capacity in our students and organizations such as service teams and clubs, the Green Council and Student Council including 
    • leading in collaborative projects with other schools and local organizations
    • generating a connection between sustainability and learning spaces on both campuses
  • Increasing leadership capacity in our teaching and administrative staff by providing professional development opportunities
  • Working on projects that support our efforts to maintain the Eco-Schools Green Flag (this is an assessment year, after all!)
  • The continued development of ESD benchmarks in our curriculum
  • Minimizing landfill waste and maximizing recycling, composting and appropriate disposal of chemical and toxic waste
  • Infusing the service learning process at all divisions 
  • Continue efforts to reduce energy, water and air miles
  • Continue assisting in the design and building of a new sustainable campus
  • Creating a five-year strategic plan for Sustainability & Service Learning
So what are you waiting for?  We might as well start now?  Join the composting program! Bring in your recyclables at the first monthly Community Recycling tomorrow!  Have your child eat a home-made, nutritious lunch. Car pool. Every decision is an opportunity!  Have a wonderful year, all of you!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

2013-14 Sustainability & Service Learning Roundup

By the time you read this article you might already be en route to your perfect summer hideaway. Time perhaps to recharge, relax, see family and friends. As it should be. For every busy year needs a less busy time off and we all deserve it! This note serves as a quick review of sustainability and service learning initiatives/projects that have added a good deal to the culture of our school and the learning of our students. Here's a quick look of some of the highlights of 2013-14:

  •       The presentation of the first Eco-Schools Green Flag award in Malaysia by WWF-Malaysia’s Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma to our Green Council co-coordinators, Alysha Azizan (’14) and Deanna Anuar (’14)
  •        Development of a new "Green Vision Statement" to be introduced next year
  •        Development of new ESD standards
  •        Creation of a new ESD diagram (based on UNESCO's dimensions of sustainable development
  •        An Eco-friendly International Fest with use of bussing and without single-use plates/cutlery.
  •        Year round Trash Free Fridays at Melawati (and almost every day in the Preps).
  •        GAP service programs to 29 destinations across Asia.
  •        Creation of an interactive garden at Melawati.
  •        Earth Week (including a very successful Earth Hour).
  •        MS Malaysia Week teams utilized new Sustainability Site Assessment Report forms.
  •        River Rangers programs developed in grades 3, 7 and HS Environmental Studies supporting local water testing and data collection on behalf of the Global Environment Centre and Department of Irrigation.
  •        Weekly visits by Ecocentric Transitions to our Prep classes focusing on positive interactions with nature (e.g. planting, vermicomposting).
  •        The first Ampang community tree-planting event with the support of the local government (MPAJ) Youth and Community department.
  •        The inaugural Eco-Schools Mini-Conference organized by the Green Council.
  •        Initiation of a “Service for the Better” service learning program in grade 4.
  •        Visit by the new campus architects to grade 5 and sharing ideas on energy use.
  •        Continued collaboration with WWF Malaysia and Ecocentric Transitions to identify a site for use as a Nature Education Centre (for HS outdoor education and Environmental Studies classes).
  •        HS & MS Student proposals for vermicomposting (grade 7 Global Issues) and solar charging stations (grade 9 EAL) have been received and followed up next academic year.
  •        Integrated sustainability best practices for on-campus events, flights, etc.
It's been busy, no? Things are happening and the kids are growing. But then again, it's about to come to a screeching half with the coming of summer. We wish you all a friendly, happy, family and friend filled, green-as-can-be summer break!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Before we go... we're planning for next year.

Every day that passes one can hear the buzz in the hallways. It's the anticipation of a long vacation with little interruption and less worry about formal learning. Next week will bring with it a sudden quiet to the place. The first people, undoubtedly, will be getting ready to head home within hours of that final bell.  But work here continues over the summer.

From a sustainable front we are happy to know that a new off-grid solar powered set of fans (and charging plug) - financed by our Annual Fund donors - will be set up at the front of our campus. Both practical and educational the station should be ready to go when we all return from the summer. 

The hydroponics garden too, which was recently constructed by our Green Council, is slated to get a bit of a "fix up" with the installation of a water catchment area as well as some minor adjustments to the system, including the expansion of the spaces available for the plants to grow. By the time we return in August we hope to have a system that will be bearing fruit (or vegetables, actually) including lettuce for our cafeteria and act as an example for vertical gardens which was, after all, the intent of the Green Council's initiative. 

We will also be organizing early-August training for our Green Council to make sure that 2014-15 starts off right out of the starting blocks. The JUMP Foundation is coming in the very first weekend of school (August 8-9) to conduct leadership, action planning and facilitation training for out 15 Green Council executive members. We are aiming high for this group and hope to ensure that they have all the tools to do a great job next academic year through empowerment, skill building and reflection. It's the kind of capacity building that makes a big difference. 

