Monday, January 27, 2014

Re-natural Learning Spaces

Part of the job expectations of the Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator is to allow our community to become involved in the development of natural spaces, particularly for learning. A big component of that is the recognition that a school is not merely a building. It can serve as a very powerful learning tool, particularly with regard to sustainability. 

This past December break the grounds staff of both campuses were working on two projects in this regard:

On the Melawati campus the project was the creation of an interactive garden, initiated by Prep Junior teacher Lisa Nazim. An Annual Fund donation allowed the construction of the foundation and, over the course of this semester, the students in the Prep classes will be helping to plant appropriate plants that will highlight natural sights and sounds and smells up close and personal. It will take a while to reach the ideal set up, largely due to the learning component of the project, which is the direct involvement of our 4 and 5 year olds. But once up and running it should be a perfect model of the marriage of space and learning!

On Ampang the break brought with it the building of a learning space (balcony) over the central stream in the back parking lot. On several visits by environmental experts this area was identified as an ieal on-campus water-based learning space. For anyone taking a stroll to that area (does anyone do that?) we've allowed an area for water quality measurement and observation. The space, if all goes to plan, will be adopted by our 7th grade Earth Science classes as part of the River Ranger program in the Klang Valley. The HS environmental studies classes will establish an action plan on how to best 're-naturalize' the space through the addition of plants that will give the area a more natural look, and hopefully invite insects and birds to the space. The parking spaces might also benefit from more natural shade. 

People who are eager to see things finished immediately might find the process a bit frustrating. But learning, particularly with nature, has to be done in time. Certainly the marriage of learning and physical outdoor space is no simple task. But we hope that with the engagement of students in planting, identifying and supporting existing micro-ecosystems, and participating in water quality testing, there is much to be learnt in slowing down the process to real time, natural time. It's as beautiful as sitting back and watching things grow... young minds and natural splendor simultaneously.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What is Malaysia Week?

The clip above is the introduction to ISKL's Malaysia Week Program for 2014. The clip itself shows the incredible power of being out in nature offers. It is a testament to the inter-relation between the environment, global issues, outdoor education and experiential learning. It is also a testament to the incredible benefit that students gain from being out-of-doors and developing not only a knowledge of natural spaces, but a profound and powerful connection with the natural world. What better a chance to engage students in authentic experiences that stimulate growth, generate an appreciation for the environment and develop a sense of purpose than such programs!  A big big thank you Karen Palko, the Malaysia Week Program Coordinator for years, who  tirelessly and continuously strives to reach every student in such profound ways. You truly make this world a better place!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Green" Community Connections

As the new year steadily builds its identity and we move into the second semester at ISKL it's a good time to check in with those things that often get unnoticed. The "behind the scenes" stuff, so to speak.  Way back in August, when we were still high on the Green Flag award and the adrenaline was pumping, we promised to move forward in our goal to reach out to the community. Things have moved gently since then and this is our chance to let you in on some of the plans. 

Four key things that we're working on regarding community connections:
  1. We are working with YAWA (the Malaysian association for environmental education) and WWF Malaysia to identify a plot of land that we can utilize as a Nature Education Center. The idea here is to work with local organizations and/or schools collaboratively to participate in conservation, outdoor education and rehabilitation projects. There is a possibility of assisting with the establishment of a Sun Bear conservation program in one of these locations. Things here are still "in flux" and we have a very long way to go, but it's a dream inching ever closer to reality. More info can be found at this Green Council link:
  2. We have requested from the local city council (MPAJ) to help us coordinate a tree planting event sometime in March. Involving our varsity teams in third IASAS season this will function as a team bonding experience as well as a carbon offsetting service project for our participants. 
  3. Our 3rd grade, 7th grade and HS environmental education classes are looking into collaborative programs with the Global Environment Centre to essentially "adopt a stream" and provide water quality data to be added to a Klang Valley database used by the Malaysian Government to instruct decisions regarding needs along the Klang River. 
  4. Our Green Council is working with WWF Malaysia regarding organizing a half-day Eco-Schools conference at ISKL. The hope is that both teachers and students participate concurrently in the mini-conference. 
None of these initiatives has been yet been finalized. But as I write this I am excited about the possibilities. There is much to be gained from authentic and meaningful collaboration with local partners, NGOs, schools and community government. This is the way ISKL can slowly become a leader in the local community as well as we have done with our extended international community. "Think globally, act locally" they say. We're well on our way.