MMM – Madeline’s memories of Malaysia

Madeline Seivers is enrolled in a Bachelor of Education course at QUT. At SK Sungai Mas – a primary school in Malaysia, she teamed up with QUT and UPM students to deliver some outstanding activities using ICT. Her work was highly applauded and appreciated by the students and the school community. Here are some of her reflections:   

My time in Malaysia has changed my perspective in many different aspects of my life. Before leaving Australia, I thought it would be an awesome, easy experience. I defiantly got the awesome part right but not so much the easy part. Most days were packed with memorable experiences which deprived me of a decent sleep. When driving through the school gates for the first time, I was excited. The school was so different to the picture I had in my head and far more remote than I thought it would be. I had only been to one country before and had never actually experienced living with a different culture than mine. This experience allowed me to experience the Malaysian culture that no holiday to Malaysia would have.

Above Picture: Driving through the gates at SK Sungai Mas – a primary school in Kuantan, Malaysia

My time teaching there was an eye-opening and completely different than anything I had ever experienced. When returning back to Australia, I had to refrain from taking my shoes off when entering a classroom. The students at SK Sungai Mas were amazing and had the most respect for their school and us. They were also the toughest group of students I have ever met, and they were always engaged. They thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Edison robots and then making their presentations to show the parents who came on the last day. We were even lucky enough to play games with these parents after the students showcased their work. The students did a fantastic job and will hopefully continue their work programming and coding the Edison robots.

Photo: Assisting the students in their creation of the PowerPoint; Playing Simon says in English with parents of my students.

It is important to point out that his trip would not have even been slightly possible without the “wonderfully fantastic” and amazing students from the University of Putra Malaysia (UPM). Mary and I had an excellent experience teaming up with  Raja, Ice, Nurlina, Fatin, Aini, Hasan, Amalina and Hamiza as we delivered activities in our Year 3-4 class. These students from the UPM helped with everything in the classroom. Most importantly they helped with translation. By the end of the week, I also found out that for the Sk Sungai Mas students in my class, English was their 4th language and Malay was their 3rd. For this reason, our stategy of using lots of symbols, demonstrations, and physical gestures when teaching these students did make a difference.

Photo: The wonderful Raja and Hamiza translating from English to Malay for the Sk Sungai Mas Students.

While over there, my teaching partner Mary and I had the chance to explain the function of the Edison robots to teachers from other schools. This explanation will hopefully encourage other schools in Malaysia to become involved in coding and programming with primary students.

Photo: Teachers from other schools in Pahang visiting to see the work the students have done during the week.

This trip not only enhanced my skills to integrate technology into classrooms and teach some brilliant students at SK Sungai Mas, but it also gave me an insight into a whole new culture that I before had very little knowledge about. Before leaving Australia, as a non-Muslim, I was a bit nervous about being in a mostly Muslim country. The reason for this was due to the way practicing Muslims often get portrayed in the media. I was expecting to be disliked everywhere I went. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. The Malaysian university students I met over there were the kindest, funny and lovely people. It didn’t take long for me to develop my friendship with them.

I tried to choose a favorite memory to reflect on however I could write hundreds of them. Every second spent in Malaysia was awesome. I could tell you how I had the best burger of my life – thanks to Nurlina or how Ashlee, Lorna, Safri and I accidently left Fitri in a shop (sorry Fitri, haha) or I could also tell you how on the day before my flight I went bowling with Ice and Raja and lost terribly or how I got to sleep in my classroom and wake up the next day and teach or meeting the Princess of Pahang who had the best sense of humour or playing card games till late at night and sharing  funny similarities and differences between our cultures. However, all these memories would probably just make you envious of my time in Malaysia. I’m not sure whether I was lucky with all the people I met or if it is just the Malaysian way. However, everyone I met in Malaysia was beautiful and kind. I would have to say that sharing time with the UPM students was my most favorite part of my trip to Malaysia. I still talk to a lot of them regularly and hope I can see them again soon. Not only has this trip opened me up to the beautiful Malaysian culture, but it has also opened me up to different teaching experiences. I hope in future years I will be able to teach again overseas.

