Georgia’s reflections of her Malaysian experience

Georgia Row is a third-year student at QUT. She is enrolled in the Bachelor of Secondary Education course. Her majors are English and English as a Second Language. By working with her team, Georgia played an exceptional role in designing and delivering an engaging activity for her Class 3 students at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai. In this blog Georgia is reflecting on her experiences:    

Haze filled air enters my lungs one last time as I pass through the airport entrance; homeward bound.

I’m strapped into a seat awaiting lift off. The plane hums alive and a chill runs through my shoulders as iced air enters the cabin. The sound of seatbelts clicking bounces around as the safety video plays – my journey was fast coming to an end. A strange sense of regret fills my eyes as tears pool along my lids and threaten to fall with a sting. My team is spread out on the plane, what began as a group of strangers had become a group of friends, bound by unique memories and experiences. Malaysia had been an adventure, a challenge and would soon be a memory.

Casey and I on the UPM bus

Casey and I on the UPM bus

Walking into this program I had little expectations. I felt I had something to offer and craved a renewed sense of purpose. What I received was an abundance of kindness, a warm hug, new friends and a three-day cold. Malaysia invaded my being, dug a whole and found a special place to exist.

Georgia's Team: (Top row) Ina, Jima, Ais (Middle row) Vicki, Me, Jocelyn (Bottom row) Lorna, Malen and Aini

My Team: (Top row) Ina, Jima, Ais (Middle row) Vicki, Me, Jocelyn (Bottom row) Lorna, Malen and Aini

What my team and I had planned to do was use the computer software One Shot in collaboration with pictures to create a short stop motion storybook. We would introduce the Year 3 students to some Australian culture through art and drama then change a story from their existing English curriculum. In my team I enlisted the help if Vicki and Jocelyn from QUT, and Ina, Aini, Malin, Ais, Lorna and Jims from Universiti of Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Here are some of my most memorable moments.

My team and I stand in front of a sea of alert brown eyes. A chair scraps along the concrete floor and a rosy cheeked boy smiles confidently. “Good morning, teacher!” he prompts and a chorus replies. A hand reaches my shoulder and relief floods my limbs instantaneously, my team and I share a moment of nervous excitement.

A young boy walks up to me after class, he motions for my hand. Offering it to him I attempt to shake it, however he guides it up to his forehead where it lightly makes contact with his skin. Aini (a student from UPM) tells me it is a sign of respect. My mouth stretches into a smile.

The year 3 team with their students

Year 3 team with our students

I’m looking for a photocopier. Blindly walking around, I enter a small classroom and attempt to communicate with wild gestures what I require. A pregnant lady leaves what she is doing to take me where I need to go. As we walk down a flight of stairs I slip, she catches my arm and we share a nervous laugh.

Wafi the model student and Georgia at the final presentaiton

Wafi the model student and I at the final presentation

A young girl named Aliya calls me “Cikgu”. Cikgu means teacher in Malay – I am touched.

I ask for a volunteer to speak at the end of week presentation. Vacant expressions are my answer. My eyes flick to the back left-hand corner as a hand shoots into the air. A boy who was originally quiet and too shy to make a peep was standing on his tippy toes, excitement reflected in his grin. The next day he came to me, Wafi had memorise his script. He would present for Year 3.

A blue floral scarf is placed in my hands. A gift from the UPM students Ina, Aini, Malin, Ais, Lorna and Jims, without whom our lessons at SK Temai would not have been possible. My throat clenches from the nape of my neck and pauses under my chin, I am speechless and unable to relay my gratitude nor face the possibility of never being in their presence again.

My time in Malaysia seems a little hazy – I guess that’s only fitting – none the less, the feelings remain. What I was able to experience means a great deal to me and although I’m not sure if I’ve been able to put it into words, I find it only fitting to say – terima kasih.

The STOMP team

The QUT team with the QUT Alumni

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Thank you for supporting our team!

Our team with

Our team with Dato’ Sri Hj. Sharkar (Chairman for Tourism and Culture for Pahang state) and YB. Dato’ Mokhtar Chairman for Tourism and Culture for Pahang State (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Our team felt quite special when we were honoured at special events hosted by the Pahang State Government, Tourism Pahang and the QUT Alumni in Malaysia. We also had visits to the school by some prominent people from the community. The school community was just fabulous. These are some of the activities that we were privileged to take part in. Collectively they made a significant difference to the overall experience.

