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Women Empowerment and Eco-feminism in the Palani Hills

The KIS Center for Environment and Society recently conducted a two-day workshop on Women Empowerment and Eco-feminism. It was part of the Center’s ongoing efforts in the Kodaikanal community to spread more awareness about the biodiversity of the Palani Hills. The workshop was organized for 45 girls from rural Kodaikanal, who are students at the Kodai Grihini Community College. Grihini College’s mission is to meet the educational needs of poorly educated young women across villages in the Palani Hills. Some of the students had previously worked as street sweepers, agricultural and building laborers.

The purpose of the workshop was to empower these girls with environmental and financial literacy, so that they can make environmentally-conscious decisions. For example, water scarcity would make household chores difficult and rural women may be forced to walk great distances to get water for the family. Through the workshop, the topics on eco-feminism highlighted the strength and role these girls can play in protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.

Our Grade 10 Social Experience (SoEx) students were also involved in the workshop, interacting with the participants and also presenting some of their social and environment projects. Hanna from the Class of 2021 remarked, “This program of empowering rural village girls, really opened my eyes to the lives of other people. We can often forget how privileged and lucky we are, and what we did at the workshop reminded us of this.”

The workshop was designed through a collaborative effort between Dr. Rajamanikam, member of the KIS Social Experience Department and a KIS Staff Alumni and Principal at Grihini College, Ms. Dency Michael. “Grihini is a family and in that family I am an Akka (older sister). We are committed to helping the last of the least, the poor in the villages who are thought to be unintelligent. Workshops such as these add much value and provide greater opportunity for these women. The involvement of the KIS community in Grihini, especially the students, cannot be understated,” shares Ms. Dency.

The workshop was designed to include lectures and interactive sessions on a variety of topics, ranging from Financial Literacy to Climate Change. The owner of the Pine Dale Nursery, Ms. Ashitha Jayapradeep, provided insight on Women Entrepreneurship and shared her journey of establishing and running a business. The workshop included a nature trail to the Bombay Shola, where the young women were introduced to native trees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Not only they were excited to see some wildlife, they also voluntarily contributed to the efforts of removing trash from the Shola road.

Members of the KIS Social Experience Department talked to the students about eco-feminism, the environment and highlighted the unique biodiversity of the Palani Hills. Grade 10 students taught participants some self-defense and basketball techniques. Sarah (Class of 2021), who gave a powerful presentation in Tamil on personal hygiene, remarked that “It was an honor sharing this information with the girls and I really hope it was beneficial to them. I had a great time and would love to have the opportunity to do it again”.

Photo Albums, Third Quarter of the Academic Year 2018-19

We are happy to share with you some of our favorite photographs from the KIS community during the past quarter.

Tahr Camps – Middle and High School
Republic Day 2019

Alumni Weekend
Obstacles Off-Course
KIS Unplugged
Interact Club Installation by Rotary Kodaikanal
Spirit Week – February 2019
Elementary School Fun Day
Elementary School Talent Show

A Record-Breaking Field Day

On a warm sunny day of summer, the sky beat down everyone’s faces clobbered with sunscreen. Beginning of March had brought the KIS community together to Bendy field. The green field was bathed in the warmth of the glowing sun. Tracks drawn on the field indicating engagement and competition. Orange, Blue and White were swaying with dignity and honor.

Field Day 2019 was astounding to say the least. It seemed like the record of every other event was being beaten. Accomplishing success and victory has never been easy, there are times when dreams of success seem far away. Field Day is a platform for people to show their diverse talent, exposing one’s physical athletic abilities. A field divided into three colors Orange, Blue and White, yet unified with the aim of bringing out the best in each other.

Rosita Collision and Nischaya Shrestha as the school captains led the division captains in ensuring the spirit of sportsmanship would reign during the proceedings of the weekend. The field was occupied, not a single place was vacant with life and passion in every corner. Participants were performing with full endeavor, while the remaining were supporting them through screams, cheers and chants. The field was filled with hopeful enthusiasts rooting for one another.

After each and every event, people on the field learnt a new thing, acceptance. Accepting loss and victory through the performance of their house members. As numbers only increased on the scoreboard people were more nervous about whose number increased faster and more, the competition was heated but the energy never faded.

With a smashing point total of 1059, the Blue Hawks are now the reigning champions for the third year in a row. We’ve got our very own young awe-inspiring athletes who trained extremely hard every day, just to make history in the KIS record books.

