Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Week: Celebrating Nature; Celebrating You.

This week - Earth Week - has seen a busy schedule including, of course, our MS visits to the many beautiful and varied natural settings of Malaysia. The stories the students and chaperones come back with are sure to indicate that exposure and appreciation for nature, collaboration and personal growth all danced together in creating worthwhile educational experiences. There is a reason why experiential education is so powerful and that is often due to challenging circumstances, exposure to nature, working in teams, and using all one's senses to become aware of one's world and place in it.

For those who were not able to head out into the wild, there was plenty to do here on campus as well. Weekend climbing and hiking trips: The Farmer's Market and Community Recycling; ISKL Earth Hour; half day trips to FRIM; awareness videos at the HS; the uniform swap at the ES; a number of competition based games at HS; grade 1 trees planted at the ES; the careers and sustainability assembly in the HS; many curricular connections and conversations throughout the school. 

And yet, for many students it might not seem like it's that different. It's sort of like "business as usual" with a bit of an added twist. There are no big banners. No "one off" day-long special events. There are just many many small things to add value to the fact that we already do so much throughout the year. Nearly every person at ISKL participated in some way or another and that is what makes Earth Week so important. 

After all, how do you celebrate something while trying to minimize your impact?  How do we increase awareness without increasing the environmental price tag?  In our case, it's by utilizing means that already exist, and avoiding creating new ones. It's by adding a "stealth" factor to celebration of something important. It's by doing little things. Lots of 'em.

Thank you to all those to participated in the Earth Week events. And thank you to all of you who take the time to talk to those around you. Thanks for spreading awareness and for your personal choices that matter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Earth Week 2015: Our Turn to Lead!

The Earth Day Network in the United States has given Earth Day and theme of "Our turn to lead". ISKL's Earth Week is currently being considered as a formal partner event for the Earth Day Network, which is a fun added benefit to our week-long set of things to do. 

This year, as usual, the MS is headed out to the "wild" for Malaysia Week during Earth Week. It's a fitting combination of environmental awareness and getting dirty and having fun with it too. 

That leaves the ES and HS to do a more indirect rendition of the Week. The schedule for the week can be found here. It highlights two weekends of outdoor experiences:
  • Saturday, April 18: Farmer's Market & Community Recycling
  • Sunday, April 19: Climbing for Everyone at Batu Caves
  • Saturday, April 25: 
    • Hike to Sungai Pisang waterfall
    • KDE Loop clean up
  • Sunday, April 26: Hike to Kemansah Waterfall (for ES families)
Apart from that, of course, there are a number of on-campus events both at Ampang and Melawati. If you are the parent of an ES student perhaps you'll considering sending some of your son/daughter's outgrown uniforms to the Uniform Swap (on Wednesday and Thursday) to exchange them for ones that fit. Classes are invited to join the ISKL Earth Hour on Tuesday morning as well in support of energy conservation and awareness. Other events include a prep senior trip to FRIM, a number of public service announcements by the Red Hats, HS competitions organized by the Earth Club, a HS photo competition and a mural as well. Lots of great stuff!

Earth Week is largely a celebration of the Earth. As it should be. Of course, with the increasing awareness of it beauty and fragility, and as the theme suggests, it's also a great time for action and conversations at home. After all Earth Day is every day, right?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Never Too Young to Make Positive Change

It was a Wednesday morning when my daughter, in grade 1, said to me, "daddy, we wrote a letter to Mr. Busk about trees". Not sure what it was about I smiled supportively but then we rushed to get on the bus. By the time I got to school that same day I had received an email from Mr. Busk. The subject line read "trees". So I meandered my way down the Melawati hallway to find him and get the scoop. What he told me was quite impressive!

A few trees have been either removed or have fallen at the Melawati playground over the past few months. This, as it turns out, was noticed by our little grade 1 students who, in turn, went to their teacher to discuss their problem... too much sun and too hot a play space. What ensued was practically a play-by-play of service learning. The students went to the playground and measured the temperature to determine how hot it really was. They surveyed their entire class and found that over 95% of the class supported the idea of planting new trees. They created a map of the playground with notations of where they felt it was best to plant them. Then they wrote letters.

At first they wrote three letters, one each. Then, recognizing the power of numbers, they decided to "pitch" the idea of advocacy onto their classmates. That resulted in about 12 more letters being written, which prompted one to think that perhaps it would be so much better to have the whole grade write letters. So, the three students stood up and presented to their entire grade of peers, sharing their thoughts and data and inviting over to write letters as well. By the time Mr. Busk was involved over 80 letters were handed over to him along with the data and results of the surveys. 

Mr. Busk invited Mr. Myers to walk around the playground about how wonderful it might be to add some trees to the playground, in part to make up for tree lost, but also perhaps to address the 'plastification' of our play areas on the lower ES play areas. Mr. Myers then contacted the campus supervisor and a local nursery to identify trees that are big enough to provide shade, don't create root problems, and are endemic. The students will later be involved in determining which tree species they would like planted as well as help out with the planting themselves. We hope that by Earth Week (April 18-26) we will be able to place a few trees in that area for the benefit of our children and the environment. For practical reasons it'll probably be a few less than the original 80 trees requested. :-)

How wonderful to know that determined citizens, no matter how young, can make positive change in their community. From a learning standpoint one need not take too long to recognize the knowledge and skill related connections offered through this spontaneous service learning experience (thank you to grade 1 teachers for supporting the enthusiasm!). From a 'bigger picture' perspective it is simply awesome! Are these not the citizens we like to see in our community and in the world?