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Update on KIS after Cyclone Gaja

Dear Kodai Community,

I wanted to share an update on KIS and how we’re faring after the cyclone that passed through Kodaikanal yesterday.

The first and best news is that everyone is OK and in good spirits and the weather this morning is beautiful. I couldn’t be more proud of how all of us, students and staff, rallied together to stay safe and make the most of a scary and unsettling situation. The maintenance staff in particular were outstanding as they braved the elements to clear fallen trees and ensure access to Ganga campus and other areas of the school. Staff on both campuses did well to keep students safe, warm, and calm. We were responding all day to new situations as they developed and did our best to communicate information and instructions to our students, staff, and parents. I often say that KIS students are amazing and yesterday and today they have been proving me right. They have been patient, quick to follow instructions, and in many instances eager to help, at school and on their various compounds.

The unfortunate news is that six staff and/or staff families have been displaced and some homes have been destroyed. In addition to staff homes, we have sustained significant damage to school property. Trees have fallen on covered walkways, against buildings, atop cars, over compound walls, and across roads. The town of Kodaikanal is predictably now facing a diesel shortage so we are working to procure fuel from sources far and wide so that we can continue to run our generators. Transformers and generators have been damaged and there are houses and dormitories right now without electricity. We are also working to restore water to certain parts of the school. All of this will take more time and effort and we ask for your patience and support.

The heart-warming news is that, as always, our community has pulled together to support one another. Staff have welcomed displaced co-workers into their homes and are helping to clear debris and salvage personal belongings. Students are doing what they can to help, although for the time being we are trying to assess the damage and any remaining dangers before allowing our students to become involved in any major clean-up efforts. I was with a displaced staff member last evening and it was touching to witness how many students were calling him out of concern for his well-being. Some local parents were trapped at home, so their children spent the night in our dorms.

As bad as the damage has been, we are thankful because it could have been much worse. It is important to recognize that we have quite literally “weathered the storm” because of proactive planning and some foresight. Many trees that had posed a threat to dormitories were previously removed or topped, resulting in relatively little damage to student residences and significantly less risk to our students. Our maintenance staff have been well trained and were mobilized to take immediate and effective action. Also, from previous experience we knew that it was better to keep the school open and bring our students and staff to the relative security of our campuses and school facilities rather than leave isolated pockets of students in their dorms and potentially removed from access to food, water, means of communication, and medical care. In this regard I would like to recognize the boys of East House and the Bartlett Dorms for their patience into the evening as we waited for the storm to pass and assess the safety of East Hill, which sustained extensive damage.

No doubt, further lessons will emerge as a result of this storm and we are interested to receive any feedback that comes our way. We thank you for all of your prayers and support!

Warmly from Kodai,

Corey Stixrud
Principal

Champions of the Kodai Open Basketball Tournament

Last week we had a wonderful display of sportsmanship, camaraderie, dazzling skills and exceptional performances through the Kodai Open Basketball Tournament. This year we had 8 teams for the Boys’ league and 4 teams for the Girls’, with KIS represented by 2 Boys’ teams and one Girls’ team. KIS played host to schools from the local community in Kodaikanal and from nearby areas in the plains. Marvin Ambrose, Head of the Physical Education Department remarked that, “The tournament brings the community together and puts on display the young basketball talent in the area.

The 2018 edition saw the 8 Boys’ teams split into 2 pools and the 4 teams for the Girls’ Division competed in a round-robin league format. The KIS Boys’ B team put up a fight, but were edged out in the semi-final stage.

The Boys’ final saw a repeat of last year, with Annai Velankanni School (AVS) from Batlagundu facing-off against the KIS A team. However, the result was different this year. “It’s such a wonderful atmosphere, when you are playing in front of the home crowd, the whole school is on Covered Courts with you,” said Boys’ A team captain, Jothi, who will be graduating next May. The memories of last year’s loss was laid to rest with the final score of 73-56.

In the Girls’ Division we had KIS storm through the league to clinch the trophy. “We worked together as a team and stuck to the game plan, without getting carried away by the moment”, remarked Girls’ team captain Saniya, from the Class of 2020.

Catch a video that recaps the tournament on the KIS Facebook page >>

IB students at the Theory of Knowledge Conference

We recently had six of our International Baccalaureate (IB) participate in the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) conference hosted by the Pathways World School, Arvali. The conference brings together students and educators to freely share their thoughts and perspectives. The conference was held in from October 12-14 with 8 schools from across the country participating in this exciting journey of knowledge. Karuna Kurian from the Class of 2019 shares her views on participating in the conference.