Records set at Field Day 2019

  1. Division A Boys – 400-meter Dash
    • New time of 54.53 seconds set by Prashant Sarkar (Class of 2019) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 55.00 seconds set in 1973 by Henry Poetker (Class of 1973)
  2. Division A Boys – 1500-meter Run
    • New time of 4 minutes 44.00 seconds set by Jakob Wuthrich (Class of 2020) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 4 minutes 46.37 seconds set in 1981 by Mark Dencker (Class of 1982)
  3. Division B Boys – Discus Throw
    • New distance of 33.03 meters set by Aryan Patel (Class of 2021) from the White Horses || Previous record: 32.71 meters set in 2006 by Ujen Norbu Gurung (Class of 2008)
  4. Division B Boys – Long Jump
    • New distance of 6.37 meters set by Sunwoo Park (Class of 2021) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 6.04 meters set in 2009 by Jigmi Samkyi (Class of 2011)
  5. Division B Boys – High Jump
    • New height of 1.77 meters set by Sunwoo Park (Class of 2021) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 1.70 meters set in 2006 by Pathros Alex (Class of 2009) and tied in 2013 by Chayin Ninnernnon (Class of 2015)
  6. Division B Girls – High Jump
    • New height of 1.49 meters set by Maya Sarkar (Class of 2022) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 1.46 meters set in 1965 by Margaret Kapenga Shurdom (Class of 1968) and tied in 1986 by Alice Joseph (Class of 1987) and 1987 by Karin Lockwood (Class of 1990)
  7. Division B Girls – 1500-meter Run
    • New time of 5 minutes 55.00 seconds set by Hanna Wüthrich (Class of 2021) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 6 minutes 28.13 seconds
  8. Division C Boys – 800-meter Run
    • New time of 2 minutes 27.54 seconds set by Aamir Shapurkar (Class of 2024) from the Orange Tigers || Previous record: 2 minutes 36.12 seconds set in 2016 by Dominik Wüthrich (Class of 2020)
  9. Division C Girls – Discus Throw
    • New distance of 24.83 meters set by Koushika GK (Class of 2023) from the Blue Hawks || Previous record: 21.14 meters set in 2018 by Koushika GK (Class of 2023)
  10. Division D Boys – High Jump
    • New height of 1.37 meters set by Len Hangsing (Class of 2025) from the White Horses || Previous record: 1.23 meters set in 2006 by Leo Granner (Class of 2012)

As you can tell, KIS is just as aggressive as it is loving. And each house is filled with some mind-baffling go-getters when it comes to athleticism. School spirit continues to shine, and its colors continue to fly publicly at every Field Day.

– Diya Shrestha (Class of 2022) and Shivangni Saha (Class of 2022)

Photo Albums, First Semester of the Academic Year 2018-19

The KIS community had an action-filled first semester with fun & excitement. We are happy to share with you some of our favorite photographs.

KIS Care Week

Grade 10 Camp

Carnival

Independence Day Celebrations

Writers’ Workshop

Fall Festival

Dorm Dance Competition

NHS Talent Show

Spirit Week

Kodai Open Basketball Tournament

Christmas Banquet

 

KIS Awarded for Excellence in Environmental Awareness

Kodaikanal International School (KIS) joined the Green Schools Alliance in 2014, and has been committed to be a pioneer for environment protection and sustainability in the region. This has led to KIS receiving the Award for Excellence in Environmental Awareness from the International Aqua Foundation, which is given for significant achievement at the national or international level for Environment, including Water, Energy, Earth Sciences, Pollution Control, and Sustainability Solutions.

For this Award, KIS was recognized for its vital role of promoting Environment Awareness and Enhancing Water Efficiency. It was the only school amongst a number of government agencies, NGOs, corporations, and individuals nominated for the various awards. Clarence Maloney (Class of 1952) was asked by KIS to go and receive the award, at the XII World Aqua Congress, held in New Delhi on November 22-23.

In recent years, KIS has easily moved to emphasize modern environment issues, such as energy, water, recycling, and biodiversity, because of its long emphasis on nature. The school’s various academic, social, and community projects, and especially its Hiking and Camping Program, are well known for encouraging students to experience nature. “Students should develop a respect for the environment, both in terms of understanding individual and collective impacts, and as agents of change toward a healthier and more sustainable planet,” says Clarence Maloney.