Monday (28 September 2015)

Some of our team members enjoying a lovely evening

Some of our team members enjoying a lovely evening

On our team members, together with teachers and parents from SK Temai were honoured at a special dinner hosted by Tourism Pahang. YB. Dato’ Sri Hj. Mohd. Sharkar Hj Shamsudin – Chairman for Tourism and Culture for Pahang state and YB. Dato’ Ishak Mokhtar – Director General of Tourism Pahang welcomed all of us. In his welcoming address,  Dato’ Sri Hj. Sharkar acknowledged the work we were doing at SK Temai. It was interesting to learn that he had played a significant role in setting up Kuala Gandah – the elephant sanctuary which we had visited earlier.

Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

We were also joined by Dato’ Ahmad Farid Abd Jalal – the Director of the Pahang State Museum. The dinner and the welcoming atmosphere were beyond our expectations. However, a special invitation to the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum by Dato’ Farid was the icing on the cake. He organised a visit to the mosque museum at 10pm after dinner. What we saw was breathtaking. Ingenious design skills and innovation appeared to have been creatively melded in this newly renovated heritage listed building. This mosque was built in 1929. As the population grew, a larger mosque was built later on in Pekan. For the past two years, work has been carried out to convert this mosque to a mosque museum.  YB. Dato’ Ishak and Dato’ Farid showed us around and highlighted some of the main features of the building. The displays and the architecture were remarkable. Strategically positioned lights heightened the workmanship of this great building. As pointed out by Dato’ Farid, when the museum opens its door next year it will be an excellent place to visit for people of all races and religions. It is the first time I saw and visited a mosque museum, and it was a privilege. What a great idea?

Time to capture a great moment (Photo: Richard Medland)

Time to capture a great moment (Photo: Richard Medland)

Afig deep thought at the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Afig deep thought at the Masjid Sultan Abdullah Pekan Museum (Photo: Richard Medland)

Wednesday night (30 September)

(L-R) Vinesh Chandra, En. Ali Syahbana Sabaruddin - District Officer of Pekan, Graeme Baguley, Siti

(L-R) Vinesh Chandra, En. Ali Syahbana Sabaruddin – District Officer of Pekan, Graeme Baguley, Siti (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

YAB. Dato’ Sri DiRaja Hj. Adnan Yaakob – Chief Minister of Pahang state hosted a dinner for our team. Teachers and members of the SK Temai school community were invited. Some staff members from the Universiti Malaysia Pahang campus were also invited. En. Ali Syahbana Sabaruddin – District Officer of Pekan, represented the Chief Minister who was unable to attend the function. While En. Syahbana commended our work at SK Temai, he was particularly interested in our focus on integrating ICT in classrooms. He commented that earlier in his career; he was involved with technology integration. On the next day, En. Syahbana made a special trip to the school to see some of the work that the students at SK Temai were doing with our team and was very pleased with what he saw.

Team members enjoying a lovely dinner (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Team members enjoying a lovely dinner (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Thursday afternoon (1 October)

Our visit to an Orang Asli village in Permatang Siput was a unique experience. En. Midun is the Penghulu (headman or chief) of this village. He gave an overview of his community. This was followed by afternoon tea. All of us were given special gifts. The gifts were fruits that were grown locally by the community. Some of us were even more privileged – we were given coconuts that were picked by En. Midun.

(L-R) Siti & Vinesh Chandra with their fruit baskets. (Photo: Richard Medland)

(L-R) Siti & Vinesh Chandra with their fruit baskets. En. Midun in the centre (Photo: Richard Medland)

YB. Mohammed Fakhruddin bin Mohd Ariff, the local member of the state parliament (sub district of Bebar, Pekan) visited the school later in the afternoon. He acknowledged how our initiatives were adding value to his community and invited us to consider other sites in his constituency as the program evolves in coming years. YB. Fakhruddin played a significant role in identifying and organising families who acted as hosts for our team members for a night. This was a significant and memorable aspect of our project.  In reflections to follow, team members will shed light on how these homestays impacted on their experiences.

Friday morning (2 October)

Year 6 students doing their presentations for guests parents, and the school community

Year 6 students doing their presentations for guests parents, and the school community (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

On Friday En Mohamad Haris Mohamad Nor, District Education Officer, visited the school. He was the Chief Guest for the student showcase. He echoed some of the strengths of our project that were highlighted by the visitors earlier.

