Monday, December 23, 2013

An Elephant-Themed Field Trip

By: Elise Gilchrist

For the past few weeks, the team here in Thailand has been visiting a local public school to teach classes in Thai to a group of twenty students. Led by our field manager TomTem, the topics of these lessons range from animal behavior to elephant physiology to wildlife conservation (read TomTem’s blog post about education here: The students have been excited and receptive to each topic we have introduced, making them an especially enjoyable class to join. Though our pilot program in Bangkok was a success, our goal for this implementation of the curriculum was to utilize less presentation style PowerPoint based lessons and move toward more active games that then relate back to our objectives. This style has been well received by the bright minds at Ban Sob Ruak School.
The most exciting part about teaching at a school so close to our office comes with the elephant biology and physiology lesson. Previously, this lesson included a Skype session between the elephants in the camp and the children in Bangkok. However, since this classroom is only a few kilometers down the road from the camp, we were able to arrange a field trip! On December 4, all twenty students showed up excited and eager to meet the elephants!
      We were very lucky to receive a helping hand from the two elephant vets who work at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, Dr. Cherry and Gae. After some instructions and an active icebreaker game, the students met the superstar of the day, five-year-old Asian elephant Am. The students were awesome! They respected that Am might have been nervous around so many children and were quiet and well behaved around her but their smiles showed how excited they were to be so close to a young elephant.

Dr. Cherry and Gae lending their elephant expertise!

      Dr. Cherry and Gae then taught the students about various body parts of an elephant’s body as well as how to tell if an elephant looks healthy. Each student followed along with a “vet check worksheet,” filling out all the information they learned about young, healthy Am. Dr. Cherry demonstrated how to estimate the height and the weight of the elephant by measuring the chest girth and the foot circumference. The students even learned how to take the pulse of an elephant, by pressing on an artery located behind the ear and counting the heartbeats. It was quite a hands-on day in the “classroom!”

Students carefully filling out their vet check worksheets.

The students from our class here in Northern Thailand got a hands-on, live interactive lesson with an endangered species. It is innovative lessons like this one, which we believe will have the greatest impact on our students, and we plan to incorporate elements like the vet check into all of our classroom initiatives. We believe that our programs will better equip students to make decisions that take into account the impact they have on the environment. In order to ensure that our program is fulfilling these goals the TEI team has instituted an extensive system to survey and review our curriculum. Each time we pilot the program, the students complete before and after surveys to gauge the effectiveness of the mission. We also review feedback from faculty who both teach but also observe the program.
One of our major goals at Think Elephants is to be able to offer our conservation education program to every school in Thailand -- for free. We are working hard to create a comprehensive, engaging curriculum as well as train recent Thai graduates to teach these lessons. Our goal for the New Year is to have our program in twenty schools. To help us reach that goal consider making a donation to Think Elephants International.
            If you want to see for yourself how the lesson went then take a look at this video from the field trip!

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