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- Plight of the Thai Elephant (4 weeks)
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- Fast Facts
Each weekday of our trip offers a one-hour optional workshop intended to help you reflect on your work in Thailand and bring some new thoughts back to your classroom. These workshops may include:
(1) Creating Community in the Classroom
Classrooms where students feel safe and supported are classrooms where students have a chance to feel successful. We want to share some ways to help build a sense of community in your classroom.
This workshop is a chance for us to practice what we preach. We will discuss a number of strategies by working through them ourselves, and then have a chance to debrief each of the proposed exercises or text-sharing protocols. In the end, we will have been able to share today’s readings, experienced some new protocols, and begun to solidify our own community for the rest of the trip.
(2) The Importance of Observation
Science curricula nationwide lack the time to provide students the ability to simply observe naturally occurring phenomena without any guidance as to what questions to ask or what information is most important to observe. What consequences does this have on the value of science education? How might this apply across disciplines? We will discuss the importance of observation in the classroom, science or otherwise.
We will have the chance to practice two or three exercises designed to help introduce an emphasis on observation skills into the classroom, and share strategies for including observation in curricula for all subjects. These exercises will, simultaneously, be our chance to learn something new about the Elephant Nature Park.
(3) Daily Leadership Best Practices
Our meetings with conservation leaders in this week at the Elephant Nature Park are inspiring and moving. How do we foster leadership in our own classrooms?
A short set of readings on leadership will provide us with a number of different perspectives on which values make great leaders. We will discuss the place for leadership in the classroom and some suggestions for facilitating it effectively.
We will brainstorm how discussions of leadership can be integrated into any curriculum. Teachers will have a chance to work together toward including leadership discussions in their own curricula.
(4) Conflict Resolution Models
“Conflict resolution” is common workshop fodder, but most of us have already mastered the basics of conflict resolution, essential to any well-run classroom. As we learn about the conflicts in Thailand between conservationists and developers, environmentalists and government officials, tribal villages and expanding cities, we see that the resolution of conflicts is central not only to our classrooms on the micro level, but to future generations’ world on a macro level.
Our goal in this workshop is to propose some examples of integrating conflict resolution education into the sciences and humanities. We will explore integrating studies of current events, history, literature, and science with an understanding of conflict resolution.
(5) The Complexities of Conservation
Our last workshop at the Elephant Nature Park is all about conservation. But conservation is merely just one example of a complex problem with numerous and overlapping causes and effects. How can we effectively introduce and extrapolate upon the complexities of real-world movements in our classrooms?
We’ll discuss a conservation case study as an example of the complexities of solving a seemingly simple problem. Then, teachers from all backgrounds will work together to create and share a collection of ways in which we can help our students understand the complexity of issues such as globalization, politics, economics, and conservation.
(6) Culture in the Classroom
Our “Monk Chat” at Wat Suan Dok sets the stage for thinking about culture in the classroom. Discussions of culture in the classroom are vital to creating a learning community.
How can we, as teachers, acknowledge students’ cultural backgrounds while still creating a fair and cohesive classroom? How do you create an understanding of what culture means? We will talk about a number of exercises and strategies for facilitating a discussion of culture in your classroom.
Questioning cultural beliefs, of ourselves and others, is central to creating progress or learning, both inside and outside the classroom. But to do so in a respectful way involves trust, tact, and insight. We will discuss some ways to share with students the value of questioning cultural beliefs and show the value of such questioning in the “real world”.
(7) Observation: Take Two
When we visit Dok Mai gardens, we will hear all about the Orchid Ark project from Professor Eric Danell. This is a fantastic project being undertaken by leading botanists in Thailand.
We’ve already talked about bringing observation skills into the classroom. Now, we revisit that idea by looking at how observation outside of the classroom can help students see the importance of the material inside the classroom. Encouraging observation outside of the classroom, and sharing our own observations, can be a powerful way of tying lessons, real-world events, and occurrences and making lasting connections for students.
(8) Emphasizing Personal Impact
Helping students to realize the impact of their personal decisions on their surroundings and their futures is certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching. But how can you help students come to this realization?
This workshop focuses on practicing and discussing exercises and classroom tactics for emphasizing personal impact in your students. From giving them a chance to influence assignments, to holding them accountable for monitoring their own progress, to including discussion questions that carry the classroom curriculum into daily life, we look at ways to make students a little more accountable for their own progress.
Students who feel that their choices have an impact are more likely to be more passionate learners. Delayed gratification practice (and we all know it takes practice) can be a huge factor in your students’ lifelong success. We will use a short text on conservation in Thailand as an example of how exercises of personal impact can be used to strengthen lessons in a variety of subjects and for learners of any age.
(9) Questions Before Answers
When we visit a conservation effort like the Tiger Kingdom, we’re faced with plenty of questions. Is this exploitative? Is it productive? Is it wise? Does it pre-empt a better alternative? Is it the best we can do?
We use our discussion of conservation efforts like the Tiger Kingdom, ziplines, eco-tourism, and the Elephant Nature Park as a model for valuing questions in the classroom. We get to have our own discussions of what we’ve seen and learned while practicing protocols and activities that we could introduce into our classrooms in a number of different subject areas. Communicating complexities to our students requires encouraging questions, and this is a chance to practice a variety of ways to foster that skill.
(10) Reflect and Revisit
Our final workshop is a reflection on our two weeks in Thailand. This is our chance to share our takeaways from the two-week trip. The participants will all have a chance to present something they are planning to take back to their classroom.