Together in Thailand: Saint Andrew’s and Fern Hill’s service and adventure trip
Posted: 10 August 2018
Students from Saint Andrews School and Fern Hill School collaborated on an enriching two-week adventure and service trip to Thailand. The activities were designed to develop the students’ leadership and teamwork skills and foster a spirit of giving and sense of responsibility.
Author and position: Jason Glick, Director of Student Life and Experiential Education, Saint Andrews
School: Saint Andrew’s School is a JK-12 day and boarding college preparatory school in Florida, America; Fern Hill School is a co-educational school for students in Preschool to Grade 8 with campuses in Oakville and Burlington in Canada.
The Round Square reps from both schools met on conference and developed a professional relationship built on trust, mutual admiration, and a shared educational philosophy. Ideas regarding experiential education were shared, which eventually led to the proposal of a joint trip overseas to Thailand.
The two-week adventure and service trip that resulted involved Middle School students from both schools participating in a thrilling and enriching program. The activities were designed to develop the students’ leadership and teamwork skills and foster a spirit of giving and sense of responsibility.
The planning involved was similar to any other school excursion. We contracted a third-party vendor to liaise with each school individually. Responsibility for communicating, organizing, and planning with the students and families remained a separate duty for each RS rep. Communication remained open and clear between the two reps so that both schools were in agreement about the trip particulars to Thailand and the general plan.
Over the course of their stay in Thailand, students built a road in the village of Mae Mae amongst the Hill Tribes of Chiang Dao, painted a local elementary school, supported an elephant conservation, and cooked and worked on an organic farm. They also took part in a number of adventurous pursuits such as kayaking and bike riding through local villages.
The construction of the village road is perhaps the most memorable example of how the students worked effectively together. They were taught how to mix sand, concrete, water, and gravel in large bins for the creation of the road. The work was demanding and unrelenting, yet the students worked incredibly well as a team, never crying a foul word or abdicating their responsibilities for even a moment. The road was completed over the course of two days, which allowed the group ample time to create a beautiful underwater seascape mural for the local students of Mae Mae.
Another highlight of the journey to Thailand was the group’s visit to the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Kuet Chang, just a short van ride away from the Prem Tinsulanonda International School campus where they were staying. As the group drove through the winding country roads and approached the main gates of the center, they immediately saw a proud group of elephants enjoying their freedom and expressing their inner selves amongst a gorgeous mountain backdrop.
Founded by Lek Chailert, the park is not a place to watch a circus or a show, nor is there an opportunity to ride elephants or force them into demeaning and debilitating tasks. All the elephants at the Park have been rescued from the perils of the logging trade, the circus, street begging/performing, or cruel and torturous owners or mahouts.
Lek, named as one of “Asia’s Heroes” by Time Magazine, has rescued over 200 elephants from across Thailand and has helped to build the stunning sanctuary that the students so enjoyed. Visitors at ENP are instructed to allow the elephants to enjoy their freedom and to respect the fact that many are still recovering from mental and physical trauma. Students did not approach any elephants, they would come to them. They did not pressure any elephants to do tricks or performances. Rather, students appreciated these magnificent creatures in their natural, majestic splendor while truly understanding the impact that irresponsible tourism can have on animals. However, students were still able to pet several elephants, feed them fruits, and even wash them in the nearby river. Students proclaimed that they felt proud to have experienced the elephants in a mindful way and to have become voices for the elephant advocacy movement. Eighth grader, Dominica Glenn, the principal animal lover of the group, made it clear that she wants to return to ENP when she is older in order to spend an extended period of time working for the cause.
The students on this trip completely embodied all that it means to be an ambassador for goodwill while demonstrating sensitivity to other cultures. I am consistently impressed by the calibre of students that engage in Round Square travel, and I want to thank all of them, including the amazing Fern Hill children, for making the trip so enjoyable for all of us.
This partnership has supported the notion that a child’s education will, and must, extend beyond the four walls of the classroom. As a result of our collaboration and trip to Thailand, we have benefited from something that can never be taken away from us; something that will continue to grow in our hearts, and contribute to the outstanding women and men they are destined to become.
We certainly plan to continue the partnership, and perhaps even expand to two trips a year.
- Support experiential learning at all ages.
- Be bold.
- Do it.