Guiding Statements – One School’s Journey – American International School of Kingston

 ‘It’s your direction, not your intention, that determines your destination’.    Andy Stanley 

The Guiding Statements of any educational institution represent the foundation, the core, the basis for its existence. They are the ‘North Star’ for decision-making and strategic planning. Guiding Statements are anchors in rapidly changing educational climates, and are vital, as they inform members of learning communities as to exactly what “won’t” change; what the non-negotiables are.

When American International School of Kingston this past year set about to re-examine its Guiding Statements (Mission and Vision), all of the above played a role in the discussions and processes undertaken.

The goal was to enlist all stakeholder subsets with an inclusive, collaborative model as our guide.

What was the result of AISK’s efforts?

The community successfully redeveloped both its Mission and Vision that capture the essence of the school, what it values and where it is sees itself going forward.


‘Inspiring confident, critical thinkers to contribute and thrive in a diverse world.’


‘Our students shape the future.’

How did AISK come to the above as its new Mission and Vision, that when added to the existing Core Values, constitutes the school’s Guiding Statements?

Core Values:





If you are interested in the journey and the process undertaken, maybe as a ‘How To’, please, read on.


Guiding Statements

– American International School of Kingston – One School’s Journey –

The Goal:

– Redevelop the Mission and Vision for American International School of Kingston.

1. The Approach:

A macro to micro approach was undertaken, initially looking to the entire school community for input. Parent and student surveys were distributed with informal discussions held. As the process continued to unfold, it all funneled toward a 15-person team to get the project over the line.

2. Process and Data Gathering:

Data from initial Spring 2018 surveys was stored for future use.

In July, the 2018/19 school year commenced with Orientations organized for both new and returning teaching staff, administrators and office personnel. Later, students, parents and Board members took part in the process.

What began at New Staff Orientation with a discussion on empowerment and how buy-in leads to ownership, morphed into the idea that the school was ‘all of ours’, and was not the sole property of any one member or constituent group. As such, we all knew we played integral roles in defining the educational path to pursue.

We plunged in, utilizing Visible Thinking Routines, developed from Harvard’s Project Zero.

‘Thinking Routines loosely guide learners’ thought processes and encourage active processing.’                                                                                                              *Project Zero

New staff were a key component to the exercise and a logical place to start, as they had no pre-conceived expectations of the students, the school and really, the community itself.  They were a blank slate. When asked, ‘What makes an excellent school?’, and tasked with unpacking the question from multiple perspectives (student, teacher, parent), valuable new insight was added to the existing data. New teachers were quickly able to offer examples of best practice from all over the world.

Returning teachers the following week engaged in the same exercise and again we utilized Visible Thinking Routines.

We wanted as many voices ‘heard’ as was possible and the initial activities allowed for those individual voices to stand out in the large-group settings. Not just heard, but with the same value given to their thoughts and ideas as anyone’s. ‘Post It Notes’ was activity one, followed by the ‘Silent Conversation’.

A week following, parents and students were actively brought into the process at New Family Orientation Day. The Post It Activity served as the guide for this session.

At this point, we had gathered input from most subsets of the AISK family and were ready to take our findings to the next level.

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       3. Next Steps:

All data gathered was kept and displayed at each meeting, with contributors encouraged to wander the room and to carefully consider the thoughts presented and to build upon the work of others.

The further we immersed ourselves into the process, the more essential it became that narrowing the scope must include the valuing of previous work. If something new was added into the mix as the narrowing process was ongoing, there had to be a presentation to the greater group as to why to potentially include that aspect into the mix, as it had not been seen as crucial to the development of the discussions to date. This helped steer all from unnecessary trips down rabbit holes or from going rogue.

Key data was moved forward, while outlier data, although still valued, not prioritized at this stage. Data was funneled and thoughts and ideas were refined. The winnowing had begun in earnest.IMG_5779

Two weekend Board Retreat sessions were held with school and office administration to synthesize the data gleaned into potential Guiding Statements.

        4. Narrowing the Focus:

It was at this point in the process that groups watched ‘A Conversation with Dan Heath – Writing A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck’. **

The Heath video reminded us all to keep it simple and not to overthink it.

It also reinforced our understanding that we could not be everything for everybody.

Four and a half months of progress was now at the stage where all the data and notes and phrases from all the meetings and exercises and sessions could start to funnel toward a single phrase or sentence that would embody what American International School of Kingston stands for and where it sees itself purposefully and intentionally heading, moving into its next phase of development.