Well done team, teachers and students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Well done team, teachers and students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

 

Happy children at SK Temai

Happy children at SK Temai (Photo: Richard Medland)

Saturday afternoon (3 October)

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QUT Team with the QUT Alumni in Malaysia (Photo: Dennis Ong)

The Malaysian QUT Alumni chapter invited us to an afternoon tea at the popular Picknik Cafe in Publika (owned by Dato Nik Ezar – a graduate of UQ). Nik’s son – former Masterchef Malaysia finalist Nik Michael Imran heads the team at this cafe. It was a lovely afternoon – with great food and great company. Past students who attended QUT at different times were present. Many stories from the past were shared, and this brought back great memories. Of significance was the role that Graeme Baguley played in the lives of many QUT students from the past. Thank you to the President and Vice-President of the QUT Alumni in Malaysia and their hard working team to make the event a memorable one.

Nik Ezar Nik Bolia welcoming the QUT team and the QUT Alumni to his restaurant

Nik Ezar Nik Bolia welcoming the QUT team and the QUT Alumni to his restaurant

For me, the interest shown by the wider community in Malaysia in our project was heart warming. The education of our children should be everyone’s business. I was very pleased with what I witnessed. Thank you everyone.

“If we are going to live with our deepest differences then we must learn about one another.”
― Deborah J. Levine, Matrix Model Management System: Guide to Cross Cultural Wisdom

For more stories: https://theseeproject.org

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Dr Siti’s reflections on making the inaugural collaboration between QUT and UPM a reality

For the past three years, the SEE Project has enabled students from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to teach in schools in Fiji. A grant from QUT’s Short Term Outward Mobility Program (STOMP) in 2014 created a new opportunity. For the first time, QUT students could work side by side with students from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in a Malaysian school to deliver classroom activities using ICT. On paper, it looked all good. However, to transform such an idea into reality is a different story. We were very grateful to team up with Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa from the Department of Recreation and Ecotourism in the Faculty of Forestry at UPM. She played a significant role in putting together the Malaysian component of our project. Also, we were on a shoestring budget – Dr. Siti was able to connect with other partners (including UPM and the State Government of Pahang) who were very generous in supporting students from both universities. Here Dr. Siti reflects on some of her initiatives and challenges.        

Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa

Dr. Siti Suriawati Isa

I was very excited when I learned about the proposed outreach project to Malaysia. The prospect of UPM and QUT staff and students working together was exhilarating.  This would be the first time my alma mater would have such program with UPM in Malaysia. As a QUT alumnus, I always wanted to work closely with QUT and connect them with my university. My field of expertise is tourism. It is a multidisciplinary field. The SEE Project adopted a cross-faculty approach in their projects in Fiji with great success. I was convinced that my students and I could add a trans-national dimension to the cross faulty approach. This would enrich the experiences of both the QUT and UPM participants in a unique way.

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Students from my class – their contribution was very significant in this project

The planning of project started as soon as I got a confirmation from Graeme Baguley, QUT International Student Services Manager. Graeme was my former boss at QUT when I worked as a casual staff at the QUT Accommodation Office. We were a good team in those days, and I was looking forward to working with him again.

Choosing the venue for our project was a bit tricky as I had to make sure that all the requirements of the project were addressed. My strong connections with a few people enabled me to choose the right primary school for the project. While gaining approval from the school at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai, Pekan, Pahang was easy,  I also had to get approval from other parties since all schools in Malaysia are under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Ministry of Education. I also decided to include the State Government of Pahang in this project since this would be the first time QUT staff and students were coming to their state. I wanted the QUT participants to experience the Malaysian culture and also have the opportunity to visit some interesting tourist attractions. I also wanted these tourism destinations to be different from what Australia offers. Though the arrangements and planning took a lot of my energy and time, I enjoyed doing it because deep down inside I felt that this project would benefit many people and will also provide me with a great experience.