During the TOK conference that we attended at Pathways School Aravali, each representative of KIS was assigned a different workshop in which we engaged in discussions, activities and debates revolving around a unique topic. Each workshop topic was centered around the core theme of the workshop: ‘Quo Vadis‘, translated “Where are we heading?” The conference aimed to address where humanity is headed and what our knowledge has to do with the future of our species.

During the conference, our minds were opened to new thoughts and ideas and we gained a new appreciation for TOK. We learned that TOK plays an essential role in our lives and were able to understand exactly why the IB has placed such importance on the subject. Through our interactions with IB students from around India, we were gained insight into a plethora of new thoughts, ideas and possibilities about the future and the impact that we as students (especially IB students) have on it.

It was truly an extraordinary experience to meet fellow IB students and discuss the future of the human race, a future that students like those at KIS are helping shape through the values that our school has nurtured within us.

Excerpts of KIS students presenting at the conference.

25th Anniversary Reunion at Kodai for the Class of 93

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The Alumni weekend was one of obvious nostalgia, but above all, a wonderful warmth, a deep sense of belonging, security, acceptance, renewing ties, all analogies of coming back home!

The drive up the Ghats stirred up memories with the divine fragrance of eucalyptus adding to our excitement of nearing our home in the Palani hills!

Memories of a sumptuous South Indian breakfast, on landing from our various cities, accompanied by the incessant chatter in the school bus; dear KIS, we are returning home!

We happily and systematically followed through on most school activities, all well planned for the alumni weekend, almost like being back at school. What stood out for most was just ‘being’ on the Flag Green. Just the joy of being alive and young again could sum up what we experienced that weekend!

We danced our legs off at Quad shot! Baked at the Arts Block! We enjoyed a grand banquet and a musical fantasy! Chatter over high tea with students and staff, following inspirational speeches at assembly. We hiked, or rather, panted up a hill to stay above the clouds! We toured the environmentally conscious campuses and snuck into our school dorms! We devoured the generous meals at the cafeteria, and Tibbs and Tawas threw in extra variety! We bought plenty memorabilia not wanting to miss any! Basketball, volleyball and racquetball added to our activity. We clicked photos of classrooms until our storage could take no more! We recounted school memories around bonfires with no one wanting to sleep! The kurunji flowers were in full bloom, adding to KIS’s beauty! The traditional class photo clicked in front of the school chapel stirred up sadness of saying goodbye once again.

I must end this nostalgic note, having said our goodbyes, with fondest school memories tucked safely in my heart! I urge you dear Alumni to visit, spread a good word, and may KIS and its legacy live on forever!

– Marushka Shah (Class of 93)

Behind the Scenes of the 2018 All School Play – Shrek the Musical

Lights! Music! Action! The whole school from preschoolers to Grade 12 are involved in getting ready for the school musical – Shrek, going to be staged on November 2nd and 3rd. We have all of the favorite characters, from the little mice to Donkey and Shrek practicing every evening.

This will be Robert Wood’s first time working with a pre-recorded sound track, as opposed to a live band. Robert states that the biggest challenge this brings, is ensuring that timings are correct. “The track remains constant, we need to work hard to make sure our choreography and singing is in sync with the music.”

This year Robert has had to take on assistance from volunteers and staff to put on this production. “It is a huge juggling act for students to find that ‘balance’ of staying on top of their homework and giving equal attention to all their other activities. I rehearse five days a week, but I cannot expect that of all staff and volunteers, so it is really good to have such talented people come and help us.”

Working hard with Robert is choreographer Natasha. This is Natasha’s third project with Robert and she is a dancer and choreographer from Russia, based in Chennai. “Natasha is eccentric, crazy and fun. She is really good with the kids, she intrigues them. Natasha calls the kids ‘caviar’ as they are ‘like little eggs that haven’t formed’,” says Robert.

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Our very own Venezuelan Voice Teacher, Cristina is the main Music Director of the play. This year a main challenge the production is facing is that they are working with many untrained singers, both young and old. Thus, Cristina has her hands full working with these students with various levels of singing during rehearsals.

This year Shrek and Fiona are fresh talent. Omeir Hamid, who plays Shrek, has all the character of Shrek, but no previous singing training. “So we have parent, Billy Yesudian, working closely with Omeir to get the rock and roll in his feet and build his stage confidence”, says Robert. An all time school favorite Aydn Luy, will be playing Donkey. Aydn has been working with Robert since 7th Grade.

Also, this year, we have our all-time favourite former staff alumnus Bob Granner, coming in and working with the smaller groups and some of the soloists. Mainly helping the kids find their harmonies and assisting Cristina. “Bob is working with the students on the piano, and then they will have to transition to the pre-recorded music.” In the 70’s, Bob too was known for his entertaining musical productions including the “King and I” in 1969. It is a great pleasure seeing him back in Kodai, helping the current school kids with the production.