In January 2016, KIS was recognized by the Green Schools Alliance as a Green School of the Month, for its achievements as regards solar panels, solar water heaters, water purifiers, roof water collection, groundwater recharge, drinking fountains, sewage treatment and re-us; also for trash recycling and composting, sholai (native) tree planting, waste flat paper re-use, etc. As a part of the holistic KIS education, all students take practical coursework in the Social and Environment Experience Department (SEED) on topics such as water resources, energy conservation, food waste, plastics, and global warming and are required to perform community service (installation of smokeless stoves, composting, native tree planting, sorting recyclable, clean-up around town, etc.).

Students can take the International Baccalaureate (IB) course, “Environmental Systems and Society” for a higher level of awareness. Also, many of them conduct their IB Senior Research projects on environment issues, such as anti-virus resistance and anti-fungal resistance in lake water, water quality below the town dump, effect of chemical fertilizers, and vermiculture of food waste.

These Palani Hills are a “sky island” at 2200m altitude, part of the Western Ghats which is one of the most biodiverse but threatened areas of the world, and has the large Kodaikanal Wildlife Reserve. KIS collaborates with the Forest Department, Municipality, and local schools and societies such as the Palani Hills Conservation Council, and INTAC. The school also has a 140-acre campsite, where students learn more about vegetation change and wildlife.

KIS is now setting up an Environment Education Center, where students, tourists, and researchers, can learn more about the ecology of these hills, as well as world issues of warming and ocean rise. This Center will be self-sufficient in energy, water, sewage treatment, and recycling, as an example.

Act to Perform Well – Shrek the Musical Takes to Stage!

“‘Be honest, be bored, be angry, and be sad…’ This is what I coach teachers to do in their classrooms,” states former KIS IB HL English teacher, and Theatrical Director Bob Granner.

Mr Granner was part of the age-old tradition at KIS of staging theatrical performances. Almost every year, without fail, Kodaikanal International School has opened its doors to the community, and staged a performance or more. Bob has staged plays like ‘the King and I’, ‘Sound of Music’ in the 70s, and ‘The Christmas Carol’ in the 90s. This year, Bob has come on a vacation to Kodai to assist Director Robert Wood in his production ‘Shrek the Musical’ that was staged on November 2 to 4, 2018.

“Students and teachers alike are always under pressure to perform ‘well’ in their classrooms. On stage, they can expose themselves to different roles and situations, and exercise their emotional vulnerability. Drama magically brings out that honesty,” Bob describes. Mr Granner goes on to say that from his experiences with Theatre, it is a great way of establishing deep connections with the students that you cannot do behind a desk or in a classroom. In Theatre, students take risks and gain confidence in their ideas and abilities, making them more than what they believed they could be.

Previously, Drama used to take the sidelines of a curriculum and today, globally, Drama is being recognized and the ‘heart and soul’ of education. Across the globe, classrooms adopt theatrical methodology into their teaching skills, from elementary, all the way up to high school. Theatre classes provide and outlet for students to make creative choices, interpret material and messages, and think new ways of expression.

Through theatrical performances, students learn to work collaboratively as a team, develop a sustained focus of their mind, body, voice. They learn to trust through social interaction with others, trust in themselves, others and in the process and journey of the production.

Bob Granner describes the opportunity for students to perform, that which is unique to their entire emotional development. “Being on stage is more a revelation of who the person is, and yet they are pretending too. On stage, you can laugh, scream, cry and allow your deeper person to come out. This allows us, the staff member, to connect with that individual”.

Earlier this month, KIS Students continued the tradition of Theatrical Performances at KIS. It was three days of outstanding, high quality performances of ‘Shrek the Musical’. Students of all ages learnt to work collaboratively, and cooperatively. They learnt to focus on timings, body language and presence on stage. Some of the main characters were exposed for the first time to performing, and worked hard to improve their presence on stage.

The choreography, stage and costumes amazed its viewers, bringing to life the 2001 DreamWorks animation. They took their audience through a journey of laughter, excitement and awe. The performance was open to larger Kodai community to watch, giving students from all over Kodai and social backgrounds the opportunity to enhance their imagination and create an appreciation for the arts and live performances.

The team of students in ‘Shrek the Musical’ just like many others performers before them, have created memories for themselves and for others that will last a lifetime!

Hiking in the Palani Hills through the Ages

Over the years, KIS has taken advantage of its unique location at 7000 feet in the Palani Hills, providing students an unparalleled experience of the environment and extraordinary adventures with nature. As a part of #LetsCelebrateKodai, we interviewed three seasoned hikers and Tahr Pin winners over the years: Barbara Block (BB), Kevin Jayaprakash (KJ) and Sakthiuma Thandauthapani (ST).