Going through final check list with SK Temai Principal and English teachers - a month before the program started

Going through the final check lists with SK Temai Principal and English teachers – a month before the program started

Community development work has always been very close to my heart. This was probably another reason I was excited about this project. At SK Temai, 60% of the students are Malay and 40% of Orang Asli background. Finding a school with high Orang Asli enrollment was personally satisfying.  The Orang Asli community around the school comes from the Jakun tribe who live at Kampung Permatang Siput, located approximately 15 km from the school. The Jakun tribe are considered to be the most advanced in the Malaysian peninsular.  While they maintain their traditional culture and lifestyle in many ways, they have also been very progressive.This is also reflected in the students at the school. Over the past 20 years, the school has maintained an excellent record of graduates of Orang Asli background. I firmly believe that the Orang Asli children, particularly at SK Temai, have the potential to succeed if they get the right exposure and opportunity. With the mix of university students from Australia and Malaysia – this project had the potential to present some good role models to the children at SK Temai.  

Dealing with school related issues was one challenge. Another significant hurdle was that the budget for the project was limited.  I had to come up with feasible options to ensure that everything was doable at a minimal cost. I was glad that my faculty and university were very supportive and provided financial assistance to cover some of the expenses. A few weeks before the QUT participants arrived I managed to secure two dinners that were sponsored by the Office of the Chief Minister of Pahang, YAB – Dato’ Sri DiRaja Hj Andan Yaakob and the Chairman of Tourism and Culture Pahang – YB. Dato’ Sri Hj. Mohd. Sharkar Hj. Shamsudin. The local representative of Bebar in the Pekan parliament – YB. Mohammad Fakhruddin Mohd. Ariff helped identify between 10-15 families from the local community to be our ‘foster parents’ for one night. Everything was planned and looked good for our QUT guests who were to arrive on the second day of Eidul Adha celebration when most of the Malaysians would be on leave. Nevertheless, my students and I were so excited to become the hosts for the QUT participants that we went through our final checklist two days before their arrival day.

Dr Siti and Graeme at KLIA

Dr Siti and Graeme at KLIA

QUT participants arrived at KLIA on the 25 September via Singapore. In the morning, I was told by the Sultan Idris Shah Forest Education Centre (SISFEC) staff (where all the participants were supposed to stay for two nights) that they had issues with electricity supply in the buildings that were meant to accommodate the participants.  However, they promised that the problem was temporary and would be rectified before the group arrived. The issue was not resolved because most of the staff were still on Eidul Adha leave. My team and I, including our students, had to come up with a quick backup plan. I was quite nervous to inform our guests from QUT about this problem. I knew that they would be tired from their long flight. While my team at SISFEC did their best to deal with this issue, I organized another group to welcome our guests at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport arrival hall. All of our QUT guests finally came out at about 11 pm, and we took them for supper at a “Mamak” Restaurant that was close to SISFEC. One of the reasons I took them for supper was to give time to my team at SISFEC to execute our backup plan for our guests’ accommodation. I could see that our guests had a great time. They seemed to have enjoyed the Malaysian cuisine. I still didn’t tell them about the problem at SISFEC. However, I did share with Graeme the challenge that we were to face in the next step. Both of us agreed to hold back the news until we reached SISFEC. Our solution was to put all the QUT participants in the hall. A temporary wall separated males and females.

My hard working students happily doing their job at wee hours of the night

My hard working students happily doing their job at wee hours of the night

In the morning of the next day, Graeme told me QUT participants were happy sleeping inside the hall because of the air conditioning. There were no mosquitoes either.  So it was like first class camping. They requested to stay there until they checked out the next day which was perfectly fine with us. I smile each time I think about our stay at SISFEC. In a way it made all of us become closer together because we went through this unexpected experience together. Well done to all and I’m so proud of all participants who were so awesome in facing difficult times together and supported each other until the end. We are one great team indeed UPM and QUT.

The meeting room my students transformed to become temporary ‘hotel room’ for our guests. Not bad.

The meeting room my students transformed to become temporary ‘hotel room’ for our guests. Not bad.

 

 

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Our week at SK Temai, Pekan, Malaysia

The view from my room at UMP, Pekan (28 September 2015)

The view from my room at UMP, Pekan (28 September 2015)

Our proposed teaching activities were to start with classroom observations on Monday morning (28 September). As I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was look out of my bedroom window. The haze looked a bit thicker than on previous days. During breakfast, Dr Siti advised us that due to the haze, pollution levels were high. As a consequence, all school children in a number of States were advised to stay at home – in short school was closed for the day in Pahang. While this was a downer, on the upside the teachers at Temai Primary were going to be at the school.

