Monday, April 18, 2011

First anniversary in ISB

A year ago, the boys started school at the International School of Bangkok (ISB) right after Songkran break. So today kind of marks the first anniversary of their time in ISB as Songkran break just ended.  This video shows what life is like at the school.  Granted it is a marketing video, but it is a good reflection of the relaxed and nurturing atmosphere in ISB.

ISB2 from Chad Bates on Vimeo.

In fact, what struck the boys most when they first visited was just how happy everyone seemed.  The reality of course is that there are happy kids and there are emo kids, but the boys love their school and Brian in particular has had a busy but absolutely amazing time here.  No school is perfect and I don't hang around the school that often, but I have to say the teachers and staff whom I've had contact with here are truly top-notch, I would even say gifted in their area of work, be it in teaching math or providing counselling services.  I wish we could stay forever...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Year in Service Learning

Every year, the Habitat for Humanity (H4H) Club in school organises an overnight build.  Now, there are usually a few builds during the year, but only the final one is an overnight build and the club members look forward to this.  Now, what I found unique in this school is that kids actually have to gain points to participate in builds, that's how much they want to help out.  Yes, you heard that right.  They don't get any points for volunteering, they have to earn points to volunteer.

So if they attend meetings regularly, they get points.  If they help out in bakesales (that help fund the builds), they get points.  If they've been on builds, they get points.  So priority for builds is given to those who are active members of the club.  A certain number of places is also given to those who have never been on a build, to be fair to new members.

Last year, in May, Brian was really fortunate that his counselor, seeing that he was new to school, decided to include him in the final H4H build for 2009/2010 school year in Korat.  He had such a great time and got to know more friends.  I blogged about it here.

From then on he was hooked.  Service learning is very much a part of every day life in ISB.  Brian is active in Green Panthers, H4H and also went on Operation Smile, but there are other clubs such as After the Wave (helping fund a school for children affected by the Thailand tsunami) and YKids (where Middle Schoolers host and play with groups of underprivileged children) etc..., the point is, if you want to, there's somewhere for you to contribute.

This past weekend, Brian was on his fourth H4H build, overnight in Korat again, the final build for this school year.  His year of service learning culminates tomorrow when he goes to Jakarta as an ISB delegate at the Global Issues Network Conference.  Twelve students are going to the conference, 8 high-schoolers and 4 middle-schoolers.  We are so grateful to the school for giving Brian this amazing opportunity to meet students from other countries and to listen to inspirational speakers.  Will blog about this when he gets back.

Based on whatever permission slips I still have, these were the trips that he went on over the past year.  I haven't blogged about many of his trips but I hope to do this in the coming posts, as a record of all the things he's done this year.   In between service learning trips, he also went to Brunei for a Math competition, and tribal trekking in Chiangmai for his grade trip.

8th-9th May 2010: Habitat for Humanity Overnight Build in Korat
29th Aug 2010: Tree-planting Eco-trip in ?? 
25th Sep 2010: Habitat for Humanity Day Build in Pathumthani
6th-9th Nov 2010: Operation Smile Mission in Mae Sot
12th-14th Nov 2010: Sustainable Living/Tree-Planting Eco-trip in Kaengkachan
11th Dec 2010: Habitat for Humanity Day Build in Pathumthani
7th-11th Feb 2011: Grade 8 trip, tribal trekking in Chiangmai
24th-27th Feb 2011: SEA Math Competition in Brunei
11th-13th Mar 2011: Elephant Sanctuary/Barge living Eco-trip Kanchanaburi
1st-3rd Apr 2011: Habitat for Humanity Overnight Build Korat
7th-10th Apr 2011: Global Issues Network Conference in Jakarta

It's been hectic to say the least, cos every weekend he's away, he has to catch up on homework, find time to make up quizzes and tests that he's missed.  But he'd be the first to say it's all been worth it.  The service learning culture in this school is just amazing, partly cos we're in Thailand I think, which provides opportunities for giving in a way not many countries can.  That said, not many schools here give kids at such a young age so many ways to give back.