Photo: Many of the wonderful UPM students (Raja and I in the face swap)

The first few weeks being back in Australia was hard. I had to accept the fact that although this trip was over, I was hopeful that there will be other opportunities like this in the future.  It was also hard trying to explain my experiences to anyone as it was not relatable for many of my friends and family. After sleeping for 16 hours straight, I finally unpacked my suitcase. I now have the beautiful presents and memories next to my bed that reminds me of the wonderful times in Malaysia. Although it was only for 10 days, the beautiful people in Malaysia were so open – it feels like I have known them for ages. I actually miss them all, and I am very grateful for this amazing experience. After this experience, I am also a happier person overall. It has made me so much more appreciative of the things I have every day that I used to take for granted.

Photo: Sad feeling when landing in Goldcoast; Beautiful gifts and souvenirs received in Malaysia.

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Mitchell’s second trip to Malaysia

Mitchell Neill recently completed his Bachelor of Engineering program – majoring in Computer and Software Systems. At university, he was high achieving student and very committed to making a difference to others through technology.  This was his second trip to Malaysia. At SK Sungai Mas, his team introduced and integrated activities in Scratch. 

Our trip to Malaysia was fantastic. Before going on this trip, I had previously gone on holidays – I visited bird parks, tall buildings, and temples.  Perhaps there is nothing more special about Malaysia than it’s people…(Maybe the food).  On our trip, we were lucky to have the students from the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), who partnered with us. In the process, they also shared their culture with us. They showed us what it means to be Malaysian, and shared some of the country’s best-kept secrets in Malaysia. We also reciprocated and shared aspects of our culture as well.

Even though the primary purpose of the trip to volunteer at a local school, I feel that it is appropriate to mention that without the input and the camaraderie of the students from UPM,  the outcomes and the experiences of this outreach project would have been quite different.  In a few words – our contemporaries from UPM were simply amazing.  We all bonded quickly. Laughs and smiles were in abundance, we were so lucky to interact with some the most fun-loving people I’ve ever met.

That’s not to say the students we got to teach weren’t fun loving, nothing could be further from the truth. I was amazed by the huge difference in teaching approaches used between the Australian and the school we visited in Malaysia, Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Mas (SKSM). One fundamental difference that struck me was the flexibility of the curriculum at SKSM. I remember attending “sports carnivals” during my schooling days in Australia. It was not so long ago. The event was more of a rigid contest than a carnival. The competition centred around finding who could run 100m the fastest in time? Who could jump the highest? Who could jump the furthest? While I enjoyed these events, the atmosphere was incomparable to the sporting event we attended at SKSM. Rather than having rigid contests, students completed by playing games. The rules were flexible enough to accommodate more than 30 university students in heavy rain. We never got a chance to find out which one of use could jump the highest, but we did have a lot of fun, and I made memories I’ll never forget.

Oh, and did I mention that everyone was a winner? Yup. No ribbons were awarded, but everyone received items (such as baskets and water bottles) that they could take home. I think this style of teaching really helped us get closer to the students. Their happy faces always spoke a thousand words.

Within the school classroom itself, my team taught programming through Scratch 2.0 and playing games. There was only one computer class in the school. Regrettably,  all the computers were broken, and this had been the case for quite some time. While there was no lack of student interest in developing computer programming skills, it was evident that there was a need for more strategic methods to teach these skills without relying on constant access to computers.

