For over four decades, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) has maintained the longstanding tradition of Malaysia Week, an experience that offers an amazing outdoor learning experience to our Middle School (MS) students. Introduced in 1979, it is an interdisciplinary education program that exposes students, through outdoor activities, all around beautiful Malaysia, exploring its tropical reefs, lush rainforests, and sandy beaches.
The focus of Malaysia Week 2023 was on ‘social-emotional’ learning through the lens of adventure. It was another year that afforded our MS students the incredible opportunity of traveling to fifteen varying destinations across Peninsula Malaysia, seeking challenges on all levels. The concept this year remained consistent with years past, in the connections with nature, themselves, other students, teachers, and site leaders that are made to support individual growth mindset and maturity.
Leaving the school campus, families, and technology behind enabled students to disconnect from their daily routine and reimagine a sense of open-eyed wonder and adventure in the beautiful landscape of Malaysia. With this, memories are made, friendships are created, and boundaries are pushed as students are guided to step out of their comfort zones.
Malaysia Week is built upon a structure of six goals that aim to encourage students to:
- Learn a new skill or seek knowledge beyond the school curriculum. The opportunities for growth and learning are transformative, practical lessons in teamwork, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles that see students making fires or undertaking wilderness first aid.
- Increase knowledge, understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of Malaysia. While students enjoy physical activities, including kayaking, snorkeling, or exploring the beaches, they are also inadvertently learning about the planet and Malaysia’s role, the lungs that are its rainforest, and the conservation of its oceans.
- Interact and cooperate as a team player with peers and adults – Malaysia Week would only exist with its students. They are the core unit that ensures that, through supporting each other, it is an experience that creates, shares, and builds memories.
- Reinforce skills and knowledge learned in the school classroom on a practical level. The six School-Wide Learning Results (SLRs) of thinking creatively, reasoning critically, collaborating constructively, communicating effectively, living ethically, and learning enthusiastically are instilled within the Malaysia Week program. Students are reinforced in lessons on goal setting, perseverance, independent learning, and goal setting to see other perspectives while uniting for the achievement of a common goal.
- Gain an increased sense of independence and responsibility – Returning to a sense of ‘normalcy’ post Covid-19 in students’ lives has brought an unforeseen set of life lessons and challenges that are circumstantial to this generation. While their resilience is evident and a positive consequence of the pandemic, there is still a way to go in building independence in students and getting them to feel confident beyond the home environment. Malaysia Week is an opportunity for our students to renew these critical life skills.
- Positively experience community living – Malaysia Week’s life-impacting results reflect a student’s return. Their mindset is altered from being individually focused to gaining a sense of achievement in having worked collectively with a true sense of community.
ISKL’s MS Principal, Peter Casey, highlights Malaysia Week’s benefits to the students, witnessing the beyond the classroom learning that they can experience, through service learning, outdoor adventure, and skill development, during the experience. He tells us, “It is inspiring to see our students socializing again, connecting with friends, making new bonds, and strengthening relationships with teachers. They gain a true appreciation of the country of Malaysia through five days of sun, surf, rainforests, and endless activity that wraps up an adventure full of renewed hope, optimism, and gratitude for friends, family, and school.”
Casey also shares how parents and teachers can be assured that they will see the students thrive and benefit from colorful conversations about the learning experiences when they return and reconnect after a fulfilled week. “We invited our MS parents and the Malaysia Week 2023 community to unite during an assembly for students to celebrate their achievements, share stories and photographs, and for everyone to thank the trip organizers and leaders,” adds Casey.
The destinations included in Malaysia Week 2023 were:
Endau Rompin’ Call of the Wild’ – A stunning national park named after the two rivers running through it and situated on the southeastern side of Peninsular Malaysia. It is home to the Orang Asli tribes, beautiful waterfalls, and a 130 million-year-old rainforest. Students had the opportunity to kayak, engage in a series of cultural activities and work towards a sustainable activity.
Gopeng ET’ Earth Tribe/Earth Vibe’ – Framed by the majestic limestone cliffs of the Cameron Highlands, Gopeng is a destination full of high ropes, rock climbing, caving, swimming, hiking, and whitewater rafting experiences which is split into two halves — those seeking an introduction to adventure and those experienced adventurers willing to take it to the next level. The trip was based upon physical challenges that require mental solutions.