Staff at SK Temai (May 2015) (Photo: Zul Muda)

Staff at SK Temai (May 2015) (Photo: Zul Muda)

As our coach headed to the school, I reflected on a story that Siti shared with some of us the previous day. Sometime last year, Siti talked about the proposed QUT trip with her students at UPM. One of her students, Fadzil Noor Johar approached her and suggested Temai Primary School as a possible project site for QUT students. It was close to his home. His parents – Haji Johar Sulaiman and Hajjah Rozilah also lived here. Siti liked the idea. However, earlier this year parts of Pekan was flooded. Fadzil was crossing the flooded waters just outside his home. In a freak accident, Fadzil drowned. As expected his parents, family and friends were devastated by the loss. Fadzil was a young man with a very bright future. He always extended his hand to help others. So our project at Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai was dedicated to Fadzil.

The head-teacher, Dr Siti and Mohd Faizul Ramli (R-L)

(R-L) Encik Mohd Imeran bin Ibrahim (HT), Dr Siti, and Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the Headmaster – Encik Mohd Imeran bin Ibrahim and his staff. Two of his staff members – Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli and Puan Salina Abd Ghafar gave us an overview of the school. These presentations were very informative. It provided us with a good idea of how we might proceed with the classroom activities. The school as a whole was very clean and tidy. It was also well resourced.

Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli introducing aspects of his school to our team

Encik Mohd Faizul Ramli introducing aspects of his school to our team

From Tuesday through to Thursday the classroom activities flowed well. While students from QUT had spent a few weeks in thinking through their activities, students from UPM were an important part of the jigsaw puzzle. They acted as a bridge between QUT students and the students at SK Temai. This bridge was particularly crucial when there were language barriers. Not all staff and students at the school were fluent in English. This is common in all countries where English (or another language) is not spoken as the first language. In such instances, a mediator can play an important role – one who understands both languages. Thus, the presence of students UPM made a significant difference.

A hive of activity in Class 5

A hive of activity in Class 5. Kim is keeping an eye on his group (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

We were quite fortunate that two primary school teachers – Cik Syarifah Nazurah and Cik Nurhezrin Anuar spent their week with us at SK Temai. Both had attained their degree qualifications in Education from QUT a few years earlier. They drove from Kuala Lumpur to join us – this was truly appreciated, and their presence made a significant difference to our work. Their input and advice were invaluable.

Fatin helping one of the groups in Class

Fitri helping one of the groups in Class 3 (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

By the end of the week, all the teams worked well and attained the desirable learning outcomes as planned. The head teacher and teachers were very supportive throughout and did everything that was possible to ensure that our teams adapted their classroom activities with ease.

Anthony making a point to a student in Class 6 (Photo: Ibnu Isa).

Anthony making a point to a student in Class 6 (Photo: Ibnu Isa).

In Class 3, the students created stop-motion videos using OpenShot. The teaching team included Georgia, Jocelyn, Vicki, Suhaira, Lorna, Zaitun, Fakhira, Shahfizat, Safri, Fitri, and Faizal.

Time for a high five. Jocelyn says well done to some of her students

Time for a high five. Jocelyn says well done to some of her students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

In Class 4, teaching activities were led by Hannah, Elliot, Nadia, Lorna, Amalina, Aini, Ina, Fatin, Umira, Aisamuddin. By the end of the week, the students created a digital storybook using PowerPoint.

Elliott helping one of his students (Class 3)

Elliott helping one of his students (Class 4) (Photo Ibnu Isa)

In Class 5, students created video clips based on their local experiences. Classroom activities were led by Kate, Casey, Afiq, Aisyah, Suyhadah, Ain, Munirah, Nadhirah and Kim.

Nurina explains the details of the activity in Class 3

Nurina explains the details of the activity in Class 3

In Class 6, students got to experience new technologies. They had hands on experiences with littlebits (http://littlebits.cc/). By the end of the week, students were also able to create games using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu). Teaching activities were led by Mitchell, Jessica, Anthony, Zulaikha, Hamiza, Clementina, Fatin, Nornajla with Dr Richard Medland advising the team and troubleshooting.

Jessica assisting her Class 6 students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

On Friday, there was a parent/community showcase where some student groups from SK Temai talked about the products they had created using digital technologies. They explained their experiences with confidence. Well done students! Well done teaching teams! More details on students’ experiences in the classrooms will be uploaded in future blogs.