We did a number of activities with the students (both with and without computers). The activity that I liked the most was called “program your teacher”. I liked it because it felt far more like a game than learning to program and required no access to computers. While not strictly necessary for the activity, we started by playing Simon says. This really turned out fantastic as not only did it give us teachers a way to quieten the students when they became too loud (Students began to reflexively respond to “Simon says hands on heads”), but it also served as an excellent ice breaking activity. From there we used a set of scratch blocks we had printed and laminated, to allow students to write commands like “move forward”, “jump” or “turn left”. This allowed the students to write out a set of commands to get their teacher or fellow students to complete the challenges while representing their instructions (just like you would in the scratch programming languag)e. This became a lot of fun, as students would often mistakenly command each other into obstacles rather than around them, and collisions with others became inevitable. It was clear when we started programming that this helped students more quickly grasp the concept of programming.

I, along with everyone else had such an amazing time. If I could change one thing about the trip it would be to make the trip longer so that we could spend more time teaching at the school, and also more time sleeping. Jumpa lagi!!

 

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Student outreach project at SK Sungai Mas

Our recent outreach project was undertaken at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sungai Mas in September/October. This is a small rural primary school and it caters for Orang Asli children.  The trip was made possible by the funding received through the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP).

Ten undergraduate students and two staff  from QUT participated in this project. The students were from the following disciplines: Education (5), IT (1) and Science (4). The project was managed by Graeme Baguley (Manager, International Student Services). Associate Professor Jennifer Firn (Faculty of Science and Engineering) and I were responsible for the students and their activities in our respective areas. We teamed up with Dr Siti Isa and Dr Evelyn Lin and 31 of their students from the Universiti Putra Malaysia(UPM). Like last year, we had excellent support from Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Sharkar Shahbudin (Chairman, Pahang State Tourism) and Dato’ Ahmad Farid Abdul Jalal (Director, Pahang State Museum Authority). We were also very appreciative of the support of other staff members from UPM.  For all of us, the dinner with Her Royal Highness Crown Princess of Pahang, Tunku Hajjah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah was a special and significant moment. This dinner was jointly hosted by Pahang State Tourism and the Pahang State Museum Authority at the Pahang Art Museum in Kuantan.

Her Royal Highness addressing the guests (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

Her Royal Highness addressing the guests (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

UPM students performing at the dinner nite for Her Royal Highness (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

UPM students performing at the dinner evening for Her Royal Highness and other guests (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

The Australian students had to complete an assessment task as part of this project.  The education students had to design and develop a unit plan that showcased the use of ICT in this Malaysian Primary School. Coding and computational thinking were at the core of these activities. In addition, the activities also had to promote English language development. The delivery of the activities had a trans-disciplinary and trans-national focus. The education students had to communicate and collaborate with other students from QUT and UPM and teachers from the primary school to deliver activities. None of these students had a background in education.

Developing new friendships

Developing new friendships

The Australian team arrived in Malaysia on different days and times. This was due to the fact that all participants had to make their own bookings for their flights. This was a condition of the NCP grant. There are no direct flights between Brisbane and Kuala Lumpur – this added another layer of complication. For this reason, we all had to fly out from the Gold Coast. All overnight flights arrived in Malaysia at about 4.30am. Despite our different and inconvenient arrival times, our counterparts at UPM were very accommodating – as always. The hospitality and the friendliness of our colleagues in Malaysia and their students cannot be expressed in a few words. They were just amazing!!

Some of the amazing students from UPM

Some of the amazing students from UPM (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

For all of us, our trip to Kuantan started on Sunday morning. The weather was relatively pleasant – very different from our previous visit. It was somewhat cooler. This time haze and smoke was not an issue. Last year, the burning of natural forests in Indonesia was causing havoc to people in Malaysia and in other countries. Schools had to close due to pollution. En route to, Kuantan we stopped at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. This is an interesting place to visit and see the elephants perform to a captive audience. This park seems to be very popular and attracts both the locals and tourists. The audience also gets a chance to bathe the elephants. The body language of these magnificent giants tends to suggest that they enjoy the experience. For most of our students, it was the first time that they got a chance to not only see elephants but also get to give them a bath at such a close distance.

What an experience?

What an experience?