Beth Winfred, who heads our Housing Department, is working on Costumes. She went all the way to Chennai, to select and purchase materials for the unusual costumes she has to make. “The costumes are a challenge to create, and to top it off, this year we plan to put a twist on the costumes. It is all a surprise, you will just have to wait and see!, she says.

And Yes! We cannot wait. Shows will be on November 2nd and 3rd. There will be 4 shows altogether, with two matinees open for local schools and colleges to attend. The Matinees will be followed by a short interactive session with the kids. November cannot come soon enough!

Kodai Open 2018

A staple feature of the KIS calendar is the Kodai Open Soccer Tournament which is conducted by KIS during the month of October. It is one occasion that brings the Kodaikanal community together and showcases the soccer talents of students and the local clubs in Kodaikanal. The 2018 edition was a Round Robin League Tournament where we had schools coming all the way from Kanchipuram, Dindigul and as always our neighbouring schools in Kodai.

The 2018 edition saw a total of 8 teams participating in 2 pools for the Boys’ Division and 4 for the Girls’ Division. KIS was well represented with 2 boys’ teams and a girls’ team, all fresh from winning their respective Championships in Ooty. Marvin Ambrose, Head of the Physical Education Department said, “We have some highly skilled footballers at KIS, who are committed to nurturing their talent and the results show for it.”

All matches had their share of excitement where we had a dazzling display of skills and sportsmanship. The Boys’ final was an all-KIS affair between our A and B teams who had emerged as their respective pool toppers. The game witnessed the B team display better control and speed which helped them secure the victory with a score of 3-1. Winning captain, Awad Kabir shared “It’s a wonderful feeling winning the championships both at Ooty and Kodai. Winning on Bendy, in front of the home crowd is extra special.”

In the Girls’ Division we had KIS storm to take the trophy by finishing on top of the pool. The KIS Girls’ team saw them edge out the SDAT Dindigul team by a score of 2-1 in a closely fought final game. “We wanted to make sure we kept the momentum on our side and stuck to the basics. It paid off for us and winning is surely a habit”, remarked Girls’ team captain, Rebekah Thomas.

Educating Cultural Sensitivity – People of the Palani Hills Museum and IB Drama Exposition

To be a true global citizen is to practice ‘cultural sensitivity’. Sensitivity, not just to cultures within an international community; but also to be sensitive to those cultures within your own locality. By partnering with INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Kodaikanal, KIS was able to provide a space to educate the public and make those who visited the projects, culturally sensitive and proud of their heritage.

The Pop-up Museum on People of the Palani Hills was a great learning experience put together by INTACH Kodaikanal, displaying the living stories of the indigenous people around the Palani Hills. Housed in the KMU, the museum was open to school children across Kodaikanal. Visitors were exposed to traditional art forms, the history of the communities, and the flora and fauna that influence the lifestyles of the people of the region. Tribal drummers and trumpeters performed outside on the KMU porch, proud to demonstrate their local art form to visitors.

Our IB Drama students also performed their monologues and well-researched script at the Box for visiting students. “I am so proud of this being my first graduating Drama Class, I had this idea and when I approached Priya of INTACH, she suggested we pair both the projects together”, said Robert Wood, High School IB Drama Teacher.

The students’ script was developed upon on their interviews and interactions with the tribal communities located in the Palani Hills. We visited communities in Palamalai, and Gundupatti. The community in Palamalai were part of plantation. Priya came as our translator” stated Robert.

The IB Drama Students overcame their language, cultural and socio-economic barriers to become culturally sensitive to the lives of the people they met. Robert elaborates further, “We ate, danced, and interacted with the elders. For some of our students, it was the first time they sat on the floor and ate off a banana leaf using their hands. Many of us were unfamiliar with the food they served us, as most of the vegetables served were gathered from within the forests. We were even taught drumming by the elders, and exposed two kinds of dancing: their performance dancing and their ritualistic dancing – which is done in a circle.”

The IB Drama students’ play titled ‘Kanakaraj’ was a culmination of their research and experiences at the villages. The story was set during the Labour Day Festival, when the village got together to celebrate with drums, dance and eats chicken curry. The characters were well defined and based on the real people that they had met. “Kanakaraj, the main character, was an 8-year old boy that the village had adopted as their own, and was seen as naïve and a child suffering from learning disabilities. His story really stood out to me and I wanted to make him the central character of our play” remarked IB Drama Student, Karuna Kurian. “The preparation of the chicken in the play is significant as meat is a rarity in their diet and is mainly eaten during festival time.”

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