It was actually quite exciting and not without the occasional disagreement…or two….or….

This culminating phase in our Guiding Statements development occurred when information gleaned from the school’s handbooks, marketing materials, curricular documents and the like, was examined alongside our efforts, in order to gauge whether the data gathered from the various stakeholder sessions aligned with the school’s published materials and documents as well as with the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), AdvancED and Council of International Schools Mission Statements. There was a lot to consider.

It was crucial that the exercise stay grounded in the realities of what AISK is, or understands itself to be, and to build upon that introspective vision to draft a truly inspirational, valuable and organization-defining Mission and Vision.

We began the second day of the Board Retreat with a ‘Sentence, Phrase, Word’ exercise, with the intent to get the group laser-focused on what specific words held the greatest value. This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project.

Taking what an organization truly values and truncating it into 2 statements of 17 words total, now that was a challenge!

         5. How the Mission and Vision Aligned with AISK:


‘Inspiring confident, critical thinkers to contribute and thrive in a diverse world.’


‘Our students shape the future.’

The recurring thread that wove through all stakeholder meetings and was evident on numerous post it notes from various sessions was the idea that AISK students think critically.

Researcher Jane Qinjuan Zhang once said that critical thinking enables students to assess their learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, and allows them to take ownership of their education.***

Confidence was recognized as a vital skillset for learners looking to make a difference in the world and to ‘be the change’. By making a difference and contributing, it is implied that the student has within himself or herself a sense of purpose, empathy and compassion.

The student who can be seen as a confident, critical thinker who looks to not just succeed, but to actually thrive in a diverse world, that was seen as noble, yet attainable.

Moving to the Vision, where did the school see itself as going? What is its ultimate goal? AISK wants it students to move on from our classrooms and corridors and to use all the skills and attitudes the school helped them in nurturing and to use those to shape the world for future generations.







The ‘Shadow a Student Challenge’ – Revisited – Walking Another Mile….

In February of 2017, I joined school leaders from all over the World in the Shadow a Student Challenge (SASC). It was an experience that I will not soon forget, a sort of empathy deep-dive into the daily life of a Canadian International School student, a way to see the school through a slightly different lens, through the eyes of one of the students.

‘The Shadow a Student Challenge is a journey that starts with seeing school through your student’s eyes, identifying meaningful opportunities to improve the school experience for your students, and then taking action to create change at your school site’. Shadow a Student website

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 9.55.57 AM.png

The concept began a few years back when School Retool, the professional development fellowship that assists school leaders to ‘redesign school culture’ using hacks, visited the White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools.  The group said it would adopt ‘hacktivist’ techniques to face the challenge of school improvement.

Shadow a Student Challenge 2018

Where to begin?

I needed to select the student for the Challenge. After much thought and after getting some insight from one of our school Coordinators, success. Or…was it? I spoke to Grade 8 student, SV, a couple of days prior to Challenge Day 2018 and went through what my motivations were for once again taking part in the Shadow a Student Challenge and what I was hoping to achieve. He was not easily agreeable and wanted to know more about the Challenge itself. I went through the website with him and we spoke about what insights I gained from participating the previous year. I then spoke to his Homeroom teacher, and our CIS Contextual Learning Coordinator (who is also taking part in the SASC) who helped with his anxiety of having his HOS tag along with him and his peers for a day. Later in the day, satisfied with the process, SV was in! A quick letter home to his parents to sign off and we were set!

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018.

The day begins:
– 6:15 a m – Started looking for my uniform. Will it still fit? Haven’t worn it since the last Challenge!
– 6:20 a m – Couldn’t find it! Fortunately, my son is in IB 2 so I borrowed one of his uniforms.

Here we go!

Met SV at the buses at 8:00 a m and the day was officially underway.

Off to Homeroom…

What makes the Shadow a Student Challenge the valuable learning opportunity that it is, is the buy-in from the shadow student, the other students in the classroom and the teachers throughout the day. One cannot be seen as or felt to be the Head of School in a uniform wandering the halls. That won’t allow for the student buy-in. I was made to feel very comfortable in class right from the opening bell. I was the new kid and my new classmates were welcoming.

It amazes me how quickly the students can make the shift in mindset so easily…Mr Kells just became….Shane. And as I discovered in 2017’s Challenge, kids will open up and talk to adults, if adults are truly willing to listen. That was a major takeaway for me again this year. SV readily told me about his past school in the USA and how it differed from CIS. He detailed the program, school setup and student differences. Off to a good start.

