Published by SchoolAdvisor on Oct 21, 2020, 08:56 AM
As anyone who has moved into a new house knows, it takes a little while to truly make it feel like home.
When you move to a new home, you need to first experience it before you can decide how to make it truly yours. This is exactly what happened when The International School of Kuala Lumpur’s (ISKL) relocated to its new state-of-the-art 26-acre campus, where after spending some time in the new location and gathering feedback from the community, ISKL planned a roll-out of campus beautification initiatives to ensure it would feel like home to its 1,700 students. With such a large campus, the opportunities to add the ISKL creative touch and implement projects which bring learning to life have been limitless.
As a proud recipient of an Eco-Schools Green Flag, an internationally recognized award for excellence in environmental action and learning, ISKL believes in walking the talk by putting sustainability into action school-wide.
“Showcasing sustainability in action and creating green, friendly, and welcoming community spaces were the primary goals of the campus beautification projects we undertook over the summer break,” says Lynette MacDonald, Director of Development and Alumni Engagement at ISKL.
The projects were funded by ISKL's Development Fund which Lynette explains, “Was established to support our school’s mission to provide an exceptional educational experience for students by funding innovative and sustainability-focused projects, places and partnerships. From five-meter high jungle walls to 90-meter murals, the initiatives we recently completed demonstrate how we bring this to life”.
When students walk through the Elementary School (ES) and High School (HS) entrances, they are met with a beautiful green jungle wall that spans an impressive five-meter floor-to-ceiling expanse. Towering vertical gardens feature a variety of foliage that remind the many hundreds of students who walk through the foyers each day about the importance of caring for the environment and the joy nature offers.
Lynette explains the thought process behind the jungle walls, "We didn't want something that looked overly curated – we wanted something organic, that would continue to grow freely. Not only do they serve to beautify the entrances and put a smile on students' faces as soon as they start the school day, but the jungle walls are also able to be incorporated into learning and the curriculum.”
Featuring begonias, ferns, philodendrons, geraniums, and evergreen shrubs, the jungle walls create an inspiring outdoor learning experience. For example, biology students can be seen studying plants up close and observing the effects of light on leaves while art students use the different shapes, colors, and textures of plants as a source of creative inspiration.
The jungle wall at the ES entrance is a big extra-sensory hit with ISKL’s younger learners, "We wanted to create an engaging multi-sense experience for them, so we placed specifically-chosen plants around the lower section of the wall that would be safe for our learners to touch and smell. The wall incorporates herbs that smell wonderful such as lemon balm leaf, sweet basil, mint, and the local ‘daun kesum’ (Vietnamese coriander) as well as plants with different leaf textures so that every sense is stimulated,” says Lynette. “Ultimately, not only do they look truly magnificent, the jungle walls bring learning to life and are a source of inspiration for our students”.
The new Community Edible Garden funded by the Development Fund is located at the heart of ISKL - its amphitheater. The garden provides the ISKL community with the opportunity to explore native herbs and Malaysia's plants, as well as providing another educational experience for students.
The garden has been designed to promote collaboration. "We want our community to be involved in how the garden progresses. Our ES, Middle School (MS), and HS gardening clubs are adding their creative input and suggesting new plants, herbs, and vegetables that they would like to grow – it’s a process of long-term collaboration” says Lynette.
The garden contains a variety of herbs both native and non-native to Malaysia, giving ISKL's international community the opportunity to discover something new. ISKL’s in-house food providers are also enjoying this new garden – the House of Taste chef has been inspired to create new dishes using the fresh produce that is grown on their doorstep.
When Amanda Soo, Class of 2020, interned at ISKL’s Advancement Department over summer, she was tasked with painting a location map on a walkway that sees hundreds of students pass by each day.
Using symbols relating to Malaysia and ISKL culture, Amanda designed and painted a stunning mural that not only helps you find your way but also shares her perspective on the educational journey students take at ISKL from early childhood through to graduation. Location symbols include cocoons painted to represent the Middle School experience and a beautiful butterfly at the HS wing, signifying the blossoming students as they transition between the divisions.
One of the most eye-catching features of the mural is the stream of koi fish that swim along the spine of ISKL. "Koi fish are a symbol of perseverance," said Amanda. "They are swimming from north to south, against the current, showing ISKL's character and how we're taught to persevere. It also shows that as we grow older, we want to preserve the essence of youth."
The mural adds vibrancy and color to the campus and at the ceremony celebrating the mural's completion, Head of School, Mr. Rami Madani, summed up the response of the community: "The product itself is a masterpiece - just wonderful to look at!"
Amanda further expressed her feelings on the importance of art in the Ampang Hilir campus saying, "Adding art, integrating it into the everyday lives of ISKL students, reminds us that this is a home and it makes you feel safe. The school is becoming more and more vibrant and lively as students continue to contribute their own artistic touches throughout the campus and make it their own.”
Two of the biggest and brightest new additions to ISKL's campus are the 90-meter long and seven-meter high murals along the school’s spine.
"The campus spine brings our school together," said Lynette. “Strategically spanning student drop-off points, this is the first area our parents and students see every day, and we wanted to build elements of nature as well as some Malaysian motifs into an inspiring artwork along the spine.”
Thanks to alumni Ayesha Zulkifly, Class of 2006, there are now two beautiful murals that tell the story of ISKL through symbols that hold deep meaning for the community, including ISKL’s mascot, the panther. The natural imagery used pays homage to Malaysia, while the essence of ISKL is represented by the school colors of blue and yellow and the vibrant colors that represent ISKL’s Schoolwide Learning Results.
Between the Middle and High School teaching and learning wings lies the Coaches Garden. The long-lasting legacy of our coaches is why the Thomas family, whose sons have now graduated from ISKL, decided that they would like their contribution to the school to be a special, dedicated space to recognize and celebrate the many hours of hard work and dedication by all of ISKL’s coaches.
During the summer break, the Development Fund team took advantage of the quiet campus and focused on nurturing the Coaches Garden. Lynette shares, “The plan was to bring more wild space and a Malaysian jungle-feel into the campus." Ten trees were rescued and replanted in the garden, making the space even more lush with local and native plants. Not only will the trees provide shade for ISKL's students, but it will also provide yet another opportunity for students to interact with nature in their daily lives.
"We want to ensure the wish of the Thomas family to create many happy memories continues long into the future,” says Lynette. “Not only do we have a beautiful, welcoming space – we also have a place for education and learning.”
While the Development Fund has already initiated a number of significant projects, Lynette says but this is only the beginning, “The fund will continue to be used for projects that make ISKL a home and initiatives that focus on sustainability. We are not just decorating. It's about changing the way we use our campus. For example, while the green walls are beautiful, they also help cool the building, and create an environment which supports learning and creativity."
Visit the ISKL Blog here to find out more about sustainability and what’s happening across its Ampang Hilir campus.
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