Jerudong International School wins prestigious award for its Outdoor Discovery Centre

Posted on 26th Jan 2018 in School News, Brunei Darussalam

There were celebrations at Jerudong International School, Brunei Darussalam, this week when it was announced that the School has won the Outstanding Strategic Initiative Award in the prestigious British International Schools Award (BISA) for 2018.

The Award was for the Outdoor Discovery Centre (ODC) set up at the School about 18 months ago.

The Award winners were announced in London, UK at a prestigious award ceremony at The Connaught Hotel on 22nd January 2018 where Mr Chris McGeorge, former Sports Director at JIS and now based in the UK, collected the award on behalf of the School.

Principal Barnaby Sandow said “I am tremendously proud to hear that Jerudong International School has won this prestigious award. It highlights the presence of such an outstanding school here in Brunei on a global platform - something we all can be proud of. It is also testimony to the dedicated students and hard working, inspirational teachers at JIS who have united to set up and create the ODC. I hope that it is something we can all celebrate here in beautiful Brunei.”

The initiative for which the School has been shortlisted is their Outdoor Discovery Centre (ODC). Early in 2016, the School set aside 10000m 2 of land within the extensive campus. Part of the land is forested whilst in other sections the tropical heathland had been beaten back, leading to soil quality to be diminished. A group of teachers and students saw this and wanted to do something about it. The project to restore and use this area has been primarily student led. The ODC was visited in October 2017 by TRH Earl and Countess of Wessex when visiting Brunei for HM The Sultan’s Golden Jubilee celebrations (pictured).

“Over the past 18 months I’ve spent on this project, I’ve come to really enjoy and appreciate the environment around us. I think the Outdoor Discovery Centre is a great place for anyone to integrate with other people and learn how to protect nature and live a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s definitely an asset to both the school and the country.” Kai Jie Hii, Y12 IB (One of the ODC Committee leaders)

Since May 2016 when the first boundary was established, this Outdoor Discovery Centre has now become a learning space of which the School community are very proud.

Initially, the students mapped the area and established the boundary. The ODC lies just behind the large Sports Complex which was opened in January 2017 and is also adjacent to the Junior School so is easily accessible as a learning area. The baseline study and initial planning took place in June 2016 where students drew up a land use map of the area. Botanists from the nearby Universiti Brunei Darussalam assisted in identifying plants in the remaining areas of woodland. The students tested the soil and indigenous Bruneian saplings such as the Simpur were planted in the open areas.

Since September 2016, a group of students have met weekly, mentored by a local permaculture expert to focus on using garden waste in a composting project. The infrastructure for the ODC was developed with pathways, seating, signs and fencing being installed by the students, assisted by teachers. In April 2017, for Earth Week, the first opportunity to showcase the ODC to the local community in Brunei arose.

The ODC was used as the backdrop and focus for the celebrations that week. Activities were arranged for the whole school and a range of local NGOs invited to participate. Many of the local NGOs continue to be involved at the site. The School is delighted that the local community can participate in educating the students in this way.

A highlight of Earth Week was the judging of the Herb Spiral, designed and constructed by Senior School students as part of an ‘inter-House’ competition. This provided opportunities for the students of different ages to collaborate and work together in the process. New friendships have been made and opportunities for teamwork and leadership have been created.

Coco Bennett, a final year A Level student: “Not only has this CCA made integration possible betweenthe different year groups, it gave me a chance to step outside my comfort zone.Therefore, I encourage that other schools should give the same opportunity to their students.”

Junior School students and Middle Years students visit the Outdoor Discovery Centre to discover more about the natural world and also to learn from projects older students are running. This includes curriculum-based topics and also after school as part of the co-curricular sessions. Many of the School’s Duke of Edinburgh Award students have chosen to carry out their Service or Skills activities in the ODC.

The School’s Eco-JIS recycling team are also currently looking into ways that they can use the ODC to help them recycle and upcycle waste.

As Year 12 student, Shanie Chauhan (who volunteered to help in the ODC as part of her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award) commented “it has given me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for everyone who was a part of it. I am especially pleased to know that the ODC will continue to grow and develop. I will be proud to be able to say that I witnessed the development from the very beginning. Working as part of a team of all ages has inspired me that when you have an idea and you truly believe in it, it will grow into something to be proud of. Going from a deserted space, the ODC has transformed into a unique learning facility for all ages and all the faculties of my school. From the sensory path, to the herb spirals and the compost area, these have all impacted many people from my school community and I’m glad to have been a part of and will continue to be.”

The senior students are using the ODC in a variety of ways. For example, Physics students have an ongoing solar study to determine how to provide solar energy to the hub. Geography students are undertaking research into issues such as 'What conditions promote the growth of the pioneer species Simpur (Dillenia Suffruticosa)' and what role does this plant have in plant succession in a tropical heathland in Brunei Darussalam?' andWhat factors affect the early stages of plant succession in a cleared area of a tropical heath forest?' Art students regularly visit the ODC as a source of inspiration for their work. The list is endless!

So what plans are there for the future? This is still very much an initiative in its early stages which will develop. The Junior School recently started a ‘Farm to School’ project sponsored by Progresif and in association with AgromeIQ. It was rather special to realise that one of the Bruneian AgromeIQ personnel is a JIS alumni who graduated from JIS and then Cardiff University in Environmental Science, is now involved in this project for young JIS students.

In conclusion, Mr Sandow added: “We are genuinely proud that the Outdoor Discovery Centre has become an inspirational learning environment.and will be an ongoing, living, developing legacy which current students will leave behind for the students of JIS in the future. Human beings are like plants, we are all different and have different needs, but we grow better when we work together. ”