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Mentari School, Jakarta, Y9

7 – 10 October, 2016


This weekend staff from The Barge Program enjoyed a weekend of history and culture exploration with year 9 students from Mentari School, Jakarta, at Thailand’s ancient capitol Ayutthaya.

Our two-day visit started at Kuum Khun Pan, a traditional wooden Thai style house where students’ worked in groups to perform role plays to explore and understand traditions of Thai culture. This was followed by a Thai language lesson, equipping students with the greetings, questions and numbers they would need to enjoy their later trip to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet market for a much anticipated shopping opportunity!

After lunch we jumped onto the barge for a session of river observations utilizing the sustainability compass to explore Nature, Economic, Social and Well-being questions relating to the importance and uses of the mighty Chao Phraya river, as well as the impacts of humans on the ecosystem.

Having gained a better understanding of the rivers uses, it was time to test the water quality. Learning the  story of the invasive Water Hyacinth by creating stories via the use of props such as a football, photo of King Rama V, a sail boat and a piece of polystyrene, students then searched for macro invertebrates in the roots of the Water Hyacinth to see which creatures survived in the chocolaty brown waters around Ayutthaya. Using keys to guide them in the species identification, students then made an assessment as to the water quality, linking this back to the practices they had witnessed on the river and its banks in the earlier observation tasks.

It was an early start on day two, as we rose to give alms to the local monks.  It was then time to visit Wat Kasasrtra Ti Rat School, with the group having prepared a number of lessons to help teach the Thai primary students’ English. A highlight of the trip, there was much fun and laughter as the new English words taught by the group were put to good use in many games including ‘Duck duck goose’ and ‘Fruit salad’ and songs from ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’, to more traditional nursery rhymes for the youngest children.

A visit to Wat Yai Chai Mongkol offered students a unique opportunity to meet and interview a Buddhist nun. Ordained for 32 years and prompted by students questions, she shared her experiences of life in the monastery, her daily routine and how she made the decision aged just 10 years old, to pursue the path to enlightenment.

History exploration started upon reaching Wat Phra Sri Sanphet with an introduction to Ayutthaya’s creation and beginnings. Students took photographs to gather evidence of the temples age and royal past before travelling to Wat Chai Wattanaram, where they learnt the story of the Burmese invasion in 1767 and the downfall of Ayutthaya.  Guided imagery provided an opportunity for the group to write a short story, each imagining themselves as being a character present during the day of the Burmese attacks. Imaginations ran wild and students’ shared their stories including those written from the perspectives of the Queen, a Buddha statue in the temple grounds, a local child and even a temple brick!

The trip closed with a final team building activity called ‘Stepping Stones’. Designed to challenge team work, cooperation, communication and problem solving skills, students had to work together to cross a ‘lava river’ avoiding ‘mutant crocodiles’ to try and escape from an imminent ‘volcanic eruption’ and take with them the natural resources they would need to survive once they had escaped, all before the volcano exploded! Despite much excitement and encouragement, they didn’t quite all make it across the ‘Lava river’ before the ‘eruption’. However the team quickly realized how they could have improved their performance by more efficiently sharing the resources allocated, clearly communicating their ideas and engaging all members of the group.

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