Period One – we started out doing pushups in English class (as you do), but when SV broke into the one-armed variety, I just had to sit back and watch.

All of the day’s lessons were alive, with the students actively engaged. Middle School kids need to move and move they did. The teachers had the kids active and engaged and moving from segment to segment in the lessons, not allowing for the dreaded downtime or blahs to set in. Lessons were fast-paced and there was a buzz in the classes.

The 8 TA class personality proved a fluid construct. There were at least three personality types evident, each dependent upon who the teacher was during any given class. Interesting!

SVs friend group described to me why they chose ‘their spot’ for morning break, which just happened to be quite possibly the noisiest, most densely packed spot smack dab in the middle of the MS/HS Atrium. They just liked it there and it was ‘their spot’. Made for a lot of shouting to be heard, but again, I was welcomed in and made to feel one of the crew, if only for a day. After Break, SV waited for me, and then we headed to class. In fact, SV waited for me all day and was a willing and able ‘buddy’ throughout. And not just SV. So many of the students in Grade 8 were super helpful, asking if I knew where my next class was or if I needed anything. Made the new kid feel like part of the crew!

Lunch Break

You forget how when you were a kid, you used to play 6 on 6 or 7 on 7 basketball with everyone wearing the same uniforms, but you just knew instantly who was on your team. That was true today, too…for the kids…not for me. Can’t remember how many times I simply passed to the other team. Oh well…equal opportunity provider…

Club Block was chaotic…will leave it at that…..a 4th personality type??

Math and Social Studies were next up. In Math, we started the lesson with a discussion on dental hygiene, and how flossing can turn back the effects of tooth decay. Hmmm…I gotta look that one up! In Social Studies, I got to learn in a co-teaching environment, and that really kept things moving and at a brisk pace. The afternoon classes absolutely whizzed by and before I knew it, it was end of day.

While I thought the bus ride to Indiraganar quite long, SV and his crew at the back of the bus just got on with it. While some students snoozed, others looked over the day’s work and one even amazed me by the amount of Math homework he completed on the journey home! The students shared food and stories from the day and the ride was peaceful. I was told it was a ‘good day’ for traffic, which helped the passenger mindset too, I imagine.

A quick photo after dropping off SV at his stop and the day was done!

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What were the takeaways this year?

Did I rethink the student experience after the day?
Like in 2017, yes, absolutely. From the day set up, to the lunch timings to the room setup and furnishings, I came away with ideas for how the school might better meet the needs of its students.

Did everything that was brought up or discussed with me make it into this blog?
No, absolutely not (again this year). Let’s face it, Grade 8s can be silly at times. A lot of what was said and heard over the course of the day will not see the light of day in any Blog post.

Random comments, musings, sound bites jotted down on my iPhone during the course of the day:

  • ‘Don’t worry, that chair was already broken.’ (as I sat in one and heard a bit of a crack)
  • ‘Can I call you Shane?’
  • ‘This is great! I think we are going to win every game today!’ (overheard on the basketball court at lunch from one of my 3 on 3 teammates)
  • ‘Did you hear the bell?’ ‘Was that the bell?’
  • Hmmm…Why was I always the one ‘eliminated’ in Werewolf Club?
  • ‘You’re not running as fast as the other kids!’
  • Seriously, this many student iPad screens are cracked or shattered?

What were my takeaways?

  • Kids at CIS MS really do look out for each other and are kind…usually…
  • The kids really are all in this together (sorry for quoting High School Musical), not in separate cliques or groups
  • There is great respect evident for Gr 8 TA’s MS teachers
  • Gr 8 TA does not have ‘a’ personality, rather the personality changes from class to class, teacher to teacher
  • Technology was prevalent in classes, throughout the day, throughout Middle School
  • Kids will open up and talk to adults, if adults will truly listen
  • Gr 8 students, at least the boys, don’t eat! And I was so looking forward to lunch about half way through the morning!

Thank you SV and thank you to the teachers and students of Grade 8 TA.

Shadow a Student Challenge Day 2018 – a day well spent!

This just in….’Shadow a Student Day’ Blog critique from SV

I just spoke with SV at Morning Break today and asked him if he read the Blog post detailing my day with him and Grade 8 TA. He said he did, so I asked him for a critique.

He offered up the following takeaways.