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Suhaira questioning her students in Class 3 (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

I was able to visit each classroom a number of times each day. There was strong evidence of the teaching teams engaging with their students in a range of rich tasks with their students. Most times, the students were on task and were obviously interested and were enjoying what they were doing. While the incorporation of digital technologies into the activities presented a moderate level of challenge, it was a change from the daily classroom routines.

Happy students at the closing ceremony

Happy students at the closing ceremony

Happy students at the closing ceremony

Happy students at the closing ceremony

We had some feedback sessions during the week. The feedback from the teams was positive. Many acknowledged the ability of the students and how quickly they were applying themselves to the given tasks. In particular, they were very quick in demonstrating their understanding of how the technologies worked. In each of our reflections sessions – students rated their experiences with mean scores of 7.5/10 in day 1 through to 9/10 by day 2.

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Cik Syarifah Nazurah sharing her thoughts in one of the feedback sessions (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Our experiences in classrooms at SK Temai – mirrored what we have seen in other countries. When classroom activities are interesting, enjoyable, challenging, well scaffolded and connected to the real world – learning happens.

This is interesting (Class 3) (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

This is interesting…Class 3 students (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

We had a memorable week at SK Temai. We are grateful to the Headmaster -Encik Mohd Imeran bin Ibrahim, his staff, and parents for giving us the opportunity to visit SK Temai and for supporting our teams. We wish the teachers, students, and parents of SK Temai the very best in the future.

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Hasnul Hassan – a teacher at SK Temai helping one of the students in Class 6

 

For more stories: https://theseeproject.wordpress.com

 

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The SEE Project@ Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai : A memorable stop at Kuala Gandah

Sunday morning (27 September) we made our tracks to the Pekan campus of Universiti Malaysia. It is in the district of Pahang and a four-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. This campus was our home for the next four nights. From here we commuted to the Pekan Primary School each day. Universiti Putra Malaysia provided us with a comfortable coach for the week. This coach made a big difference to our travel.

Our coach for the week - thank you UPM

Our coach for the week – thank you UPM

On the way, we stopped at Kuala Gandah – a unique elephant sanctuary in Malaysia. “The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) established National Elephant Conservation Centre in 1989. The centre is the base for the Elephant Unit, which began the elephant translocation programme in 1974”. Read more  Trip advisor has more details about Kuala Gandah.

Getting ready for the show

Getting ready for the show

As we entered the park, we viewed a short documentary that highlighted the challenges faced by a team of dedicated Malaysians to relocate displaced elephants from their habitats and into national parks. This task is no easy feat and I commend all those who are involved in this significant work.

The special partnership between men and elephant on show

The special partnership between men and elephant on show

The elephant show was interesting – many members of our team got a chance to feed the elephants with pawpaws. Some of the tricks that the elephants and their trainers demonstrated was equally interesting.

Part of the audience for the elephant show

Part of the audience for the elephant show

Elephant feeding (with pawpaws)

Elephant feeding (with pawpaws)

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A special moment for Ibnu and Hamiza

Perhaps the highlight was an opportunity to bathe the elephants. As the photos below show – it was an exciting time for those who participated in this activity. It was fun just to seeing the elephants enjoying the moment.

Getting ready for a bath

Getting ready for a bath

Bath time

Bath time

Not finished yet

Not finished yet

Time for a splash

Time for a splash

Ok one more photo and then we will be off!

Ok one more photo and then we will be off!

It was late in the afternoon when we checked into our rooms at the university. For me, it reminded me of the life that I had on campus when I was a student in Fiji. It brought back some good and bad memories. Other than the heat and the possible threat of being bitten by mosquitos carrying the dengue fever virus, all else was good. We were set for a good start at Temai Primary School.

Goodbye friends!

Goodbye friends!

Photos: Ibnu Isa and Richard Medland

For more stories visit: https://theseeproject.org/

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The SEE Project@ Sekolah Kebangsaan Temai: Our Malaysian Welcome!

The QUT Team

The QUT Team

Our trip began with great excitement and on time from the Brisbane International Airport on September 25. There was a rolling border patrol officers strike at the airport. However, passengers were processed relatively quickly through customs and security. The first leg of the flight was from Brisbane to Singapore. We had a stopover at the Singapore Airport for about 5 hours followed by a quick 45-minute flight to Kuala Lumpur. All in all – it was a very long day but our adrenaline levels were high…we did not notice it.

