Environmental Science: Stepping Out of the Classroom

Students apply environmental science to new realms–new classes, extracurricular activities, and EE-trips.

“Acing a rigorous test or getting a first hand experience? The latter gives me the thrills.” – Kevin Suk (’18)

KIS has steadily advocated a novel approach to learning: learning from doing. Over the few years, there is one course ahead of the game—Environmental Science.

Based on the foundational skills established from the AP Environmental Science class, Diana Koo (’18), Sarah Mirae Kim (’18), and Kevin Suk (’18), with Mr. Taylor, have together built a new class solely focused on Independent Research. The Independent Research class follows a distinctive curriculum in that it does not have one. Instead of referring to specific pages of textbooks or understanding specific theories, the class is about learning on the way—thus, undefined—and taking what they have learned the past year to understand and assess the real world. Kevin (’18) says, “The class is very free and full of creativity; our desire to apply what we learned in school to reality and thereby make a tangible difference allows us to stay motivated.” Throughout the year, the three students will each conduct their own researches on Seoul’s water, fully immersed in the opportunity to take the seed of their ideas, plant it, and feed it.

Apart from the school curriculum, the application of Environmental Science in KIS has been displayed by extracurricular activities—an active environmental club Green PEAS. Despite being an year-old club, Green PEAS has since broadened their sphere of influence; evident changes materialized in the school environment are integrating natural elements to remodel KIS and facilitating the recycling in classrooms. Kevin, founder of the club, says the club “aims to improve KIS’s environment and combine a variety of fields together using ‘green’ as a solute.” He emphasizes that Green PEAS in fact manifests interdisciplinary learning—“those interested in business [have sold] thousands of dollars worth of worm fertilizers, and those talented in designing [have created] bird houses to observe growth from shell to feathers.” At the end, actions taken by members of Green PEAS all come down to the unified willingness to bring change to the KIS environment with knowledge acquired from various subjects.

The passion for Environmental Science further escapes from the restricted boundaries of the school campus. Along with the traditional class Experiential Education trips, KIS now offers Experiential Education trips to K-Water reservoirs. Whereas the applied learning aspect may be a bit open-ended for regular EE trips, the trip to K-Water is an unquestionable application of more specified talent. Kevin adds, “The trip concentrates on doing in-depth analysis and research about the water quality of Korea and how it is regulated by scientists at K-water. We also conduct experiments on plant growth, nutrient run-off, and other topics that are impossible to be tested within the classroom environment. We are literally performing what we learned through the textbook in reality.”

– Yoo Bin Shin (’18)

Featured Image: Claire Yoon (’18)

Why Art?

No more skeptical glances, no more scoffs of disapproval. Art is not a topic that one can disregard.

“Oh, she’s just going to major in art because she doesn’t have the brains to actually study.”

         “You want to go to art school? But you’re so smart! That’s such a shame.”

               “In a world full of starving children and hectic politics, how the hell does art matter?”

If you’re an art student, these sort of questions may be more than familiar to you. In a world where new developments in technology and medicine are in constant demand, it’s easy for people to cast aside the arts as irrelevant, even pointless. And to a degree, I don’t blame them. When you’re in the midst of researching for a cure for cancer, or discussing how to solve the ever imminent issue of Syrian refugees, the works of Pablo Picasso or learning how to wield a paintbrush is most likely going to be the last thing on your mind. However, that doesn’t mean that art is a subject we can completely disregard.

It’s no secret that art is an outlet for creativity. But contrary to what many may believe, this creativity isn’t just useful for choosing hues or arranging a composition. It serves a purpose later on in careers of all fields, where everywhere they look people are forced to come up with new and innovative solutions, a skill that employers look for the most. In a study conducted by Paul Silvia at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, researchers found that involving oneself in a creative activity forced people to “cultivate competence, and reflect critically on the world”. And this served true for those who weren’t necessarily masters of the arts – even seemingly amateur and foolish results spurred this sort of mental development. Especially for primary school students, an education in the arts helps rewire the brain to promote intuition, reasoning, and dexterity.

Now you may ask, to a person who struggles day by day to support themselves, to put food into their children’s mouths, why does art matter to them? In April 2016, freelance reporter Alison Stine released an article “Why Art Matters Even in Poverty”, which covered the role of art in her and her son’s life as a family who lived in poverty. Despite the hardships, Stine noted how creativity made the “the unlivable not just livable, but survivable”, and how art was a source of happiness and entertainment in their everyday lives.

