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3-5 April 2017
Captain’s Log – April 3rd
With fine sailing weather and calm waters, students boarded the barge to begin their journey to Ayutthaya, in search of discovering the history of the great ancient city and the importance of the role of the mighty Chao Phraya in Thai history and culture.
Navigation and river observations allowed the students to gain a better understanding of modern life and human impacts along the river bank. The group was then challenged to work together to use their bodies to recreate some of the things they had observed, including boats, Water Hyacinth and even the river itself as part of a group sculpture activity.
After finding safe anchorage at Bang Sai Bay it was time to moor the boat and walk the plank so we could take to the water for a relaxing swim. Once back aboard performing Barge Crew duties gave the group the chance to learn new skills including navigation, swabbing the deck and preparing meals in the galley. Knot untying skills were also put to the test with a team game of All tied up- a communication, team work and strategy challenge. The evening ended with a round of the Settlers game, a game of resource collection and empire building whilst learning about renewable and non-renewable resources, trade and negotiation.
Captain’s Log - April 4th
Early morning began with birdwatching and learning more about the wildlife and adaptations to the riverine habitat. A quick round of Believe it can rot or not? opened the students eyes to just how long – if ever- it takes some of our common rubbish such as plastic bags, aluminium drink cans and drinking straws to decompose and the impacts they can have on the habitats they end up in.
To get their creative juices flowing students were challenged to create and present short stories linking various objects including a football, Styrofoam and an Indonesian mask to the commonly observed Water Hyacinth plant. This helped lead them to discovering more about how the plant arrived in Thailand from South America, how it is adapted to its watery home and how it is an important micro habitat for macro invertebrates. Pulling out their magnifying glasses for some close up investigations, students conducted a macro invertebrate survey of species found living amongst the Water Hyacinth plant and used them as bio indicators to assess the water quality of the Chao Phraya.
After lunch we finally arrived at Ayutthaya and hopped aboard some tuk tuks to travel to the Historical Studies Centre to learn more about life in ancient Ayutthaya and the role the river played in the creation and downfall of the city. After this we headed to Wat Phra Shri Sanphet to explore the temple ruins using a photographic scavenger hunt and guided imagery to set the scene and inspire the students to write a short story on what it may have been like as the Burmese soldiers attacked the temple and palace. After heading back to the barge, students overcame an incoming squall and rain shower and took to the deck to perform historical roleplays, presenting information they had gained from the museum on themes ranging from elephants and boats to medicines and trade in Ayutthaya.
Captain’s Log - April 5th
After the squall of the previous evening we awoke on our final morning to clear skies and set a bearing for land. With an empty galley the student crew took to Pathum Thani market to attempt to buy the most sustainable breakfast possible- locally produced and with minimal packaging. They did very well and provided a feast fit for a Royal Barge!
Well-fed it was then back to work. Having already used bio indicators it was time for some chemical testing of the Chao Phraya to investigate the water quality. After our river observation activities students discussed potential pollution sources along the river such fertilizers from agricultural land, detergents and waste from local houses and oil pollution from boats and the impacts those might have on the river and species living there. When chemical testing students looked for key pollutants such as nitrates and phosphates and tested water pH, oxygen content, turbidity and temperature. Their results from the chemical tests supported the previous day’s results that the water quality of the Chao Phraya was Average, with low to moderate levels of pollution.
The final activity of the trip was a game designed to challenge team work and communication skills as well as getting students to think about the importance of the resources needed for survival. After discovering that there is a large volcano about to erupt, students had to make their way across a river filled with mutant crocodiles using stepping stones, created from the resources they need to set up a new life on the other side of the river. After deciding upon seven vital resources- the sun, soil, minerals, animals, seeds, water and atmosphere, the group had to cross the river. However the mutant crocodiles were also after the resources and stole any stepping stones that were left unguarded! Having successfully crossed the river but with only two resources left students had to discuss which resources they felt they could survive without. After realizing the importance of protecting their resources (as survival with only two was impossible), the group re played the game, this time saving five resources - allowing them to create a new life on the other side of the river and giving a better understanding of why it is so important for us to understand and protect our natural resources.