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Beyond The Classroom

by Kelly Johnstone 23 May 2016
Beyond The Classroom

No cold walks along a windy pebbly beach measuring stones, no trekking through a local park in the mud to find unusual flowers and trees. No, Malaysia’s international schools take full advantage of having such a variety of amazing destinations right on their doorstep. These experiences beyond the four walls of the classroom allow students to step outside of their comfort zones and experience the theoretical content of the curriculum in a hands-on and exciting way.

Alice Smith International School

At the Alice Smith International School, children at both the primary and secondary campuses can expect to partake in a number of school trips.

Roger Schultz, Head of School at the Alice Smith International School, is a firm believer in the educational value that school trips provide.

“Every student’s experiential learning is enhanced by interesting and challenging activities and expeditions beyond the classroom, supporting the development of the whole child, their character and personality and their social and emotional welfare.

“At the Alice Smith School, we ensure that we make the most of the plentiful cultural, social and environmental experiences on offer in Kuala Lumpur, throughout Asia and beyond.

“At the Primary Campus, trips are run throughout the year across all year groups and predominantly reinforce the learning in the classroom. In Years Four, Five and Six, in addition to the academic benefits, residential trips within Malaysia also encourage independence, enhance personal skills, provide new challenges and help students work together and develop teamwork. At the Secondary Campus, wider learning continues to encourage young people to develop knowledge, resilience, independence and teamwork.

“Day trips supporting the curriculum continue throughout the academic year, however each year the Alice Smith School dedicates one week in July to the highly anticipated ‘Trips Week’. There are a wide range of trips to choose from, offering personal, physical and intellectual challenges in a wonderful range of environments from city to jungle, both local and international in the developed or developing world.”

At the Primary Campus, the students have the opportunity to go on residential trips to Tioman, the Textile Museum and Ipoh, while the secondary students can look forward to travelling to Phuket, Redang, Tioman, Bintan and Chiang Mai to take part in community work.

“These residential trips add immense value and focus on some or all of the following elements: community service, personal development and curriculum-related learning. All these factors help develop important life skills such as co-operation, interpersonal communication and most importantly help build a connected community through an appreciation and understanding of different cultures and environments,” he said.

“Learning beyond the classroom through school trips is a great way for students at the Alice Smith School to develop their potential to explore and discover the world around them, to think for themselves and form opinions, to relate to others, to develop their bodies through sport and physical education, and to gain experience in taking responsibility. At Alice Smith, we help young people flourish academically and personally with an appropriate skill set to meet the challenges of a changing world.”

In addition, some secondary students at the Alice Smith International School can expect to venture a little further afield to destinations such as Indonesia, Hong Kong, Beijing, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Geneva and New York for their subject specialist trips.

Marlborough College

At Marlborough College, school trips are offered throughout the school starting in Year One and continuing all the way up to Year 13.

They run trips to museums, galleries, science centres, outdoor education venues and farms as well as educational weekend trips. In addition, the boarders have a full programme of excursions at the weekends.

In Years Four to Eight all pupils take part in a residential visit, which takes them away for up to six nights. These trips can be hosted locally as well as abroad in neighbouring countries such as Thailand or Indonesia.

The older students can enjoy more adventurous trips to places such as Langkawi, Borneo, India, the United Kingdom, Australia and the USA.

In addition to the residential trips, the college runs a number of field study trips as part of the IGCSE and IB Diploma, plus regular sports trips that include international competitions.

“On a recent trip to Phuket, our Year Nine pupils were lucky enough to train alongside the Dutch and Russian Olympic swimming teams as part of a sports and fitness week,” said Jon McNaught, Trips Coordinator at Marlborough College Malaysia.

“The most adventurous of our trips are the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award expeditions. These are self-sufficient trips with pupils navigating, cooking and camping following weeks or months of training.

“One of the integral parts of the school year is our annual exchange programme with Marlborough College, UK. A selected group of pupils travel to England to live and work at the college in Wiltshire. They stay in the boarding houses and attend lessons. We also run regular ‘Outreach’ trips working with local schools, communities and charities.

