Each year we welcome over 2,500 students and staff from schools worldwide.
14 – 16, 16 – 18 January, 2019
On a morning reminiscent of 18th century London smog, Bangkok was barely visible as the barge team left early on Monday, happy to be leaving the city behind for the sands and sea of Chantaburi. Our first task was to race the ISB buses down to our accommodation, a task made more pressing as we bumped into them at the service station on the way there. We made good time however thanks to the skills of our exceptional driver P' Tor. Without even a moment to contemplate on the peace of the lapping surf, fifty-nine energetic grade 5 ISB students arrived with a mountain of luggage to boot. To ensure safety and effective education this large number of students were promptly split into three smaller groups, as such the remainder of this report will be from the perspective of one of these groups while other groups are doing all the activities in a slightly different order.
After a quick introduction, and a much needed lunch, first on the agenda is the local aquarium. One of the benefits of our Chantaburi location, out with the amazing teaching opportunities it provides, is the close proximity of all these locations to our accommodation, with none of the sites being more than a five minute drive from one another. The aquarium provides the students with a two tiered lesson. The first is the more obvious ability to take time to observe the marine species in an intimate manner that would be extremely difficult to do so in the wild, and as such the students always engage this activity with gusto. The key lesson here is observing behaviour and physiological adaptations, prompting students to consider nature’s boundless diversity and ingenuity. The next lesson, conducted in a quiet corner, is an ethical debate on the role of aquariums and the moral as well as socioeconomic implications that such a facility may have. The discussions the students subsequently engaged in highlight the complexity of the topic as well as how many of our students are bound for a career in politics or litigation.
Next is a visit to a sea farming demonstration unit. This fantastic location allows the students to not only observe the farming of a number of commercial fish species that many will have only ever seen on the plate, but also get to observe some of the larger non-commercial species that have been rescued and are currently being rehabilitated such as bull sharks, leopard sharks and sea turtles. As well as this in-depth look into food production and responsible marine practices, the students also get to interact with the men and women who work in this environment and hear their perspective.
Back at our accommodation and after a riveting introduction to sea turtles by yours truly regarding my time spent working with them in a scientific and conservation based capacity, the students played our very own 'turtle hurdle' game on the beach. This game not only tires the students (and occasionally their teachers) out but also demonstrates just how difficult the life of a turtle can be, how stacked the odds are against any single individual making it to maturity are, and to what degree humans play in this difficulty. Using this lesson as a jumping off point, all student groups get together and conduct a beach clean-up, competing to collect the most rubbish from the beach while working together to record what they have found which is then discussed afterword’s. It is quite amazing to see children, many of whom have never cleaned more than their room before, take pleasure in cleaning something that does not belong to them but rather to us all. Some clean with a fervent energy, desperate to get the largest piece of plastic while others are meticulous in their combing of the beach for the smallest scrap of wrapping. Dinner and some more beach games follow before a well-earned night’s rest.
The next day starts early for a 7 am breakfast before a short bus ride to the nearby mangrove. As an introduction to this fascinating ecosystem, a game is played that emphasises the complex relationship between the importance of mangrove management and development, and the needs of the species that live within such areas. As high minded as this sounds the game largely involves the children throwing small soft balls at each other, as such they tend to enjoy…
Next up is a personal highlight of the trip, mangrove kayaking. A half hour walk into the mangrove takes us to a jetty with a mixture of brightly coloured kayaks much to the students’ excitement. Beside this jetty is another with a large pile of life jackets that the children are promptly taught how to wear properly, much to their chagrin. After a demonstration of how to conduct oneself properly in a kayak what follows is a master class in teamwork, communication and cooperation…ideally. Sometimes it takes a little while for everyone to get into the rhythm of it but after they do a combination of the physical exercise and amazing scenery while passing alongside, and sometimes under, the twisted roots of the mangroves, leaves everyone with a smile on their face. This smile becomes a grin after returning when the students find out that their hard work has earned the glorious reward of ice-cream.
After lunch it’s the mangroves again for a walk on the labyrinth of boardwalks that pass over the brackish muddy water. During this walk students get a chance to encounter many of the animal and plant species that live in this environment and with the help of information cards educate each other about how well adapted they are to it. On the return journey there is a chance to observe the nearby shrimp farm and discuss the benefits that the mangrove provides for filtering waste water from the farm.
The last night of the trip involves a campfire, allowing the kids (and barge staff) to showcase some of their skills and let off a little steam. Particular favourites include, the numerous ghost stories involving the same scary doll and number of sketch comedy shows. The night wraps up roasting marshmallows and activity many in the group have never done before making observing it all the more enjoyable before a relatively early night.
The next morning, a couple of closing games allow students to reflect on the past couple of days and what they enjoyed before leaving early to beat the traffic back home. As the barge team wave the group off we congratulate each other on a job well done, and head off for a well-earned rest on the beach…for an hour…as the next group of eighty is about to arrive…