To look deeper into the misconceptions of the arts, Blueprint decided to ask the 2D Arts teacher, Ms. Cone, a few questions about society’s misunderstandings of the arts and what we can do to get rid of those stereotypes.

BP: What are some of people’s’ misconceptions about art and artists themselves?

Ms. Cone: I think that one of the major misconceptions about art and artists is that people have this quintessential fear of what an artist is- the image of a starving artist, a painter living by themselves in a disheveled, one-bedroom flat, the tortured soul. And I think that what people don’t realize is how many aspects of art there are and just how much art has impacted the world around us. The term “artist” itself can be broadened to include all manners of creators, a fact that doesn’t typically come to people’s minds when they hear the word.

BP: What do you think causes some of these misconceptions about art?

Ms. Cone: Part of it I believe is due to the romanticized view, based off of movies and/or the media. When this trope became popular- I can’t say for sure. But it certainly caused people’s worries about their children wanting to become artists, as people immediately think of the picture of the artist living in squalor. So inevitably, we see less support for that career path and art becomes denigrated.   

BP: What can society do to get rid of these stereotypes of the starving artist and the ideal of students taking art as the easy way out of studying?

Ms. Cone: Oh man, that last part makes me so mad. I think part of it is coming to understand and appreciate the wide variety of artists there are in the world, and realizing how much of our daily lives are impacted by art. I’m using art in a very broad term, but literally everything you use, sit on, drive, come into contact with, had an artist- particularly industrial designers- involved in the process of creating that product. Coming to realize how much art enriches our lives everyday, not just through design but even as specific as painting. Think of hospitals that have no paintings in them, and hospitals that do have paintings in them- I’ll bet you that there are studies that show that hospitals with paintings in them make people happier. Just bringing creation and carefully considered visual spaces to people really does hold a positive impact. I think just generally being more educated will make people more appreciative of the arts. As of right now it’s really a zero-sum game- either you’re an arts person or a science person. People need to be more open to being multiple types of people. Everyone has the potential to be an artist, a creator, but they have to be willing to entertain that possibility.

Art isn’t the route of an escapist. It forces one to take a break from the bubble that surrounds us – to pause and take a look at the larger world in full force. So the next time you learn of someone choosing to take art as a career path, don’t mock them or disregard their work as insignificant. As John F. Kennedy once said, “we must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth”.

-Seiyeon Park (’17)

Featured Image: Seiyeon Park (’17) (Art by Sookja Lee)


The Science Behind Procrastination

Project due next week, and that temptation of another youtube video. Why do we procrastinate? How can we fix this?

Are you anxious about your early applications to your dream college? Maybe there is a new summative coming up. How far are you with the English reading? Please don’t tell me you’re still on chapter one. In the midst of this cataclysm, some of you might be organizing directories on your mac, trying out a new item build on online games, or just catching up with your newsfeed on facebook.

The scariest part about procrastination is not only that it might compromise the quality of your end products(School work and etc.) but also that it can happen to almost everyone. Even the most productive of us have fallen into the trap of temptation, delaying precious sleep for the next morning. Naturally, self evaluation follows.

Now, try not to be too hard on yourself. Procrastination is a spontaneous course of action – your brain’s automatic defense mechanism to your stress.  Hear out this guy:

“Psychologists see procrastination as a misplaced coping mechanism, as an emotion-focused coping strategy. [People who procrastinate are] using avoidance to cope with emotions, and many of them are non-conscious emotions. So we see it as giving in to feel good. And it’s related to a lack of self-regulation skills. … We all have a six-year-old running the ship. And the six-year-old is saying, ‘I don’t want to! I don’t feel like it!'” (Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada)

Based on his claims, we are repelling important work because we simply DO NOT want to work. On the other hand, there are different interpretations of procrastination.

According to a study published by Edward Jones (New York Times obituary) & Steven Berglas, procrastination is a type of self-handicapping to build an excuse for your poor performance.

“By finding or creating impediments that make good performance less likely, the strategist nicely protects his [or her] sense of self-competence” (pg 201).

“I had only two hours to finish this project. But, this does not prove my failure as a practical learner since I had a huge disadvantage!” This kind of attitude wins whether you succeed or fail. When you lose, your sense of competence is secured since you can externalize the blames on your procrastinating behavior. Of course, if you succeed, you can boost your self-confidence at enormous rate, because you have achieved something even when you were not in optimal condition.

A TED Talk from a famous blogger, Tim Urban makes a great explanation of the mechanism behind procrastinator’s brain.


Fortunately, however, procrastination is not a disease nor a condition. It is simply a habit that affects productivity. There are good ways to fight your demon.