Barbara attended KIS from 1967 to 68 (Grade 2 and half of Grade 3), and 69 to 71 (Grade 5 to 7). At that time, the hiking program was only for HS students (9-12). She currently has 25 Tahr Pins, which is every year she was not on sabbatical.

Kevin attended KIS from PreSchool to Grade 12 and graduated in 2002.  He started Hiking in Grade 6 and currently has 10 Tahr Pins.

Sakthi started hiking since joining KIS in Grade 8 and has got 4 Tahr Pins so far, this year marks her winning the Gold Pin.

Hiking 1

1. Who/What influenced you to take up hiking?

BB: My parents hiked and my childhood memories include hikes in the Rocky Mountains, and climbing ancient Forts in Telangana). John Wiebe, my Grade 6 teacher, was an avid hiker and camper. He arranged class activities for us, and many of these were hiking or even an overnight class sleep-overs (on the verandah of an old building).

ST: I wanted adventure. When I was in Grade 8, the daily school routine was monotonous; we woke up in the morning, got ready for school, caught a bus to go to a different campus and came back to dorm. I wanted to try something new, so I tried hiking which was very adventurous. I chose hiking for getting the thrill out of it.  

2. What motivates you most about getting into the Palani Hills?

BB: When I came to teach at Kodai in January of 1988, joining the hiking program the next fall, was a given. I crave being outdoors, and love looking at the ever changing scenery that hikes provide me.  Even after many times, the same route has new discoveries and treasures to enjoy.

KJ: The Palani Hills has a wide variety of flora and fauna that you are not exposed to staying in the town.  In addition, the varied landscapes and the extent to which you are able to understand the diversity of the region that you are in and how it changes and the impacts continues to take you out into the hills.  Also the peaceful surroundings just gives you that sense of relief after a long week.

ST: The beautiful scenery and the amazing flowers protected by the trees and the animals present there.

Hiking 5

3. How have the routes/environment/scenery changed over the years? If at all.

BB: Almost all hikes started by walking out the school gate, it was rare to drive to the start of a hike. Now, to avoid traffic, and sometimes to access further away hikes (Kukkal to plains, Moolayar to Rattail), we often drive the first hour. With challenges to hiking on Forest reserve land (which now is ALL forest, not just Berijam reserve), more of our hikes now go through village and plantation land, following the roads/trails used to move food and produce, only touching on the forest land at times.

KJ: Over the years, certain areas have a more restricted level of movement. One of the biggest changes would be the increase of more well-defined roads in areas that once used to be just animal trails. There is also more agricultural activity that has altered the landscape. However, overall I would say that forest areas continue to be protected, so changes in these have been very minimal. Lack of forest movement in many areas has also now caused paths to be overgrown and covered by fallen trees, making it difficult to maneuver.

Hiking 2

4. Your favourite hike/route?

BB: My favorite hikes (there is never only one) tend to include water crossings and splash opportunities as well as prehistoric Dolmen monuments. A long time favorite, which still remains top of my list, is Kukkal to Kudriyar Dam. Steep descents, on ancient stone staircases, past terraced fields, alongside waterfalls in plantation zones, and then long walk through untouched forest, with multiple stream crossings enroute, and a beautiful deep pool with a waterfall, near the end of the hike. Rare sightings of elephants, boa constrictors, signs of deer, wild boar, and often, Malabar giant squirrels, also make this hike memorable.

KJ: My favorite used to be the Berijam Ridge Hike which is no longer done. And the Kukkal to Kuduraiaar Dam.

Kukkal

5. Your most memorable hiking experience?

BB: High water crossings are definitely the most memorable! Definitely the one I call the ‘Wet one’. The planned hike to the Addikum Dolmens would have been wet and slippery on the rocks, so we made the call to do the Vilpatti to Palani route instead, which was more road/dirt trail. We arrived at a crossing to find water waist high, rushing over a partly broken weir, which we crossed by forming a chain.

KJ: Memorable Hiking experiences include, exploring the hills around Manjampatti during Tahr Camp in search of wildlife and climbing to the top of the big fire tower on the TN-Kerala Border (Day 2 of 80-Mile) and the view of the vast expanse of forest and mountain ranges that you got from there.

ST: My favourite hiking experience which was Palar Waterfalls D Hike. It is no more a hiking route due to safety reasons, but the one time I went, it was very adventurous. The slopes were steep and as it was raining, very slippery as well. We had lots of fun.

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