Environmental terrorism
Singapore airport was blanketed in haze and visibility was poor. The haze was the result of bushfires in Indonesia, lit by irresponsible palm oil, paper and pulp companies clearing land to advance further their business ventures. In short this is an act of environmental terrorism. This practice has gone on for years. At this time of the year, fires are lit in parts of Indonesia with little thought on its consequences. It has a serious impact on not just the flora and fauna (including people) in Indonesia but some countries in S.S. Asia including Singapore and Malaysia. According to the Guardian, “tens of thousands of people in Indonesia and Malaysia have sought medical treatment for respiratory problems. The annual burning is decades old, and Indonesia has faced mounting pressure to end the practice. Scientists say the pollution could surpass 1997 levels when the haze created an environmental disaster that cost an estimated US$9 billion in damage”.

Relied on this site for pollution index updates: http://aqicn.org/

Relied on this site for pollution index updates: http://aqicn.org/

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur
Dr Siti and her group of very enthusiastic students greeted us the Kuala Lumpur Airport. It is the first time I experienced a welcome of this sort. About a dozen of Siti’s students were at the airport. Some were holding up a banner to welcome us as we emerged through the doors of customers and immigration processing area. The welcome was very touching – what made it even more meaningful was that this was about 11 pm in the night on a Friday and in the middle of the celebrations for the Eid al-Adha festival. In my mind, this warm welcome was an indicator of the partnership we were going to develop with Dr Siti and her students.

Part of the welcoming team from UPM

Part of the welcoming team from UPM (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

We spent our first two nights at the SISFEC Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre in Selangor. The centre is a campus of Universiti Putra Malaysia. The trip from the airport to the campus was about 45 minutes. We stopped for supper at an authentic restaurant – where the locals go. In Malaysia, such food outlets are open 24/7. Supper is a very important part of the Malaysian culture. Some of us who were familiar with the local cuisine fell in love with this place at first sight. We had different preferences – for Graeme it was Roti Channai, Fried Rice for Richard and Dosa for Jocelyn. An authentic tandoori and naan oven influenced my decision. So I went for some garlic naan and chicken tandoori. The freshly cooked food was a hit with everyone. My thali cost about nine ringgits (about $3 Aud) – great value and taste.

Supper time!

Supper time! (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

After a well-earned sleep, we woke up to the singing and chirping of birds. No noise of cars, buses, trucks or aeroplanes on this campus was a relief from the everyday hustle and bustle that we have become so used to. In ” 1996, through an agreement, the Selangor state government granted permission to UPM to manage and conduct activities related to education, research and forestry development for 99 years that will only end in 2095….This forest is a home to 430 flowering plant species, 33 fern species, 127 timber species and 99 herb species. It is also a home to five out of 10 large mammal species in Peninsular Malaysia, 208 bird species including 35 endangered species and 30 migratory species, 14 small mammal species including slow loris, 13 bat species, 18 frog species, two reptile species and 10 fish species. This species diversity is an attraction that draws researchers to conduct their multidisciplinary scientific studies here”.

Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: Richard Medland)

Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: Richard Medland)

Deforestation is rapidly becoming a significant global issue. The haze that was evident at the Singapore airport is a product of this. It is a sign of our changing times. Pristine forests are becoming the targets of a quick fix that leads to economic gains in the short term. This forest was a delight to visit.

Part of our team at Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: )

Part of our team at Sultan Idris Shah Forestry Education Centre (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Siti gave us an introduction to the centre and its role at her university. This introduction was followed by a tour of the forest and the surrounds by Siti and her group of enthusiastic students. This area that is not open to the public. Special permission needs to be sought from the University before the public is given access. Schools and various other groups do access the forest for meaningful activities. As we walked in between the trees – some possibly hundreds of years old, it became evident that this unique forest was well managed. Litter was almost non-existent. The tracks were very well maintained. The students guided us to a lovely waterfall – it was the icing on the cake. The water was very clean, cool, crisp and refreshing. The world needs more people like the Sultan Idris Shah who are visionary and have the foresight to see the value of conservation for future generations.

