Educational Projects of the School for Life Chiang Mai
Many small and large projects characterise educational practice at the School for Life. These are some examples:
- The children discover how the royal forest can be used as a pharmacy. They search for healing herbs, bulbs, and fruits, and use them to make traditional medicine and lay out a garden of healing herbs.
- A bicycle repair station is being developed. One of the guests, an enthusiastic bicyclist, helps and teaches the children,
how to conduct professional repairs.
- Children lay out vegetable patches. The area on the farm is big enough to provide for vegetables for everybody. With the help of farmers, they learn to counter the problems of organic agriculture: how to ensure ongoing water supply during droughts, how to attract the right insects and get rid of harmful ones, and how to achieve successful harvests using natural fertilisers.
- Children spend days kneading clay. They create figures and tableware, built a furnace with the help of a ceramist and are immensely proud of their achievements.
- Children of the North and South create a unified percussions band: “Drum of Victory”. They develop traditional percussion and dance
pieces and win an inter-regional competition.
- Children, guests, and a Thai cook prepare food together. They use ingredients from the vegetable patch and prepare a meal of several courses and levels of spiciness. They eat together and in the whole process learn English ‘by cooking’.
- Lots of ideas have being produced and applied for the Cultural Art & Road Performance. Music, singing, dance, and painting are being combined to a one and a half hour show. On a journey lasting for several weeks, combining social-geographic and cultural-historic experiences, children learn more about their native Thailand and perform for an audience of more than 1000 people.
- A volunteer versed in directing musicals works on part of the piece “Cats” with the children. Since then, the musical is part of the children’s repertoire.
- Pop-musicians from Europe visit the farm and let the children inspire them to twelve wonderful and heart-warming songs. The “Home” CD/DVD is created and can now be purchased (www.beluga-schoolforlife.com).
- A trick box is built: a big box with an open front and top. A camera can now film whatever is being staged inside using dough and colour paper. The children produce an animated video clip for the Thai children’s song of the happy elephant. The song and the clip are included on the “Home” CD/DVD.
- A Gallery in Pattaya exhibits large works of the children. Due to the success of the exhibition, the children’s pieces will now be on display longer at the gallery.
- First-aid courses are conducted. A member of the German Red Cross awards 60 children with a certificate. These children will from now on help in the infirmary.
It is intended to generate income through enterprising units which will contribute to the self-sustainable development of the School for Life within the next years. Profits will be used exclusively for charitable purposes and are allocated to the care and education of the children of the School for Life.
A start in this respect is the accommodation facility with eight bungalows and 8 guest rooms, and a restaurant. The School for Life encourages culture sensitive tourism and was started to fulfil two desires:
• The desire of experienced travellers who want to truly arrive in a country, have authentic experiences and make friends, and who are no longer satisfied with “tourist destinations”, “tourist art”, “tourist events”, “tourist excursions”, “tourist prices”, or the boredom of hotel lobbies.
• The desire of culturally-open locals who supply hospitality in place of barracuda behaviour often witnessed amount tour guides, and who want to combine cultural, ecological and economic development.
The School for Life opens doors into Thai daily life that bring guests, the school’s community and local residents together as active partners and friends. Some guests do not only want to observe, they prefer to actively participate in what they see. More than a few of them want to leave tracks behind. For this reason, the School for Life combines investigating reality with the opportunity to make contributions towards the development of the school and the community. Guests are not treated like “black boxes”, but as experts with professional experience. The guests do not have to take on this role, of course. They can also choose to simply take vacation while they are there. But they know that the invitation to actively participate – regardless of how small or large their contribution is – stands.
Camps for Children and Youth
The School for Life is located in an attractive natural setting deep inside a royal forest in the Doi Saket Mountains. His Majesty the King of Thailand, supports organic farming in this area through different projects. A training centre in the forest accumulates and disperses knowledge. The School for Life has dedicated itself to organic farming. A large piece of land of about 17 Rai (27,200 square meters) is available for children and youth camps. Children from schools all over Thailand can gather experiences here that go beyond ordinary scout camps: intensive experiences of nature in combination with organic farming.
The continuous process of the evolving pedagogical practice and the accompanying development of the “operational manual” (including the School for Life specific curriculum) will be progressively evaluated in a formal way. The project will apply methods which are known in social sciences as “pragmatic evaluation”. This approach is specifically applied to evaluate complex social systems and with the goal of improving the understanding of this system. The in-between evaluation results are fed back to the project and thus can contribute to improve the quality and performance of the project in a continuous way.