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Brighton International School Year 5 and 6 Barge trip

22 - 26 January 2018

Year 5 and 6 students joined the Barge Program team for a week to discover the importance of the Chao Phraya River in the history and development of Thailand as well as explore it's importance culturally and as a wildlife habitat.

Starting our journey in Bangkok and finishing in Ayutthaya we began with observing the river to gain a better understanding of its modern uses - as a coolant for factories,  as a bustling highway for the many water taxis, longtailed boats and the large cargo ships and as well as more traditionally a place for fishing and washing clothes and dishes for the Thai communities along its banks.

A visit to Ko Kret allowed the opportunity for a sustainability compass investigation to better understand the developmentof the island and the impacts and influences of the river and how Nature, Economy, Society and Wellbeing are all linked together.

Returning to the barge, students then worked together to create a watershed mimicing that of the Chao Phraya, while learning all the key geographical features of a watershed. Once our watershed had been created it was time to look more closely at how modern day life can affect the quality of the water around us and begin to understand some of the pollutants that enter the Chao Phraya and where they come from.

Day 2 allowed us a closer look at life along the river with a visit to Bang Sai  aviary to observe some of Thailand's amazing variety of bird species and also experience some of the local traditional crafts including glass making, batik and metalwork.

An afternoon visit to Wat Po Taeng Tai School allowed a cultural exchange with the Brighton students leading English lessons and then all students participating in games and songs and learning to play some traditional thai musical instruments including the Ranard.

The day was rounded off with a lively campfire filled with jokes, scary stories and dance acts performed by the talented students.

Day 3 was time for some serious scientific investigation of the Chao Phraya River water with students using biological indicators- macro invertebrates found living in the water hyacinth roots and also a range of chemical tests to establish the cleanlines of the water.

After establishing a dirty water rating the students worked together to debate the clean up of the river with the 'Mayor of the river' who took some convincing but did eventually agree that he should clean up his act! Students also discussed that as we are all linked to the watershed it is everyones responsibility to look after and protect it and suggested ideas on what they could do to look after it, such as making sure to not waste water by trying to stick the the barge 3 minute shower challenge and making sure to recycle or reuse items wherever they can.

Arriving in Ayutthaya it was time to get our history hats on with a trip to the Japanese village museum to begin to understand Ayutthaya’s importance as a capital city and as a key trading area in south East Asia.

An evening teamwork challenge called Magic Slippers brought the day to a close, with students reflecting on their teamwork and communication skills to complete the task.

The morning of day 4 began on the river bank in the shade of the mighty Prang of Wat Chai Wattanaram to discover the story of the fall of Ayutthaya, which inspired students to develop thier own piece of creative writing about being present as the Burmese arrived and attacked the city.

Then it was off to visit the royal temple of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and learn more about what life would have been like in the Royal palace and about the riches of Ayutthaya. Visiting the Sam Phaya Gold museum allowed a glimpse of the riches that have been rediscovered and indicated the great wealth of south East Asia's most important capital city.

During a heavy rain shower we took shelter to make bricks in the traditional fashion, using clay, rice husk and a wooden frame. This proved very messy but much fun! After the rained cleared we explored a real traditional brick makers and learnt more about the process and saw a number of bricks ready to be used to help in the restoration of the Ayutthayan temples.

Our final evening was rounded off with a quiz of the week followed by some funny and highly imaginative historical role plays depicting historical scenes learnt during the trip, from the movement of the Mon people from Burma to Ko Kret on the back of a giant crocodile, to the busy trading business carried out by the Japanese,  Dutch and Portuguese traders in Ayutthaya.

On the last morning the students were set the challenge of buying a sustainable lunch from Pathum Thani fresh market after learning how long many everyday items such as plastic bottles (450 years) and Styrofoam  (Never!) Take to biodegrade.

Using bags for life, bentos and banana leaves the group did very well in providing a delicous and varied lunch for everyone to share using minimal plastic bags and no styrofoam. After a reflection on the weeks activities,  the teamwork and communication skills developed and a better understanding of everyone's link to the mighty Chao Phraya, it was time to head back to school.

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