Told you Richard...Richard is ok now (Photo: Ibu Isa)

Told you Richard…Richard is ok now (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

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Time for a quick dip (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Such natural features need to cared for the future. Well done UPM (Photo: Ibnu Isa)

Getting into gear

After our forest walk, our students teamed up with their Malaysian university counterparts to go through the activities that they had developed for the SK Temai Primary School. The idea behind this meeting was to review and refine activities where necessary. It was very pleasing to see that the meetings went very well. I also teamed up students in pairs. I asked to do a LIST presentation at the end of next week. L- what did you learn from your partner, I – what was interesting about your partner, S – what was special about your partner, and T – what did you teach your partner.

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Team meeting: Neena getting used to the Little Bits Technology (Photo: Richard Medland)

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Team meeting: Lorna, Georgia, Vicki (Photo: Richard Medland)

The day ended with musical and dance presentations by some very talented students from Universiti Putra Malaysia.

For more posts : Visit https://theseeproject.wordpress.com

Posted in 2015, Malaysia, STOMP, Temai | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Andrew’s reflections of Toko Sanatan Primary School – July 2015

In June 2015, I was invited to share my past experiences of Fiji with the group who would be travelling to Fiji with The SEE Project in July 2015. I shared pictures and stories, and shared what I had learned about myself and my future as a teacher, and by the end of my 20 minute presentation I had decided that I wanted to return to Fiji, with them, in about a months time. After discussion some different ideas with Vinesh, I developed my own project which aligned with the philosophy of The SEE Project – to Share, Engage and Educate. From our discussions, I discovered that there are not many children’s story books in Fiji, and many stories are still passed on orally. This was really powerful information, because: as a child I loved to read and be read to; as a studying teacher I knew the huge range of benefits for reading from a young age; and with stories predominantly being spoken, there is always the possibility that these important cultural stories could be lost forever – these three reasons underpinned my proposed project. My project was to create digital story books in Australia and Fiji, and then have the schools that participated swap what they had created. The big ideas were that students would enjoy the writing process, because they would be writing about topics that interest them, and their stories would be written with a real purpose, to entertain and educate others.


Before leaving for Fiji, I spent a few days volunteering at Lawnton State School, where the students of 3/4M and 5T created digital story books using iPads. A big thank you to admin, staff and students for participating in the project, and a special thanks to Mrs Crilly and Mrs Fletcher for welcoming me into their classroom’s, and providing this unique opportunity for their students to take part in.


Thanks to the connections I had made while volunteering in February, I was able to organise to spend 4 days teaching at Toko Primay School. In this time 3 classes were able to create digital story books, with grades ranging from 6-8 (equivalent to 5-7 in Australia). For each new class, I asked the same question “Why do people write books?” and the students’ responses were all very similar… “For school”, “to learn from”. I asked the same question to the students in Australia, and their first responses were “for fun”, “for enjoyment” and “to entertain”.

It was very fitting that the next thing that we did was read for enjoyment!! Which we continued to do after every recess and lunch throughout the week.

Everyone enjoying the digital stories from Lawnton State School, Australia.

Everyone enjoyed reading and listening to the digital stories created by the students of Lawnton State School, Australia.

After reading a few stories, the students were inspired and excited to create their own digital stories. The students worked in groups of 2-3 to write, illustrate and create their digital story books.

We did some initial brainstorming on the board, and then it was over to the students.

We did some initial brainstorming on the board…

...and then it was over to the students.

…and then it was over to the students!

While some group members were typing, others were drawing.

While some group members were typing, others were drawing.

Then after a quick camera tutorial, pictures of the drawings were taken...

Then after a quick camera tutorial, pictures of the drawings were taken…

...and then uploaded to the computer, and inserted onto each page of their digital books.

…and then uploaded to the computer, and inserted onto each page of their digital books.

Everyone really enjoyed creating their digital story books!

Everyone really enjoyed creating their digital story books!

The students were having so much fun creating their digital stories, that they didn’t want to leave during lunch breaks, and if they did, they would be back in 5 minutes wanting to come back inside, not to play computer games, but to continue their stories! I asked the year 6 teacher “When’s the last time your students came running back to class early to continue learning about narrative writing?” to which he replied “They never have!”.

It was very pleasing to have the teachers actively involved in the classroom activities. Many teachers in Fiji have limited knowledge and skills with computers, however, the teachers at Toko Primary School saw the opportunity to further develop their own understanding.

Posted in 2015, Toko Sanatan School | Leave a comment