So, while we are all roaming about and visiting family and friends, it's good to know that ISKL continues to establish both physical and human capacity. Have a wonderful final week!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Snippets of Sustainability & Service

As the year winds down from a sustainability and service learning standpoint we it gives a chance for respite - though there is still much happening - to recognize that the statement "less is more" is sometimes fitting at ISKL. In the past couple weeks a number of small activities and events have taken shape and are shared below:

  • Grade 2 conducted some research on water use during tooth brushing by measuring water running continuously and only for rinsing. They found that by keeping the tap off until rinsing saved, on average, 85% of water!
  • Grade 5 did some research of their own, focusing on ISKL's environmental indictor data (found here). Their responses revealed in-depth analysis of our school's energy, water, waste and air miles usage.
  • A HS EAL asked the Sustainability Coordinator to come in and discussed a possible solar lap top charging station, its logistics, funding, etc. They will soon be writing a proposal for next year's Annual Fund. 
  • The MS has just added a Grade 6 elective on Service Learning, which will be offered for the 2014-15 academic year. 
  • A small group of grade 4 students decided to focus on hunger and reforestation, combining the two in a food drive and sapling/plant give away. The food goes to a local soup kitchen while saplings and plants are planted in our gardens and terraces!
  • The Interactive Garden at Melawati is receiving lots of little visitors! During breaks students are seen there engaged in the sand pit, the tic-tac-toe area and looking at the flowers that are now in full bloom. 
  • The HS Environmental Science class conducted water testing at several spots on the Ampang campus. 
  • PJCC has undertaken planting of carrot, tomato and watermellon in the past few weeks. Largely the little sprouts are growing very well and we intend to transplant the watermellon into the Prep garden beds next week!
There are many more of these little snippets one could share, but often they take place inside classroom or in short walks into gardens. They are, as they should be, authentic moments of learning away from the limelight and off the scripts of articles. They are where learning really takes place: In the minds of children (and adults).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What Sets ESD Apart?

Earth Week came and went with the requisite discussions, keynote speakers, outings to green areas, expeditions in the wild, earth hours and water savings. There were conversations aplenty and there was a positive buzz, particularly at Melawati. Behind the scenes there were similar conversations concerning things like our Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) standards and benchmarks review. 

When ISKL created the ESD standards and benchmarks in 2010 they were based around eight UNESCO themes (e.g. water). Over the years these themes have become 11 and we hove found that ISKL would benefit from more "conceptual" ESD standards. 

A review of current departmental standards indicated that though many of departmental standards are excellent at a departmental level and sometimes include sustainability-related topics (e.g. gender equity, ecology) they lack the breadth that characterises ESD. 

ESD standards stand out from departmental standards in four distinct ways (either one or more can apply to a standard or benchmark):
  1. They foster a sense of connection/belonging to the natural world. 
  2. They focus on the interconnectedness of the different dimensions of sustainable development. 
  3. They emphasise systems thinking. 
  4. They emphasise inventing and affecting the future.
Certainly asking students to develop the knowledge and skills with regard to the items above is a tall order. It implies students ready to analyse and solve the world's issues. It implies an understanding of one thing affecting the other and an ability to project into the future. It implies active citizenship in a global world. It further assumes that, in order to perform these skills, students need to be adept at creative thinking, constructive collaboration, effective communication, living ethically and reasoning critically.  

Of course these are essentially the building blocks of success, both for individuals and for a collectively engaged world citizenry And all these, together, give us the tools to move in the direction we strive for: A sustainable future and, as we move toward it, an increasingly sustainable present.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Real World Green Thinking

By the time Earth Week concludes on Friday, it will have included a compilation of nearly 20 different events from nature outings to sustainable initiatives, from awareness projects to academic outcomes. It will also have highlighted two speakers who were powerful in their message:  Green isn't about tomorrow. It's about today and the "real world" is already moving in that direction. 

Ruben Cortes representing an organization named Earthship Malaysia spoke last week to our MS students before they departed for Malaysia Week. His speech, lauded by everyone in attendance, was about building housing in such a way as to minimize energy and water use while using locally-sourced recycled materials. His participation in the Earthshop program recently took him to the Philippines where the Earthshop crew helped build a community center in a small village that was decimated by Typhoon Hainan.  The simplicity or the architecture was impressive and left a theatre full of middle schoolers and their teachers in awe of such possibilities. His point was simple: Sustainable building practices are "here and now" not tomorrow or the future. 

CK Tang, of Veritas Environment, who is involved in the planning of our new ISKL campus spoke on Monday to our HS student assembly about the vision of a zero carbon, zero waste, zero water community, highlighting the powerful interconnections between the many factors in being "green".  Though more analytical and detailed, his address none-the-less inspired the crowd, particularly with his ability to bring it all together - from waste to energy to algae and solar - in an impressive crescendo of how zero-carbon/zero-water/zero-waste communities are being designed and built. Of course, it would be hard not to be tickled silly by the fact that our new campus offers a fairly substantial step toward reaching that goal. 

By bringing representatives from Earthship and Veritas ISKL was hoping that our students will recognize the power of sustainability in career opportunities, real life technology, and urban development and their effects on personal choices. It was a chance for them to see sustainability from the perspective of the practitioner, and that makes a big difference. 

When the MS students were about to embark on their travels around Malaysia they were asked to "leave the place better than you found it". When the HS students left their assembly they were asked to partake in helping our campus be as sustainable as possible. When our students graduate from ISKL we know that a significant part of their "exceptional education" is generated through such high expectations.