“Learning outside of the classroom is an integral part of the ethos of the college. Far more learning takes place and a deeper understanding occurs when children are doing and experiencing, rather than simply learning about something.

“For our more adventurous trips, we have a simple message for pupils and parents: ‘significant learning occurs when one pushes oneself out of a known comfort zone, while at the same time recognising that each person’s experience will be different’. Safety is, of course, paramount for all trips and we have a detailed risk assessment system in place for all our trips, whether local or international.

“This term, we are preparing for a number of trips. Pupils taking part in the Bronze International Award have training followed by their final expeditions in May, and there will be a UK universities trip towards the end of June. The Year Five pupils have a pottery-making art trip in April.”

As the school continues to expand and grow in students, so will the trips programme, which will offer a wider variety of destinations.

The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL)

ISKL is justifiably proud of the impressive selection of trips offered across a number of year groups. Besides day trips for the younger pupils, Year Six students and older can look forward to their first overnight trip, which is a cultural visit to Melaka.

ISKL’s Director of Admissions, Julia Love, is a firm believer in the benefits and importance that school trips offer to the students.

“These trips develop the children in ways that learning in the classroom can’t. They push themselves both mentally and physically and as well as learning about the environment or culture of a particular place, they are also developing other life skills such as team work and communication,” she says.

The three youngest years in secondary school take part in an annual programme known as Malaysia Week, a programme that has been running at the school for over 30 years. During this time frame in April, the students will embark on a five-day excursion designed to broaden their environmental awareness and to help them understand their role in preserving the environment.

“The students, who are put into groups made up of children from all three years, are given the choice between a land site or a water site for their trip. The land site will offer activities such as jungle trekking whereas the water site will allow the pupil to take part in coral reef restoration or snorkeling.

“Malaysia Week really addresses character development, perhaps more so than any other area of the curriculum. It is away from home and out of their comfort zone that character development really takes place. The students must learn to be considerate of others, to work as a team, to solve their own problems and to take care of themselves and each other.”

Further up the school, the students in Years Ten to 13 have access to the Global Action Program (GAP), which takes place in October each year and provides 25 expedition teams hands-on opportunities to explore the physical and cultural environment that Asia has to offer.

“The destinations on offer are amazing and span Bali, Borneo, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Manado, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The teams live and work together for a week of community outreach, cultural immersion and outdoor adventure.”

The students are challenged on a number of different levels and develop an impressive range of new skills.

“These programmes are life-changing. A majority of our students come from overseas and will never have been exposed to the kinds of things they experience when they take part in these excursions. GAP focuses predominantly on working with and helping children. As an example, the GAP teams have helped to build an orphanage in Cambodia. Their eyes are opened to an entirely different world and it’s truly character building.”

ISKL enforces ‘unplugged trips’ whereby students are banned from having any electronic devices in order to fully immerse themselves in what they are doing.

Both the Malaysia Week and the GAP programmes are compulsory for all students.

Fairview International School

As testament to the importance Fairview International School places on extra-curricular trips, the school’s Subang campus Principal, alongside the Deputy Principal of the KL campus middle school, held a workshop about ‘exploring concepts and international mindedness through expeditions’ in March this year. The workshop was well attended and explained to the participants exactly what the Fairview middle school students from all of the school’s five campuses take part in twice a year.

The idea behind Fairview’s expedition programme is to transfer the conceptual learning achieved in the classroom into real life experiences. The expeditions take place twice a year and are open to some 1,500 middle years students from across the five campuses. The different age groups are sent to ten different – and often gruelling – locations outside of Malaysia to explore, see and understand the concepts of weathering and the effects of climate change; compare and contrast traditional beliefs and practices with modernity; and reflect on how they can make changes to better the lives of others and play a part in protecting our environment. They are taught to work in groups and given the opportunity to acquire excellent real-world problem solving skills.

Fairview students have helped to build water wells, painted school buildings, planted padi and trees in Cambodia, provided farmers with tools and helped farmers harvest salt in Vietnam, worked with children in orphanages and in Homes for the Aged, delivered basic necessities (which most students take for granted, like slippers) to the children of the indigenous tribes in Chiang Mai, Thailand while indulging in their traditional art forms – dance, musical instruments and music.

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