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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Earth Week Next Week!

Over the past few weeks we've been busily working "behind the scenes" to ensure that things are happening for Earth Week, which starts this coming Saturday, April 19th. For a good overview of the the week please feel free to visit the page here. But here are some of the highlights parents should know about:

A Few Highlights for Parents:
  • Saturday
    • The 3rd Annual KDE Loop Clean Up will take place on Saturday, April 19th at 9:00 am. Meet in front of the KDE entrance.
    • Community Recycling at the Ampang campus from 9:30 to 11:30 am
    • Broga View Hike (carpooling) - Meet at the Ampang Guardhouse at 8am (Cost: RM 70 per person)
  • Sunday
    • Climbing for Everyone!  For novices, experts and everything in between. For the young and young at heart. For individuals and families alike! Join the HS Cliffhangers for a half day of hiking fun!  Bus leaves at 8 am from Ampang bus area and returned before 1 pm.
  • Tuesday
    • Earth Hour. Between 8:00 and 9:00 am we're turning off them electronics and heading outdoors (if weather permits)! 

  • Week-Long

    • Ampang
      • Bring your own water bottles (and dishes and utensils?). In an attempt to tackle our water shortage problems, and to avoid the waste of water (and hygiene problems) or waiting for water supply to be re-started, we're asking all our students to bring their own water bottes. Paper cups will not be provided during Earth Week. Besides, it's a good habit to have!
      • MS Malaysia Week. They're going out into the wild... exactly where young kids should be. Braving the elements and enjoying what nature has to offer. Education. Fun. Engagement.
    • Melawati: 
      • Trash Free Week!  We invite everyone to participate in going trash-less for the week. Combine that with healthy, natural snakes and you've got a real winning combination!
      • Stay away from plastic bags! Our Grade 4 "Service for the Better" group is promoting the elimination of plastic bags. Please do what you can to support this worth-while initiative. 

    There's more, but this are the things that we thought parents should know about. We have special events for students and announcements and quizzes and the like. Again, if you'd like to take a closer look, look no further then here

    Of course, the true conversations are ones that could (and should) be taking place at home.  With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just having released their latest report there is much to talk about!  
    Have a safe, happy, wonderful and sustainable Earth Week!

    Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    JUMPing to New Heights


    When the Environmental Coordinator position was initiated at ISKL the intent was to develop an ethos within our community to make positive change. Now nearly four years later we have made some significant inroads into the school's culture, but in doing so we are increasingly realizing that what we're doing, really, is allowing students to recognize their own power in affecting and inventing the future and, more precisely, making it a future they want to be part of. This element is increasingly transforming our efforts into an initiative to build capacity within our community and, in order to do that, build capacity within ourselves. Enter the JUMP Foundation, which visited ISKL's grade 4 last week.

    The JUMP Foundation is an experiential education and development group that does a whole host of things - from one-day workshops to multi-day experiential excursions - aimed at empowering youth. Recently it has worked with the Global Issues Network (GIN) Conferences in the region with the specific task of developing leadership and facilitation skills in students running the GIN Conferences. 

    Last week JUMP arrived with four educators and conducted three days worth of training. On day one they trained a number of teachers (largely grade 4) in facilitation and activities they would subsequently run with the students. Day two was a day largely revolving around the idea of community, teamwork and collaboration for students. Largely active and always challenging students were involved in a number of sessions whose primary focus was the understanding of personal attitudes and behaviors as well as inter-personal interactions and dynamics. Day three was focused on leadership and action planning in preparation for Grade 5 and their duties with the Red Hats program.

    How does this relate to sustainability and service?  Well, JUMP has a diagram of a mountain range that they use to discuss the hierarchy of capacity building. The range begins with personal development, then moves to community engagement before finally reaching a global citizenship issue. It became evident during their visit that  while we started out with the idea of educating for sustainability, giving students the tools for personal empowerment, leadership development and action is a necessary and fundamental first step to affecting the future in positive ways. 

    We have great hopes for JUMP returning to ISKL next year. We are hopeful they will work with the Green Council and other service leaders on campus as we move ever so steadily toward building global citizens from the ground up. 

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Sustainability and Service Learning Growing in the Region

    For some select few the past Spring Break brought with it an opportunity to attend the EARCOS Teachers Conference in Bangkok. There were a number of ISKL representatives both attending and presenting. I had the chance to present ISKL's direction as a sustainable school and highlight some of the many things we do on our campuses. Among other things that were covered were the ISKL ESD standards and benchmarks current under review and development. 

    What struck me about the conference was the plethora of workshops focusing on sustainability and service, and the level of participation in them. In a conference packed with so many topics, these workshops were often overflowing. There is obviously a trend toward sustainability in education, and ISKL is sitting right at the forefront of it. In such a light we participated in the Sustainable, Environment and Service Learning Job-Alike that took place there and were invited to attend a Sustainability and Service summit in September aimed at determining the educational direction and opportunities collaboratively with other schools across the region.

    The second thing that jumped out is just how far ISKL has come in the past 14 years. From our humble beginnings of our Green Team, ISKL is well positioned in terms of what we offer our students. Perhaps the most important element of that is the connection between sustainable future, powerful learning and making a difference to the world here and now through service learning. We have already been contacted by several schools to offer our know-how, our experience and to provide exemplars for moving forward. We are proud to be an important player in this regard and so support and assist both students and communities in the region and beyond. 

    Though ISKL is still developing its sustainability education programming and service learning opportunities it is heartwarming to know that we are moving in the right direction and we're walking hand in hand with an ever increasing number of schools. There is power in holding firm to our direction, but being flexible enough to bend with the circumstances, and we are doing this quite nicely.