  1. Accept that you have a problem. procrast2.jpgEvery first step to solving a problem is to recognize the existence of it. It might be hard but if you postpone your workload on a regular basis, you should start asking yourself if you are a procrastinator.
  2. Divide up the work and give yourself small rewards for doing each segment of it. proctast1.jpgBecause it is the motivation to do work that procrastinators are not good at gathering up, it is important to make big projects into less intimidating objectives. If ‘instant gratification’ is the reason behind indulging into digression, instant rewards for completion of work would be helpful to continue your overall progression. For example, you can divide your five paragraph essay assignment into five parts and give yourself 10 minutes of internet browsing for finishing each.
  3. Thing about the long-run consequences. procrast3.jpgThe danger of procrastination is not only the diminished quality of your work but also the sense of anxiety that comes along with the deadline. So, it is effective to raise alertness towards the negative consequences, which might hopefully raise the productive part of your brain from dead. In fact, these consequences are more or less real. Late submissions could lead to a failed grade (it is especially strict in KIS), and even expulsion if we are talking about an actual job.

This is not an easy battle. Plus, the devil can always crawl back under your skin without a polite notice. Of course, nobody is at fault if the work is just too much for you. When you are told to tame a dragon, wouldn’t most people run away instead? True, the dragon is a hard beast to tame. However, imagine how majestic it will be if you push yourself just a bit more.

– Paul Jeon (‘17)

(Featured images from neednudge.com, offbeat.topix.com, wikihow.com, and fortivoti.com in order)

Regurgitator vs. Impacter: The Need for Applied Learning

“What is the purpose of learning?”

Incessantly studying till three in the morning; cramming in math formulas; and memorizing concepts for exams. Sound familiar?

Photographer: Clare Na Hyun Kwon
Photographer: Clare Na Hyun Kwon (’18)

When taking college applications become imperative as students transition to their senior year that many tend to study for the sake of GPAs. Of course, grades do play a role in applying for college—but are they truly worth studying for?

Kelley Shim, a sophomore student, claims that in a world where there is pressure to enroll in a prestigious school and occupation, “memorising concepts for school exams is worth doing” because you receive high scores. She further argues that as high school students, our main objective is to “do well in school”, not necessarily to think about how to use it. Her point of view on studying is just one out of the whole student body, as many have similar views as Kelley. Students strive on academics by excelling in school exams and getting a 4.0 on their grade book. However, when asked about how they will apply their learning to life, many struggled to answer.  


To start with the definition, applied learning is an open-ended term: the Deakin University claims that it is a method to “motivate students” in developing “key skills and knowledge required for employment, further education, and active participation,” while others have defined it as a mean to incorporate concepts learnt at school into life.

As a student who has been pondering on what applied learning is, I had the invaluable opportunity to interview Genevieve Fowler, a Yale Graduate who is currently teaching at Groton School. She has studied mechanical engineering and is fascinated by applied learning, a skill that KIS has started to implement this year. When discussing  how applied learning can be assimilated in the Korean society, she suggested that students should realise that there “is more than grades once you enter college”; she even asserted that we should strive to find our interests, whether that is a sport or subject.


By interviewing Fowler, I now have a firmer grasp on the importance of applied learning and the idea of it. Like what most students believe, I thought that applied learning consisted of actions done outside of school, such as volunteering at shelters or creating an organisation to help others. However, I discovered through the interview that the projects and discussions we do at school are essentially applied learning; for instance, freshmen students had to write a narrative piece on an image taken during World War II for their joint English and East Asian Studies project where they had to create, think, and empathise based on a single photo. By doing so, they were able to develop understanding and compassion for those who suffered during WWII—an act of applied learning. Furthermore, in art classes, students create automatons wherein they have to intertwine their knowledge in physics and art. 


There is no doubt that helping others who are in need is an act of applied learning, as you are using the skills developed at school to aid others. However, what students often forget is that school is also a place to exercise applied learning, not just a pressuring environment to earn high grades.

If students shift their focus from simply memorising and studying to taking advantage of learning, they can greatly develop and employ skills. Time to time, we need to ask ourselves: “how am I going to use this unit/concept in real life?” After all, how are we going to solve the problem of world hunger, inequality, and other issues by memorising formulas and regurgitating vocabulary terms? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves and reflect upon, as it is important for us to know the true value of learning: applying the learning.  

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (‘19)

*full profile of Genevieve Fowler: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2016/09/181_213627.html

*Source:  http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30007994/harrison-whatisappliedlearning-2006.pdf