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Interested in finding out what I’ve been up to at school? If yes, keep reading! I have made a list of some of the projects I’ve done at SMK Semerah Padi with my students this year.

Spoiler alert: Miley Cyrus may or may not make an appearance…

Project 1: The Drama Kings and Queens

I was looking for a way to get some of my shyest classes more comfortable around me while also allowing them to be active in class. I had 5 of my classes split into small groups, and gave each group a scenario. The scenarios went something like this:

1. You are swimming at the beach with your friends when you are swallowed by a Blue Whale! How do you escape?!

2. You are relaxing on your motorbike with friends when a car breaks down in front of you. Who is driving the car? Miley Cyrus! She needs your help to get to her concert tonight!

3. You are members of a famous K-Pop (Korean – Pop) band and are relaxing on the beach before a big concert. Suddenly, a coconut falls on your lead singer! They can’t remember who they are… what do you do??

4. Your friends dare you to go camping in the woods by yourself because you say you are not afraid of anything. In the night.. you meet a ghost! AHHH!!

5. You have just finished reading the Harry Potter books and want to practice your magic skills on your friends. But, something goes terribly wrong…

Over the course of a few weeks, my classes and I worked on scripts, practiced emotions, learned new vocabulary about drama and acting, and practiced how to have good stage presence. Here is the result!

It still makes me laugh every time I watch it!

Project 2: Friends Across the World

Of my 11 classes, 3 of them are considered “focus groups”. Truthfully, I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean. They are regular classes that I see just as much as any of my other classes. But clearly, they are special for some reason, even though they were randomly chosen. Anyways, I decided to “focus” on one of these classes by arranging a special activity: writing pen-pal letters to students in the U.S. I got in contact with the ESL teacher at my alma mater, Governor Mifflin High School. As fate would have it, Mrs. Fox had the same number of students in her class as I did in mine. My students wrote the first letters, each one assigned to a specific student in Mrs. Fox’s class. They wrote about Malaysia, their favorite foods, their families, Islam, holidays, sports, you name it. I was so proud to see their pride for their country and for who they are. I wish I had a video of their faces when I told them these letters would actually be mailed to the U.S. and actually read by American students their own age.


Uzair and Afiq hard at work on their letters

This project turned out better than I ever could have hoped for. We have now written 2 letters and have received 1 response thus far from our pen-pals (this is great in and of itself, considering how slow the mail is here!). Because the students in Mrs. Fox’s class are ESL students, they come from all over, and have given my students a new perspective on what it means to be “American”. Most notably, my students were beyond shocked to discover that not 1, but 2 of their pen-pals are also Muslim and had written some of their letters in Arabic.

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First letters, to the mail!

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My proud ladies

Project 3: What’s Up, English?

As co-leader of the English Language Society, I was responsible for helping the club form ideas for innovative projects they were to complete throughout the year. A group of girls and I decided that we wanted a way to encourage students to practice their English outside of the classroom. Enter, stage left: What’s Up, English?


4B ladies looking fly

The “What’s Up, English?” board features recent pictures, updates, motivational words, and student artwork. Most importantly, the wall is home to our English challenge. In this challenge, each form (1-5) can complete an English language puzzle, riddle, word search, writing assignment, and other various games each week. The class from each form that has the most students participating throughout the year will win an ice cream party with me and my ladies. The ice cream party will be happening sometime next month! Truthfully, the English challenge hasn’t been as successful as I would have liked; not many classes have students that participate consistently. However, I do have several students who will ask me on a weekly basis: “Miss! When will the challenge change? We want ice cream!” Hey, if ice cream is what will motivate them to try harder, that’s fine by me 🙂


Selfies are a necessity when completing a project

Project 4: The Green Wall

And finally, my favorite project of them all: The Green Wall. I’m not going to lie, I am extremely proud of this wall and of the students who were involved in its creation from start to finish.


Munirah, Zam, and Aino showing off their hard work!

At my national orientation in Kuala Lumpur in January, a representative from a local NGO called EcoKnights came to speak to the ETA’s about Malaysia’s environmental status. He also told us about an opportunity for us and our students: Anugerah Hijau (The Green Competition). In this competition, groups of 3 or less can submit a proposal in one of the following categories: Green Film, Green Space, or Green Fashion. The basis of each proposal for 2014 had to revolve around the theme “Energy and Malaysia”. This was great since I had been looking for a way to get my Environmental Club students involved in some sort of competition like this to give them experience with proposal writing, research, project development, and team work.


Three of my students, Munirah, Ifitzam, and Aino, expressed interest in submitting an idea for the Green Film category (woo!). Here’s what they wanted to do: they noticed that at our school, recycling is very limited. Everyday, students who go to the canteen for lunch and snacks use styrofoam containers, plastic cups, and plastic water bottles. Because there are no recycling bins in or around the canteen (it’s been unbelievably hard to arrange for a bin to be placed here), every single one of these one-use items is thrown in the trash or on the ground. Obviously, our school is just a microcosm of this enormous environmental issue. However, my students wanted to bring attention to this problem at our school by making a Green Wall. The purpose of the Green Wall is to serve as an educational exhibit that will encourage the creativity of Malaysia’s youth and will promote an environmentally conscious mode of thinking and living. The wall also serves to beautify an unused wall in the school’s courtyard and to inspire my students to create their own up-cycled projects. Most importantly, the Green Wall is a symbol: one of second chances, one of trash into treasure, and one of life emerging from the lifeless.


The process

1. Measure the length and height of the wall. Determine how many bottles can fit in that space (242).

2. Collect over 242 bottles (all of our bottles came from our school.

3. Cut a hole in one side of each bottle.

4. Paint each bottle (we painted them to simulate the darkness of being underground to keep bacteria from growing inside).

5. Poke holes in each bottle to allow a string to hang through both ends, as well as to allow water drainage.


Busy bees

6. Screw hooks in the ceiling of the wall.

7. Tie fishing line to each hook, and begin placing individual bottle on the strings (the bottles are held in place by tying metal washers to each end).

8. Insert potting soil and flowers into each bottle.


The first of the bottles being placed on the wall

The final result? Absolute beauty.


Our finished bottle wall. I couldn’t have wanted anything better

I wish I could live in one of the bottles like Thumbelina. The completed wall is still very new at the school, so I haven’t had the chance to speak with many of my students about it yet. The next step will be to have Munirah, Zam, and Aino do a student outreach program to help explain to their classmates what up-cycling is and why they made the wall.

For the record, my students were shortlisted as number 7 out of 72 submissions for the Green Film competition! The submissions were from Malaysians aged 13-29, including university students. We were the only secondary school from my state of Sarawak to be finalists! We are currently working on editing our movie to be submitted in a few weeks. We will travel to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, on October 17 to exhibit our movie for the other finalists, and to find out the winner of the competition. Wish us luck!


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