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.