  • Firstly, the detail of his day in my Blog, he thought, was sparse, with more emphasis placed on the overall class and the Challenge itself, and less on his inner circle and their journey through the day, their trials and tribulations.
  • Takeaway number two, he said, was that some teachers acted completely different than ‘normal’, while others just were business as usual with the HOS in the room as a student for the day. He said he was not expecting that.
  • Lastly, he said that he was not sure why he was referred to only as initials in the Blog. We then spoke of Child Safeguarding and what is too much information to give about students in a school.

The bell rang and we, or rather he, had to get back to class. I returned to my office to add to the Blog.

This Eco-Friendly Bengaluru School Is Generating Its Own Power – Written by Maya Sharma

Bengaluru | Written by Maya Sharma | Updated: January 20, 2017 08:52 IST


Follow up to my January 20th, 2016 Blog – A Sustainable Future At CIS – And The Future Is Now!  Posted on January 20, 2016

NDTV at Canadian International School – One Year To The Day Later.

Bengaluru:  With cleaner, greener renewable energy being the need of the hour, a school in Bengaluru is setting an example. The Canadian International School is not only producing its own power and supplying the surplus to the grid, it is also giving its students important lessons on the environment. At the school, located off the Airport Road in Yelahanka, the tropical sun beats down on solar panels spread across the rooftops.

Shweta Sastri, Executive Director of the school, told NDTV that the school had turned 20 years old recently and wanted to do something for the environment and the city.

“The power we produce is more than enough for the school’s needs. We are producing 5 lakh kilowatts per year. On a day like this, with peak sunlight, we produce about 300 kw per hour. We are definitely carbon neutral and on days the school is closed we are carbon positive,” she said.

The solar panels cost a considerable 3 crores to install, but there are incentives given by the Karnataka state government for this – and the school is also paid for the energy it gives the grid. And, with one panel kept on the ground for students to see, this is really what education is about.

solar panel 650
Sean, a student who worked on a solar project conducted by the school, said, “We have solar panels all around the campus, we can reduce greenhouse gases, because we are using power from the sun.”

Jessica of the seventh grade added, “It is just better for our environment and will stop global warming hopefully and encourage other schools to also take on this responsibility.”

And it’s not just solar energy that makes this school green.

There is a small biogas plant that helps teach students about the process.

Regis Caudrillier, Vice-Principal told NDTV, “We actually feed the left-over food from the cafeteria everyday – about one and a half to two kg. This goes into the plant and every day the plant produces a cubic metre of gas that goes to the stove in our cafeteria which is used for boiling vegetables and making tea and coffee.”

Composting – and growing of organic vegetables – is also done on the school premises.

Head of School, Shane Kells, believes it is very important to teach the students this way. “A lot of the kids are coming from a fast food culture and when you are talking about composting and growing your own plants.. it takes time. And kids see the time and effort involved, and hopefully they have more respect for the people who grow the food around the world.”

Originally posted:

Shadow a Student Challenge at Canadian International School ‘Walking a Mile In Their Shoes’

This past week, at Canadian International School, joining some 1500 school leaders around the World, I took part in the 2nd annual ‘Shadow a Student Challenge’. As the Shadow a Student website states, ‘The Shadow a Student Challenge is a journey that starts with seeing school through your student’s eyes, identifying meaningful opportunities to improve the school experience for your students, and then taking action to create change at your school site.’

The concept began a few years back when School Retool, the professional development fellowship that assists school leaders to ‘redesign school culture’ using hacks, visited the White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools.  The group said it would adopt ‘hacktivist’ techniques to face the challenge of school improvement.

Very lofty goals!

I was keen to personally be part of the challenge, mainly because I felt that, if you want to get a feel for the pulse of your school, you need only look to the students. It was an opportunity to take an empathy deep-dive and get in amongst it and in some way try to see the school through a slightly different lens, through the eyes of one of the students. I chose my shadow student, MH, who has been at Canadian International School since January of 2014 and is in Grade 10. No particular reason for choosing MH, apart from her coming up to me to ask a question at that exact moment I was contemplating which student I might wish to shadow.

I spoke to MH a couple of days prior to Challenge Day and went through what my motivations were for taking part in the Shadow a Student Challenge and what I hoped to achieve. It was then that she said that if I really wanted to know the student experience….I needed to take the bus!

So I did!

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With a bunch of thoughts swirling in my head, I set off to school, waiting out front of the house for Bus 18 to arrive. Once on board, it was off to school!

What were those thoughts?  I had many.  Would students be up for the idea and receptive to having their Head of School hanging with them for an entire day? Would they be open and freely discuss their thoughts of the school in a meaningful way? Would teachers react differently in the classroom with me sitting in? Would it all seem gimmicky?