SK Sungai Mas was about 30 minutes from our hotel. However, our coach could not get us to the school. There is a feeder road that connects the school and local community to the main road. While the condition of this road was relatively good, it was only designed for light traffic.It was too narrow for a bus to go through. Walking was possible but not feasible due to time constraints. There was a UPM mini bus that transported some of us to the school.  So we had to find alternative transport locally.  Teachers at the school also transported us to and from the main road to the school from time to time.

Local transport (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

Local transport (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

SK Sungai Mas was a neat and tidy school. It was colourful. Walls throughout the school were peppered with text and images. Most were designed to capture students attention in the hope that it would deliver some positive messages that would add value to their learning. The physical environment spoke volumes about the passion that the staff, students and the community had about the school. These characteristics made the school very welcoming. To me, the school looked very inviting and was an ideal environment for teaching and learning.  The staff and students embraced us very warmly into their school.   On day 1, we were welcomed by Zulfadzli Ismail, the Assistant Head-Teacher. We were shown to our classrooms.

Ashley chatting just before the school assembly

Ashley chatting just before the school assembly

Given the small size of each class, combining Grades 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6 was relatively easy. So we had three groups to work with as planned. Monday was the day for observations for our students. However, the teachers at the school expected our students to start teaching. Instead of whingeing and whining our students from QUT and UPM sprung into action. They all did a brilliant job and it was also a major confidence booster. They knew that with some modifications they could implement what they had planned.

High engagement in the Grade 1/2 class

High engagement in the Grade 1/2 class

Jessica Martin and Ashley Mitchell led the Grade 1 and 2 team. On some days children from the preschool also joined their group. Their activity focused predominantly on Bee-bots. These robots are very popular with younger children in Australia and elsewhere. Mary Cosmo and Madeline Seivers led the Grade 3 and 4 team. They used Edison robots for some of the activities but later modified their plan which enabled their students to create multimedia presentations. Joram Villanueva and Mitchell Neill led the Grade 5 and 6 team. Their focus was on teaching coding and computational thinking using Scratch. I was quite amazed when I found out that Malaysia and already introduced Scratch programming in the curriculum for children in Grade 6. However, it appeared that children were learning about this application for the first time!

Some happy faces in the Grade 3/4 group

Some happy faces in the Grade 3/4 group (Photo: Mary Cosmo)

All teams came across issues and challenges from time to time. But it was very pleasing to see that the team leaders were able to solve the problem through communication, collaboration and application of their knowledge and understanding of the task at hand. We often talk about 21st-century skills and the 4C’s – critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and communication skills. For me, I could see that our students were able to demonstrate the 4C’s by solving curriculum problems that were highly relevant in this unseen and unique context. This is the type of teachers we want to see in all oschoolsols.

Figuring out some instructions in Scratch in Grade 5/6 class

Figuring out some instructions in Scratch in Grade 5/6 class

Our success was largely dependent upon the support provided by the Head Teacher – Humdan Bin Ahmad, his staff and the school community. The school appeared to have an open door policy with the local community. Parents always seem to have been welcomed with open arms. In fact there was a small hut next to the school gate for the members of the community. Perhaps one of my highlights was seeing the parents come of school on the last day and participate with their children in their classrooms. With some certainity I can say that they were seeing robots and programming for the first time.

A parent (in green t-shirt) engaging in a Grade 1-2 class

A parent (in green t-shirt) engaging in a Grade 1-2 class with Bee-bots

Parents (in green t-shirts) listening to Joram and

Parents (in green t-shirts) listening to Joram and Fiazul

One afternoon our group was invited to visit the local village and sample the life of the orang asli people. We tasted some native fruits, saw how sap was drawn from rubber trees, and got a look into their homes to get some appreciation of their life styles.

I love this photo!

At the village. I love this photo!

