Trip Reports.

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Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Chiang Mai, Grade 7

6 – 10 February, 2017

Prem G7 students joined staff from the Barge Program for a week-long visit introducing conservation and biodiversity at Khao Yai National Park and discovering the ancient history at Ayutthaya.

We started our week considering current environmental issues and threats, such as deforestation, population declines and air and water quality, before moving onto discussing the challenge of how to prioritise and respond to them.  Once we had discussed some of the issues and the role of National Parks it was time to set off and explore the grassland trail looking for tacks and signs to indicate which animal species were present in the area. After a fruitful search we discovered sings of Elephants, Asian Wild dog, Wild Boar, Sambar Deer, Porcupines and many smaller species such as Ants and Termites, all to the backdrop of martins flying overhead and a troop of White Handed Gibbon calling in the distance. In the evening a selection of team games tested the group’s communication and cooperation skills, a key theme for the week’s activities.

After a warm up walk on day 1, we progressed on to a more challenging rainforest hike to further explore the National Park. During the trail we discussed the biodiversity of plant and animal species in Khao Yai (over 3000 + species) and discovered the various plant and animal adaptations which help the species here survive including, giant buttress roots, strangling fig vines, needle like spines and opposable thumbs.

Following our hike it was time to relax by the Lam Ta Khong River were we completed macro invertebrate surveys to assess the water quality of the crystal clear mountain water before taking a late afternoon walk to survey the bird species inhabiting the area, with a Giant Hornbill sighting a particular highlight.

The beautiful Haew Suwat waterfall was the setting and inspiration for some excellent nature themed poetry produced by the student’s on the morning of day 3. During the afternoon students learned about more about bio -indicators following on from the previous day’s macroinvertebrate work, by carrying out lichen surveys around the training centre to discover the air quality of Khao Yai. On our final evening in Khao Yai, a visit to a local bat cave to find out more about nocturnal species was a particular highlight. Students watched and listened in awe as millions of Wrinkle Lipped Bats emerged from the cave to start their evenings foraging and we were able to delve into their nocturnal world by listening in to the echolocation clicks using bat detectors.

A Wrinkled Lipped Bat before emerging from the cave

Our penultimate day saw us relocating to Ayutthaya, where the group’s first activity was to teach English classes at a local primary school. Covering topics ranging from animals and colours to the solar system, the group worked with pupils from year 1 – 6 after being treated to a Muay Thai display by the schools year 6 pupils.

The year 6 Muay Thai performance.

This cultural exchange activity was enjoyed greatly by students and teachers on both sides and gave our students a new insight into the challenges and rewards of teaching! After some free time together and snacks it was time for a sad goodbye as we headed off to the Historical Studies Centre to research the role played by Ayutthaya in building the Thailand the students know today. After presenting their findings, a final round of team games involving a fetching pair of tiger print ‘Magic Slippers’ drew the evening to a close.

A visit to Ayutthaya isn’t complete without time to visit the spectacular temples, so after spending time on the river observing the uses and comparing how they have changed over time, our final morning finished off at the spectacular Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, where student’s learned the history of the ancient palace used a photographic scavenger hunt to explore the remaining ruins of the previous heart of the Ayutthayan empire.

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