I was about to find out.

When I arrived at CIS, I met MH at the bus bay and we headed off to Homeroom. There is not a lot of time from when the buses enter campus to when Homeroom begins and we actually arrived in Grade 10 CM after Homeroom was already in session. MH related that this was often the case. One certainly hits the ground running! A few quick updates from Mr Morton and the class was off, heading in various directions for Period One.

First up for us, Physics. It didn’t take long that morning for me to realize how long it has been since I last looked at some of the Physics subject matter. Note-taking seemed to help somewhat as I made it a point to write down as much of what was presented as possible. After class, it made me think, if I do the same amount of note-taking throughout the day, there would be a substantial amount of material for me to review and work on each night, much more than I thought.

French and double Biology followed. French was a very interactive lesson and I was thankful, that despite limited use over the years, my French hadn’t totally abandoned me. Mr Lapoujade kept the flow and the momentum throughout the lesson. I was very glad I brought my iPad, as we moved through Apps freely, allowing us students different learning experiences. Biology opened with a test, always a pleasure for a day one student! Fortunately, Ms Bowen eased any potential new kid anxiety by allowing me to spend the test time reading the appropriate chapters from the text upon which the test was based. Whew! Crisis averted! The second segment of the lesson was on the theme of cell division. For a double period, it went by surprisingly quickly.The lesson was vocab-heavy but students engaged really well with their teacher, Ms Bowen, and seemed to find the subject matter quite accessible.

Lunch began with the debate on whether to go to the Cafe Coffee Day or to the Cafeteria. A few of my new peers thought it unusual that I actually had a lunch card and money, and that either option of lunch venue was ok for me. After a back and forth, the Cafeteria it was. Although no seating at MS/HS is assigned, there seemed to be people sitting in ‘our spot’ so we had to make do elsewhere. Lunch conversation was enlightening and honest, very honest. Afterward, it was off to the tables next to Mr King’s office. For Grade 10s, this is really the only true down time in the day. Morning break goes by all too quickly with most just hanging near the PE boards. But lunch seemed a time to connect with friends and slow it all down, if only for a bit.

Math and English followed in the p m and by the end of Period Six, I was pretty much ready for the day to end. Not being used to sitting so much, I was finding myself struggling somewhat to keep focused on the Inherit the Wind discussion, and I think Ms Devika sensed that and had the students give me a quick story recap about half way through class, just to mix it up. It wasn’t so much the length of day that got to me late in Period Six as it was the stationary nature of the student experience. I am not used to that, to say the least.

And then came the end of day.

When I stand and do car park supervision each day’s end, it seems such a long, drawn-out activity, but for most students, that time is pretty much; get out of class, say good bye to friends, then get on the bus. The time slips by quickly.

Buses are not exactly Range Rovers, so comfort was not completely expected, but I thought there might be a chance I could start on this blog while on the way ‘home’. Not so much. I spoke with several of the students, and homework, or even reading for that matter, simply are not options. The bouncing and jarring makes it just too hard to get things done, apart from maybe listening to music or talking with friends. But, they were ‘vets’ and well prepared for the long trek home, and as the bus pulled off campus, the ear buds were already out and the tunes selected. Still, it isn’t every day the Head of School hops on the bus so most were willing to talk and I was hugely impressed that so many were willing to talk freely about school, the future, their uncertainties and what annoys them. Good insight gained for sure!

It was a 2:45 p m day, so most students returned to their homes at reasonable times. Reasonable times, as it was early dismissal Monday, but only after what for some were very long bus rides.

And then it was over. The last student was dropped and Sriram turned the bus and we headed back CIS way.

All is all, a terrific day in the classes!

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Thoughts and Remarks

Firstly, I want to thank MH for letting me tag along with her for the day. You had a great attitude, MH, and you made it easy for me to be one your crowd for the day, even if I didn’t quite fit in! Not so sure your friends were as thrilled to have me sitting there with them at lunch and standing and walking with them at break, but, all for a good cause; getting the student perspective with the central goal of school improvement.

Did I rethink the student experience after the day?

To a large extent, yes. It certainly did make me think about a lot of things I would not necessarily have thought about on the day, that is for certain. For instance, MH, among others spoke of the importance of teachers applying what is being taught in class to the real world, and that ‘the test’ is not always the ideal motivator for students.

Appreciation for those teachers who give of their time and make efforts to truly connect with their students was noted. Along those lines, I was told that staying after school for activities or events that really appeal to students and deeply interest them is seen as entirely positive, and time well spent, even if it means getting home late.