Homes in the local community

Homes in the local village

The support provided by the Pahang Government, Pahang Tourism and the Pahang State Museum Authority (last year and this year) added another dimension to our Malaysian experience. On this trip, Sri Haji Mohd Sharkar Shahbudin (Chairman, Pahang State Tourism) and Dato’ Ahmad Farid Abdul Jalal (Director, Pahang State Museum Authority) hosted two dinners and a lunch for our students.  The dinner at the Pahang Art Museum in Kuantan with Her Royal Highness Crown Princess of Pahang as the guest of honor with other VIPs represented a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all. It may remain in our memories forever. I felt quite honoured to have addressed the princess on behalf of our two universites and then joined her for dinner at her table. This evening gave us an opportunity to highlight the work we were doing with the orang asli children. In her speech and in the conversations that I had with her, it was obvious that Her Royal Highness was a very compassionate human being. I was truly impressed by the work the princess and the prince were doing for the underprevildged in low socio-economic communities.

Her Royal Highness with some of our team members (Photo courtesy of: http://batikandbubbles.com/)

Her Royal Highness with some of our team members (Photo: Batik and Bubbles http://batikandbubbles.com/)

Dato Farid with Her Royal Highness and some of our team members Photo: Batik and Bubbles )

Dato Farid with Her Royal Highness and some of our team members (Photo: Batik and Bubbles  )

So what is the take home message? I have been involved in outreach projects for the past few years. Such experiences (thanks to all the parties involved) create unseen opportunities for us to view the world and its people through a different pair lens. How we paint the picture of the world depends on how we see it. However, our picture will be based on our experiences and not be based on what someone has tells us. There are far too many people – who think “small” and talk “big”.  The world is the best classroom you can have – so experience it and form your own views!

Time to go home!

Time to go home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mary Cosmo’s reflections of her trip to Malaysia

Mary Cosmo is a third-year student in the Bachelor of Education (BEd) program at QUT . She is a high achiever, an excellent team leader and communicator who works through problem-solving activities methodologically. On her trip to Malaysia, she teamed up with Madeline Seivers (another student in the BEd primary program) and other colleagues from QUT and UPM to deliver some highly engaging activities (in coding) to children in Years 3 and 4 at SK Sungai Mas – a primary school in Kuantan, Malaysia. This is a reflection of some her experiences…

img_0009I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity. I envisaged that I would learn more than I taught and that was certainly the case. I pride myself in being one to embrace diversity and find the good in most, but this opportunity highlighted to me how I had allowed my viewpoints of the Muslim culture to be socially constructed by the perspectives portrayed in mainstream media. The stereotypical Muslim doesn’t exist. What I discovered was the warmest, most caring, engaging, astute and nurturing group of people I have ever met.

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Whilst our first observation day turned into an unplanned teaching day, I feel this day broke the ice and set the week up to be the success that it was.  Another successful aspect of the class experience was forming groups at the beginning of the week and keeping those small groups together. Team pride and camaraderie flourished and some light-hearted competitiveness was clearly evident. The students from UPM were ‘naturals’ at teaching and motivating the students and it would have been a considerably less engaging experience for all without them.

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I found the Edison Robots frustrating in the class although the students didn’t seem to care too much that they didn’t work consistently. I have researched them since and have discovered that they are light-sensitive which explains their inconsistencies. Although we were continually challenged, I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to adjust to the changing circumstances. If I were to give advice to another student setting off on this experience, it would be to plan lots of games (that promote the use of English language)  and offline activities to support the main objective.


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My favourite time in the classroom was when the parents visited. They were very shy and sat to the edge to start with. We had small gifts that we gave to them and their smiles were priceless. It was extremely heartening to see them then join in our Simple Simon game and their children were so caring and proud.  They were so obviously grateful.

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The trip was well organised. The food was fabulous and plentiful. Collaborating with this group of people was enlightening and rewarding. I would jump at the opportunity to be involved in a project like this again. Thank you!

