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.