MH values the friends she has made at school and looks forward to seeing them each day and CIS is viewed in a very positive light and that was certainly encouraging to hear.

Did everything that was brought up or discussed with me make it into this blog?

Absolutely not. And again, I need to thank all the students I interacted with, but MH and AG in particular, for being open and honest enough to get the conversations past the ordinary, past the ‘sure is hot today’ and toward topics of higher significance to many students of CIS. I have already met with school administration and debriefed. Some actions are already in motion and we have a few ‘hacks’ in mind as well.

And more than what ‘hacks’ or informal improvements can be garnered from the conversations with the students, I am thrilled to hear from so many of the staff of CIS that they would like to take part in subsequent ‘shadows’. Brilliant! Let’s do it! There is so much to be gained.

This wasn’t just about the Head of School getting the student perspective, as it turned out. It was also about the student getting the Head of School perspective, and I thought it a great question when asked what I would be doing on that day if I were not part of the Shadow a Student Challenge and then asked what my day generally looks like.

All in all, it was time well spent. This challenge is something that I would highly recommend to any school administrator or teacher.


Some of the random comments taken down on my iPhone during the day?

  • Cool morning to be waiting for a bus in a polo shirt and shorts!
  • These wooden chairs are not comfortable!
  • I thought the wooden chairs were uncomfortable! These lab stools!!!
  • Was that the ES bell or the MS/HS bell?
  • Did I really just write 7 pages of notes in Physics class!
  • Maybe I still know a bit of French after all!
  • A double period can be a long time…or not!
  • Nothing like open and honest lunch table talk!
  • The day really ebbs and flows.
  • My mind is wandering.
  • Are we there yet? (Whitefield)

What were MH’s and her peers thoughts from the day?

  • Teaching styles differ among teachers.
  • Expectations differ between different teachers.
  • The bus is the toughest part of the day and buses are not conducive to reading or writing!
  • The short time between classes is a constant challenge.
  • Staying engaged in classes sometimes takes effort.
  • Students will gladly stay behind after school for activities they really enjoy, like Drama.
  • Students are appreciative of the teachers who make an effort with them.
  • Students view CIS very positively.
  • The friends and the peer associations at CIS are deeply valued.

What were my takeaways ?

  • Students want authentic learning.
  • Students probably need to say, ‘I don’t get it’ more often when in doubt.
  • Students are most willing to talk, if others are willing to listen.
  • The HS kids think a lot about their futures and their options.
  • Students enjoy CIS and have positive attitudes about being students here!

A Sustainable Future At CIS – And The Future Is Now!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

How many times have we heard those three words over the years?  Lots! Schools, businesses, social organizations and communities have long been extolling the virtues of  a greener, more environmentally efficient and safer planet originating with the simple but effective refrain of the three Rs, reducing what we consume, reusing what we can and recycling as much as possible.

Canadian International School, in Bangalore, India, like most schools around the globe, has been doing its part to ensure that it consumes less and reuses more.

Over the past 5 years, CIS has introduced a multitude of initiatives to campus.  Its bio-gas tank helps to offset the gas used by the Cafeteria in the preparation of meals and hot drinks. Five large compost units, or agas as they are known locally, are now composting all organic materials from the Cafeteria, using the organic bi-product to fertilize Contextual Learning’s plot and Butterfly Garden as well as the other cultivated green areas on campus. The organic garden is in its third year of operation, and with the mesh roofing now in place, the plants are thriving. Water harvesting tanks have also been installed around campus, with five operational units currently in use.

The students and staff collect all manner of recyclable materials, with juice boxes being regularly donated to the local NGO, Sparsha, where the ladies use the materials to weave into handbags, wallets and even iPad pouches.  Paper is also recycled on campus, with collection receptacles located in various locations across the site.  Recycle bins are now firmly part of the landscape, with waste materials collected and separated from re-usable materials.

There has been no shortage of collectives and individuals willing to join in, with two environmental groups on campus primarily leading the way.  The Middle School’s Contextual Learning cohort does much of the groundwork in class and during Club Block, while the Green Committee, led by dedicated teachers, plays a key role and is at the moment focusing on the Cafeteria and looking to minimize the amount of consumable waste there.

So, what is next?  Which direction do we take as a school to push the envelope and take it to the next level?

The Canadian International School Board of Directors has stepped in at this stage and has raised the ante, so to speak. I recently met with CIS Chairman of the Board, Ramani Sastri and we spoke at length about future CIS initiatives, the most exciting of which being the school’s imminent transition to solar power.