Because service and giving is such a big part of learning in the school, and kids actually see their teachers walking the talk so to speak, I think this really makes the children feel empowered to take charge and take action.  For example, immediately after news of the devastating Tsunami in Japan, one of Brian's Facebook friends, a Japanese girl, posted on her status asking if friends were interested in fundraising and asking for ideas on how to do it.  Within a short time, these 13- and 14-year olds were coming up with ideas, all wanting to help and contribute.  Within a week, bakesales were organised, wrist bands were made and sold, paper cranes were folded with donations pledged, donation boxes placed around the school.  Hundreds of thousands of bahts was raised.    

The most amazing bit though must be the fact that this Japanese girl was new at the start of the school year.  She spoke no English when she first came, was very shy, and now, she's galvanising her friends to make a change.  She's blossomed so much.  I only witness this cos I happen to know her mom.  Her mom says she was not like this in Japan.  So I have to credit the school for this.

Cliched though it might sound, kids here are learning to be global citizens in every sense of the word.  Learning that they can make a difference.  Learning that the world doesn't just revolve around them.  That there are others out there who need their help.  I hope what Brian's learnt this past busy year stays with him always.  I believe it will.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Emergent Caterpillar

So there I was playing SketchnGuess on iPad with Sean. It's like Pictionary and the word that I had to draw was Caterpillar. So I drew this. Fairly obvious right?

Sean shouted out his answer, "EMERGENTS!" I went what? What the heck's an emergent? He quickly explained, "An emergent is like in a rainforest, it's a tree that pokes out from above most trees."

So I draw a caterpillar, and Sean sees this instead (pic below). Either he's a strange little boy or I have really bad drawing skills!

Layers Of A Rainforest

Friday, April 01, 2011

Student-led Conferences 2011

Do they do Student-led conferences in Singapore? I can't remember, I only know there are parent-teacher conferences. Both in Moscow and here, there is a parent-teacher conference at the start of the year and a student-led conference (SLC) towards the end.

Sean blogs about his SLC here. I thought I should also upload his post here since that blog is managed by the school so I'm not sure if the blog would be deleted when the child leaves the school.

This is what he wrote.


Yesterday, I shared my learning in student-led conferences with my mother and my brother.  My brother is in Middle School and his student-led conference was in the morning while mine was right after lunch.  Since he had nothing to do, he decided to join in my conference.  I was very happy that they came. I was not happy that my father had a meeting at work and could not come. He promised to come to my choir concert later in April.

My mum took videos so that my father could see. These are some of the more interesting things I shared during the conference.

In this video, I talked about my crayfish project. I first greeted my mummy and korkor (that's big brother in Chinese).

I continue talking about crayfish and also showed them a poem I wrote, Caldera.

Observation in Science! That's a crayfish (they can be brown, red and white but ours are blue) and some snails. The snail in the tank looks rotten and dead, or so I thought. It later climbed to the top of the tank. I like my Science learning a lot.

I shared the second half of my favourite poem from It's Raining Pigs and Noodles. The poem is called The Outer Space Miracle Mall and it's about a woman who goes to the mall at the edge of the galaxy to buy useless stuff. I told my mum the woman is like her.

Math reflection. This is from my portfolio. I enjoy Math unlike most children.

The snail that I thought was dead climbed up the tank. Ms. Chesebro told us that once the snail climbed up the tank and went to the other tank which had the other snails in it.

I showed my mother and brother the big crayfish tanks. This is a molting crayfish! Molting means the crayfish got too big for its old exoskeleton and grew a new one. The note says that the molting crayfish must stay alone. This is because when it's new, the exoskeleton is very soft because it hasn't hardened yet. Before, we had a molting crayfish eaten by another crayfish when we did not keep it on its own.

I hope you enjoyed my student-led conference as much as I enjoyed leading it.