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It was the first time I felt like I really experienced the culture of a foreign country…Casey Chamberlain

Casey Chamberlain is a second year Bachelor of Fine Arts student. In this blog she is reflecting on her experiences in Malaysia in October 2015…..

I taught in the grade 5 classroom with my team: Kate and Afiq from QUT and Syu, Ain, Kim, Aishya, Nadhirah and Munirah from UPM.

Pages created by students for their digital story

Pages created by students for their movie clip

Our lesson plan included a combination of the narrative structure of stories, deforestation, and movie making. The result saw the children create their own story based on the theme of deforestation with which they created a movie clip, using drawings, popsicle stick characters and a voice recording. They edited their films with the program Open Shot by syncing the pictures to the voice recording and adding transitions.

When we first entered the class, the children were very shy and reluctant to speak to us in English even though they could understand us. This made the existing language barrier even more of an issue to begin with. But after the second day, the kids opened up and felt so much more comfortable communicating with us. It also made a massive difference to have the UPM students translating to make sure no one was left behind.

The greatest moment for me was seeing the kids use the laptops and learning how to simply use a touch pad. They saw dragging and dropping a file as a game and gasped when the cursor went outside of the file box. It was so rewarding to see the mini movies they created and I felt like they accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

Although playing with elephants was an all time favorite moment, I would have to say the homestay was the highlight of my experience. At one point I remember sitting at the dinner table, surrounding with piles of dishes of amazing food, with everyone around me speaking a language I didn’t understand and it was the first time I felt like I really experienced the culture of a foreign country.

A photo with the host family and friends from UPM

A photo with the host family and friends from UPM

 

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Jessica’s reflections of her Malaysia trip

Jessica Davies is enrolled in the Bachelor of Information Technology course at QUT. She is majoring in Computer Science and Mobile Applications. She is very talented and many of her intellectual and personal qualities were evident on this trip.  Here are some of her thoughts about the trip.    

Assisting one of my students

The ten days spent in Malaysia as a part of this project have been one of the highlights of my degree. My particular team focused on teaching the year six students renewable energy concepts in a way that promoted digital literacy and hands-on learning. The day-to-day teaching team consisted of three students from UPM – Hamiza, Zaitun, and Celementina – and three students from QUT – Anthony, Mitchell, and I. Over the three days of teaching, we introduced the students to circuit building using Little Bits, programming using Scratch, and a combination of the two, where Scratch was used to program an Arduino board connected to a Little Bits circuit.

Pleasing to see the change in my students

Pleasing to see the change in my students

Our team encountered many challenges throughout our time teaching at SKT, most of which arose from technological issues. We found that the skills and capabilities of the year six students were far better than we had anticipated, with the students picking up concepts much quicker than we had planned. This was a challenge in itself, as it meant that we were having to come up with increasingly challenging tasks that we hadn’t previously prepared. Overall, things went really well, and we all had a lot of fun learning with the year six students.

Planning with my team

Planning with my team

For me, the absolute highlight of the experience was seeing the year six girls grow in confidence over the course of the week. On the first day I noticed that the female students were very hesitant to ask questions or engage with the hands-on activities, outside of what they had been instructed to do. By the end of the week, they were laughing and asking questions, and playing with the Little Bits in a much more confident and creative way. Something that I’d also like to mention is that I really appreciated everyone being so lovely and welcoming, especially during the homestay and our arrival at the airport.

Moved the hospitality of the Malaysian students

Our warm welcome at KL airport

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Afiq reflects on his experiences in Malaysia

Afiq Nazrin is enrolled in the Bachelor of Business program at QUT. Afiq has been supporting the SEE Project for some time now. He volunteered in some activities that involved our project. At SK Temai – he was a part of the team that taught students how to create digital books. He played a significant role in ensuring that the activities in his classroom flowed smoothing.  