CIS is now committed to a future powered by solar energy, produced through thin film solar cells (second generation of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells), a product of the Japanese firm, Solar Frontier.

It is a big step for the school and one that puts it at the forefront of the now, well-established, green revolution.

With the school consuming approximately 35,000 kWh (unit of electricity) monthly, there is certainly ample rationale for the switch to solar.

The plan to use a thin film technology from a Japanese solar manufacturing company called Solar Frontier. They are the world’s largest provider of ‘CIS’ thin-film solar energy solutions. ‘CIS’ is a compound of Copper, Indium and Selenium (CIS).

Solar Frontier’s ‘CIS’ modules have a low temperature coefficient, enabling them to generate more power than crystalline silicon panels in hot conditions.

The school is installing a 300 KW solar plant. Each solar panel has a capacity of 160 Watts, therefore we will be deploying 1875 Solar Panels.

Solar panels will convert the sun’s energy to electricity. They are warranted for performance for 25 years while they continue to produce electricity for the next 40 years. There is a 0.5% degradation in performance every year.

The solar panels will produce DC (direct current) power and convert that to AC (alternating current) using inverters. The inverter ensures that the solar power is first consumed into the buildings and only the excess is exported to the grid.

By way of example, in case the building is consuming 2000 units of electricity per hour and the solar system is producing only 500 units per hour, then the balance 1500 units per hour will come from the grid.

In case the building is consuming 500 units of electricity per hour but the solar system is producing 600 units of electricity per hour then the balance 100 units of electricity per hour are exported to the state grid, which can be used by others.

In case the solar energy produced is more than the electricity consumed in the months of vacations, the electricity utility will pay Canadian school for the electricity that they exported.

Since there are no moving parts, the maintenance involved is only periodic cleaning of the panels, so that they can capture maximum amount of solar energy.


What is a bonus for students is that they will be able to do hands-on research using the system, once it is up and running, as CIS is setting up a weather station with temperature, wind solar radiation sensor and complete automation system, so students will be able to log in and see the electricity produced by each of the different roofs. They will be able to understand the correlation between the ambient temperature, cloud cover, incident solar energy and the power produced.


From humble beginnings, the Canadian International School green initiative has blossomed and is soon to reach heights scarcely imagined just a few short years ago.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
                                                                                                          Margaret Mead


Students in Action

– ‘The Indomart’ –

Entrepreneurialism – alive and well at Canadian International School

What started as one student’s outlet to come to terms with some of his feelings of loneliness in a new country at a new school has bloomed into an entrepreneur’s dream, a thriving small business with a captive and hugely appreciative and enthusiastic clientele.

November of 2013, CIS IB 1 student, Prashant, approached school administration with a scenario of opening a Boarding Tuck Shop. He had the plan in his head already and took the administrators through a Keynote presentation on his idea for the small business that would be run by Boarding students solely for Boarding students. His intention was to secure a micro loan from the school, with a repayment plan as part of the proposal. From there, he would look to solicit ideas and suggestions from fellow students of Boarding with respect to the gamut of next steps, from…what to call the shop, how soon to pay back the loan, where to get the shelves and equipment from and then what to stock on the shelves and how to market the business.

Prashant’s idea gained momentum among the Boarding students and within 6 weeks from presenting the idea, the ‘Indomart’ was born.

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The initial structure was fairly basic in design.

There was no shortage of volunteers that first year, and the enthusiasm among the students for snacks and drinks now available to them was high.

The original Indomart space was a pass-through window outside of the Boarding Lounge, leading onto the front walkway. Employees would serve students from the inside of the building. This made storage of consumables somewhat awkward, as they would be piled in the very much-used common area. Nothing seemed to matter that first year as the desire for the tuck shop was high enough that logistics became a thing to be worked out later.

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The stock was kept using business software and profit/loss statements were created and shared with the CIS Administration and the Finance Department monthly.

Within 11 weeks, profits from the Indomart repaid its initial micro loan to the school and it has been on cruise control ever since.

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Over the past 18 months, the Indomart has accepted the donation of a cold drinks refrigerator, has added an ice cream freezer and developed name branding, with the introduction of the ‘Indomart’ logo and store-front signage.  The Boarding Cafe, a 5 table and 20 seat relaxation area has been fitted into the atrium next to the Indomart, and now allows for clientele to enjoy their drinks and snacks in a comfortable and picturesque setting outside the dormitory.

