Introducing Mr. H
“Harbir brings tremendous energy, expertise and community connections to the intersections of teaching, learning, sustainability and service. In just a short time, H forged partnerships with teachers across our school on projects which directly impact student learning. We’re looking forward to extending this learning with H to each member of our ISKL community - students, faculty, staff and parents.” Praxia Apostle, Director of Learning.
Harbir Gill (Mr. H as he is known to students) has certainly made a green imprint on ISKL since he began his six-month tenure as our “Gardener in Residence” in June. From establishing the Community Edible Garden at the Norma J. Hudson Amphitheatre, to composting and worm farming with our Prep Senior students, and bee-scaping with Grade 7 Science, Mr. H is helping teachers and students to achieve their sustainability goals.
As a part-time sustainability consultant brought in by the Development Fund*, Mr. H was already a friend of ISKL, having assisted the Middle School Food Technology teachers to set up ISKL’s first edible garden on the MS rooftop last year through his soil and edible garden company, Ground Control. That Inspiration Fund project has flourished to the extent that produce from it is now regularly “on the menu” during food technology classes. Food Technology teacher Meg Baxter says, “We had a whole lot of ideas about what we wanted in an edible garden, but Harbir helped us to practically realize them in the Malaysian environment. Even now, we're exploring more ways to improve our soils using our own compost, and to grow more vegetables and fruits for our classes and to harvest for the community. It's a growing affair and the students just love it!"
That initial connection also sparked Mr. H’s interest in our new campus. He recalls, “I couldn’t believe how much space you have here and the opportunities for greening it, improving the soil and really making an impact through the choices to grow food, compost and build biodiversity on the campus.”
Sustainability is at the core of ISKL’s Mission and Vision and several projects initiated through the Development Fund over the summer break, including the jungle walls at the ES and MS/HS entrances, our copse of jungle trees in the Coaches’ Garden, and the amphitheater edible garden, have provided inspiration for more teacher and student-led projects this year. ISKL’s Teaching & Learning and Sustainability leads from across the three divisions have been working to ensure the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) become fully and meaningfully integrated in the curriculum, and are utilizing Mr. H’s local knowledge to build those programs. In early September, these curriculum leaders participated in a two-day Sustainability Retreat led by Mr. H to look at biodiversity, the circular economy, and food and garden waste management. They met local Malaysian business people working on the ground here in sustainability-related industries: native beekeeping; food waste management using black soldier fly larvae; and, organic chicken farming using only locally grown food sources.
Celia Cookson, HS Science and IB Environmental Systems and Societies teacher and Green Council Supervisor attended the retreat. She says, “It was really valuable for me and the deep links with ESS made me happy because it is at the heart of the school’s vision and value system. Working with Mr. H in class will allow us to do meaningful practical work that will impact students not only academically but in life.”
Our student gardening clubs have already begun working with Mr. H and you will find him on Tuesday afternoons working with ES and HS gardening enthusiasts on their emerging plots around the school. While teaching is challenging, Mr. H says, “I love to see the reaction of the kids when you show them that they can really help themselves and the environment with simple actions like composting and putting that back into the soil. Even the young ones in Prep Senior know so much already about the environment. I’m amazed! But I have to say, I am in awe of the work that ISKL teachers do. It’s a hard job!”
You will see Mr. H around ISKL, working with students and teachers, and our staff and faculty gardening club. Soon, we also hope to be able to invite the broader ISKL community to workshops hosted by Mr. H on campus.
Fun facts about Mr. H:
He is Malaysian but grew up in the UK
His “other” job is running a production company with many major companies and international media outlets as clients
His love affair with gardening, and soil in particular, started 15 years ago when he started trying to home grow vegetables for his then baby daughter Mia
His favorite home-grown food is the ginger lily, because it only stays open for one day and if you don’t pluck it, you miss it
He never wears gardening gloves and loves to dig deep into a compost pile
He is most proud of being able to grow tomatoes
His greatest garden disappointment is carrots because they need a winter to grow properly and you just don’t get one in Malaysia!
*ISKL’s Development Fund comes from individual and institutional donations and is only able to be used to support ISKL’s Mission and Vision, especially in sustainability.
- Mission & Vision