Kate Knight Office Development & Field Project Assistant (Intern)
On the 21st of June Mr. Udomsak Pariwatpan (Em), MAP-Thailand’s Field Officer, and myself the new MAP Intern travelled to Phang Nga and Krabi Provinces for a jam packed two days of meetings and environmental education (EE). Being relatively new to MAP, when I was told I would be spending a few days out in the field I was really excited to see some of the on the ground work that the organisation does here in Thailand. The focus of the trip was primarily on carrying out environmental education for school aged children, funded by the LUSH Charity Pot, but also included meeting with the principle and village chief about using the school as a one of two plastic free model schools in Thailand and visiting MAP’s other project sites.
Students from Ban Tha-Sanook School visiting the MAP learning centre
The environmental education class consisted of 21 students, aged 14, from a primary school in Ban Tha-Sanook, Phang Nga Province. The weather was scorching 35 degrees so we held the class at the boardwalk and mangrove learning center nearby the school. The location of the sala on a small pond and surrounded by a range of different mangrove species created the perfect learning space. The class started with Em introducing the topic and playing a few educational games with MAP bags and shirts for prizes. The students were then split into small groups and given a species of mangrove. Their task was to identify the species from the boardwalk, collect data and info on it and then create colorful and informative posters about each species. At the end students presented what they had found to the rest of the class. It was heartwarming to see the students putting in a hundred percent effort and subsequently really enjoying the task and leaving with a great sense of pride in the work they had done.
Students receiving prizes and presenting to the class about different mangrove species
While at Ban Tha-Sanook, we also visited the local primary school and Em held talks with the principle and local head of the village to discuss measures to reducing plastic use at the school. Ironically, we had visited on a day when the whole school had gathered to celebrate “Wai Kruu” – a traditional Thai ceremony for the students to celebrate and give thanks to teachers. This highlighted to us just how much plastic the school really goes through, it was like the perfect showcase of how big the problem with single use plastic is. There were food stalls with almost each item being individually wrapped in plastic, plastic drink cups, an abundance of plastic straws and disposable cutlery. It was difficult to determine if it was an attitude problem, due to the convenience or if students and teachers lacked the education and knowledge about the extent of the impact that single use plastic was having on the environment. However, gaging from these first talks, the school was understanding in the need to reduce plastic use and were keen to discuss different strategies to reduce the amount of plastic in the hope of becoming a completely plastic free school in the future. The next step now, is to create a baseline study to determine exactly how much plastic is being used, what areas of school it is being used the most and why. This will enable us to come up with some targeted strategies to reducing plastic.
Teachers and students celebrating “Wai Kruu”….plastic everywhere.
As part of the field trip we also utilised the time to visit other nearby project sites including the Nai Nang Apiculture Group. Here Em discussed an upcoming event with the apiculture group to disseminate their knowledge and experience of beekeeping to other villages. Due to the success of the group, Nai Nang now acts as an apiculture and mangrove conservation model for other villages. On the 31st of June MAP and the Nai Nang Apiculture group will be hosting five other villages to give training about beekeeping; Ban Thale Nok, Rayong; Ban Tha Sanook, Phang Nga; Thung Yor, Krabi; Bang Kang Khao, Trang; and Khlong Kam, Krabi.
On the whole, this trip was a great success, really enjoyable and personally, was nice to finally feel immersed in the work that MAP carries out. The highlight for me was the EE classes with the school students but also having the opportunity to visit previous sites that MAP has worked in and some of the many mangrove forests spread across the two provinces. In between the formal meetings and EE classes, I was able to visit one of the Community Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) sites in Ban Tha-Sanook. In the space of three years since the original work was done, new mangrove trees are clearly visible with some already reaching over ten feet high. To be able to witness the impact of MAP’s work was really inspiring and given me a new sense of what is achievable when working with like-minded and passionate people. In Krabi, Em gave me a tour of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources’ (DMCR) boardwalk which runs about 400 meters through a mangrove forest. Em also helped me to identify my favourite species - Xylocarpus granatum – which has a beautiful scale-like bark!
MAP CBEMR site in Ban Tha-Sanook and Myself on the DMCR mangrove boardwalk, Krabi