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Prashant later in its first year of operations said, ‘as the Student Leader of Indomart, I would like to express my immense appreciation to those who have helped in making this venture a success, from the cleaning staffs, drivers, boarding parents, boarding manager, vice principal, principal, head of school, accounts department, marketing department, and lastly, my fellow boarders’.

Now in the hands of Grade 10 student, Naren, the Indomart is reaching new heights and has plans to use profits from the venture to fund items for the CIS Boarding students and the dormitory. First up, I am told, a DSLR camera.

After that, who knows? The sky is the limit.

Much has changed since the Indomart’s auspicious beginnings, with Prashant’s original vision now helping transform the Canadian International School Boarding environment.

Contextual Learning at Canadian International School – What is it all about?

Why is Canadian International School involved in Contextual Learning in the Middle School years?

What is the value of experiential learning?

I have been asked these on more than a few occasions.

The goal of Contextual Learning is to involve and inspire students, to empower them, to get them asking perplexing questions and to gain deep and meaningful insights as they seek their answers. It opens the door for them to develop leadership skills, public speaking skills, and a sense of community service. The World needs students with a serious understanding of the global community and their part therein.

Now in its second year at CIS, CL has grown to become a staple of the school’s curriculum of studies. The on-site and on-campus strands truly offer something for everyone. The rich, meaningful learning experiences offered in Contextual Learning we know will be valued by our Middle School students for the rest of their days, in school and beyond.

The school’s Contextual Learning literature states that  CL is divided into three stages:

– Preparation: in the classroom
– Discovery: on-site
– Reflection: in the classroom

Each year is centered around an on-site experience that has been designed to challenge the child and highlight an underlying fundamental.

6th grade: Self-Awareness

Self awareness is not brought through routine, but through change. It is when faced with the unknown that the CL students get a better chance to learn who they truly are.

7th grade: Understanding

Understanding happens when we truly appreciate an-others point of view. This deep immersion broadens the students’ capacity for acceptance and shows the intertwined relationship between family, culture, religion and government.

8th grade: Compassion

Compassion requires empathy, and empathy can be best established by concretely helping other people, animals, and our planet – on the ground.

How can schools be more receptive to what individuals require with respect to acquiring working skills in the future?

Experiential learning (CL) is one such avenue that needs exploration.

I recently came across an article on jobs in the future.

‘The Top Jobs In 10 Years Might Not Be What You Expect’

In it, he writes:

Professional Triber?
Related to Codrington’s personal worker brand coaches and managers will be the role of what he calls the “professional triber,” says Joe Tankersley, a futurist and strategic designer at Unique Visions. Tankersley says that as more companies rely on on-demand workers, the role of a professional triber—a freelance professional manager that specializes in putting teams together for very specific projects—will be in demand. 

The professional triber is “the Hollywood model dispersed across the general workplace,” says Tankersley. Just as Hollywood studios don’t themselves hire the individual cinematographer, editor, scriptwriters, and actors to make a movie, neither will companies of the future want to hire individual components of a team to get a job done.  Instead, they’ll turn to the professional triber, or director, to let them assemble the team they think is most appropriate to complete the project. Companies, just as Hollywood studios do with directors, will keep working with the same triber, provided his varying teams keep producing hits.

Personal Worker Brand Coaches and Managers?
“At TomorrowToday, we’re predicting that nearly 25% of today’s full-time employees will be working ‘on demand,’” says Codrington, referring to the increasing preference of companies to hire freelancers for short contracts when the need arises instead of keeping people on staff.

Currently the on-demand economy is popular in the creative fields or for the odd personal-services job, but Codrington notes that almost any job that can be done at a digital distance will be attractive for companies to opt for freelancers over staff, even when looking to hire “top-end professionals who can solve significant problems for companies.”

Urban Farmers?
Though technology continues to move the world into the virtual space, the 21st century may see the return of local farming due to the number of people living in urban areas and the increasing awareness of the detrimental environmental impacts of industrial farming.  “Small artisan farmers will continue to grow in numbers as urban farming becomes a small but significant part of the food chain,” says Tankersley, who believes that individuals and companies will spring up to teach and assist amateur urban farmers lead a healthier and more eco-conscious life.

These jobs did not exist a mere couple of years ago, now they are being seen as career paths of the future by people such as Grothaus.  Realizing that skill sets will need to change and that students today require more real world applicable skills, such as those taught in non-traditional experiential learning programs, needs to be the norm rather than the exception.