At the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Admiring the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

My name is Afiq, and I am a member of the QUT STOMP/SEE project team. I have to say I had mixed emotions about the trip. I was anxious, and a bit apprehensive, but, for the most part, I was excited. I was looking forward to returning to my home country for the delicious food, and I couldn’t wait for the new experiences and challenges that were to come. Malaysia has a population of about 30 million. Islam is the religion followed by more than 60% of the population. My religion too is Islam. What would my colleagues think of my country? More recently some in the media, for example, have not portrayed Islam for what it stands for. Mercy, compassion, and beauty are some of the words that can be used to describe my religion. Regrettably, it is sometimes interpreted as a religion that is intolerant, backward, alien and so on. What exactly is Islam? That in itself is a whole other topic that requires much scrutiny and time, but it was not why we were on this trip. It’s such a big part of the experience, and, therefore, I felt it needed to be addressed. One of the greatest things about our project was the cross-cultural experience. We got to experience the culture firsthand. Although it was only a 9-day trip, I did wonder whether it changed the participants perspectives about people, their religion, and culture.

My group consisted of a team of nine amazingly cool people, three from QUT (Casey, Kate and myself), and six from UPM (Kim, Ain, Syu, Aisyah, Nadhirah and Munirah). We were also very fortunate to have Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar in our team. She is an Education graduate from QUT and is now teaching in a primary school in KL.

Deforestation was the theme for the lessons. I thought that this was an important issue. It’s a huge problem in Malaysia, and Southeast Asian in general, and it’s something that needs to be addressed and brought to light. The haze which blanketed Malaysia for the whole time we were there was a testament to the impact of deforestation.

In a group discussion just before the start of our trip to SK Temai

In a group discussion just before the start of our trip to SK Temai

The third day of the trip was officially our first day of being introduced to the kids, but due to the severity of the haze, the government had closed the school for the day. Our idea was to teach the children how to create a video using a program called Openshot. But with the realization that we only had a limited time (credit goes to Kate for taking charge and coming up with another plan that could be achieved), we decided to make an e-book instead. We started reading books centered on deforestation so the children could get a good grasp of the concept, and then followed it with storyboard puzzles and drawing exercises to develop students’ skills on digital book creation.  The children seemed to enjoy this as we moved through the stages of creating digital books such as cover page, beginning, climax, and conclusion.

Working with the students in my class (Photo: Casey Reine Chamberlain)

Working with the students in my class

At first the children were shy and withdrawn but it didn’t take long for them to get comfortable with us. One of the most memorable moments I’d say was when we got the children to read to us. I was amazed at how well the kids can read. I pointed to the first word of the cover, and it took about a second for them to realize what I meant with that gesture. “The last tree in the city” all in synch, reading the words out loud. I was impressed; they were no doubt intelligent kids eager to learn, and by the end of the day, they were all smiles. I wished we could have stayed a bit longer because the kids had just started to open up to us more on days 3 and 4.

Our team with our students

Our team with our students

I am missing the crew. The QUT students and staff are some the coolest, most down to earth, intelligent, and a dedicated bunch I’ve met. I found it a bit intimidating at first (because I’m the total opposite). But these qualities of our team members motivated me to work hard. The Malaysian UPM students, with their warm generosity, and hospitality, were some of the friendliest, most down to earth, and most genuine people I have met in a long time. It is good to know that there are Malaysians out there that care about the environment. I think I can say from all of us at QUT that the UPM students made it lot easier and played a big role for us regarding our engagement with the kids. There were times when we struggled communicating with the kids, but having the UPM students by our side, meant that they were able to clarify things for the children. We would not have achieved our objectives without students from UPM. The support of Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar was invaluable.

We were very fortunate to have Ms Nurhezrin Anuar in our team

We were very fortunate to have Ms. Nurhezrin Anuar in our team

It’s been huge a privilege working with everyone, and hopefully I’ll get to meet everyone again sometime in the near future. This was a meaningful engagement because it was loaded with new experiences, and developed new friendships. It certainly added a new dimension to my education at QUT!

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