Gopeng RH ‘Ride Hardcore’ – From start to finish, this location, based outside of Ipoh, ensured that nature was the most excellent teacher. Innovative and intense activities created an adventurous experience for all participating ISKL students based upon a human-powered weeklong journey.
Gunung Kutu’ It’s a Jungle Out There’ – Formally known as Treacher Hill in the Selangor District of Malaysia, the hill station consisting of two bungalows and a visitor lodge connects a 15.3km bridle path with the township of Kuala Kubu. The fantastic river location offers the best and most local sites in Kuala Lumpur. It teaches students the physical and mental challenges of climbing Gungung Kutu and sets them outside their comfort zone in dealing with minimalist survival gear.
Kelong ‘Something is Fishy’ – Located in the middle of the sea with no land in sight, Kelong promised nothing but the best in ‘catch and cook.’ With accommodation in a free-standing, self-contained platform with open dorm bunk beds, the “reel” excitement was in the fishing.
Langkawi’ It’s a Shore Thing’ – Tuba Island, part of the Langkawi Island archipelago, was host to a week-long sea and shoreline adventure. A five-hour trek set the standard for a week that led students into the Pulau Tuba rainforest and continued with a 70m abseil.
Merapoh – ‘Let’s Cause An Uproar’ – Nature-loving students were at home in one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Entering Taman Negara at the Sungai Relau entrance, they spent the week learning about and helping the endangered species of Malaysia, including the gibbons, tigers, rhinos, turtles, sharks, and coral.
Pulau Acheh – ‘Castaways’ – Otherwise known as Survivor Island, Pulau Acheh taught students how to ‘survive .’ They participated in a range of boot camps that taught them kitchen knife work, bushcraft, axe, saw and parang handling, hammock making, knot tying, chopstick, and spoon and cup whittling, all mixed with island adventure.
Pulau Lang Tengah – ‘Seascape’ – For students who do not yet have their PADI license, this experience had them swimming, snorkeling, and participating in a discovery dive in the crystal blue waters of the Perhentian Islands.
Pulau Perhentian – ‘Snorkeler’s Sanctuary’ – Students developed an appreciation for the wonders of the Perhentian Islands, experiencing its culture and encountering its underwater world. They built upon their water confidence and safety while learning about eco-snorkeling and identifying the varying fish and coral species.
Pulau Rawa – ‘Turning the Tides’ – Nestled in the South China Sea, this gem of an island was a site for students who wanted to swim, snorkel and kayak amidst the beautiful Malaysian coral reefs.
Pulau Redang – ‘Heart of the Sea’ – The prerequisite for students choosing this site was a love of the ocean, a passion for the fantastic underwater habitat surrounding the island, and holding a PADI Open Water Scuba Diving Certification. The itinerary provided a framework for students to not only improve upon their diving skills but also participate in reef restoration activities to gain an understanding of the role of underwater naturalists.
Pulau Tioman Dive – ‘Wonders of the Land and Sea’ – The marine life and underwater world of Tioman was a wonder that students explored on a ‘deeper’ level. Under expert guidance, they dived into the crystal-clear waters for an unforgettable experience that developed their skills as a diver to become true ocean ambassadors.
Pulau Tioman Discovery Dive – ‘Tropical Paradise’ – The wonder and diversity of Tioman Island offered students a range of reef-to-rainforest experiences. The trip enabled them to transit between snorkeling off the coast into vibrant coral reefs and trekking through the lush rainforests, providing unmatched interactive learning in the classroom.
Taman Negara – ‘Into the Wild’ – This lodge-stay site was filled with adventurous activities that ensured students stepped out of their comfort zone into caving, rock climbing, tubing, hilltop walking, and hiking. A day spent with the Orang Asli natives taught them traditional jungle survival skills that included the art of fire-making, shelter building, and blow-dart shooting!
Kuala Lumpur – ‘Adventure is Out There’ – This site was established for a small group of ISKL students who had a compelling reason to remain closer to home. The fluid itinerary accommodated recently ill and injured students or those who required more emotional support. The focus was on maintaining a balance between cultural, outdoor, service learning, and artistic endeavors that enabled students to return home each night.