Yesterday afternoon and this morning we watched as more than 450 students from Grade 9, 10 and 11 head off on their Global Action Program (GAP) trip to 31 locations in 11 countries across the region. After weeks of preparation and anticipation, it is always an emotional moment to witness parents and students saying their goodbyes as they board their buses. As our GAP accompanying faculty and staff are taking over the different student groups, several parents shared with me how happy they are for their children to have the opportunity to live such a unique experience. To someone who is unfamiliar with GAP, the term “trip” truly does not do this annual High School tradition justice – it’s an expedition, an experience and above all, a challenge that takes students out of their comfort zone.
So why do we wave our students off each year to experience the unknown? To help explain I’d like to share with you a quote from Marlee Ellison, one of the first students to participate in GAP when then program started in 2009. Marlee was then in Grade 9 and went to Laos:
“When I came back from GAP I realized my perspective on what really mattered had changed. I thought life would be about working to the top of your league and higher. Now I know that’s not all that we should do. There’s a lot more than just working for ourselves. The balance is spending more time helping people who need it the most.”
By combining service-learning with outdoor adventure, we enable our students to gain different perspectives, build their global understanding, and also develop new skills. Our students all report feeling a greater sense of resilience, confidence and compassion when they return. As passionate advocates for the benefits of outdoor experiential learning, GAP is the culmination of a school-wide program designed to foster these experiences and build these skills over time. Our students begin with overnight trips in Grade 4 and 5, then on to one of the highlights of Middle School – Malaysia Week – before taking on the exciting challenge of GAP.
The deep social connections, benefits of no technology, and engagement with local communities and nature encapsulate why GAP, Malaysia Week and ES experiences are such an important part of learning at ISKL. By taking students out of the classroom and into the unknown they learn to be comfortable with being out of their comfort zone – a truly invaluable life skill.
Yours in collaboration and learning,
Head of School