Recently, BNF was visited by two high schools from Australia namely Springfield Central High School and Cleveland District State High School that came for their school trips to Central Kalimantan. The total number of the participants on the school trip was 19, consisting of 13 school students and 6 teachers.
The two schools spent three days venturing in the Sabangau peat-swamp forest where BNF’s research camp base is located. The Sabangau Forest offers its pristine wildlife experience for the students to explore.
Chris Gauthier, a Springfield science teacher, came for his second time to Sabangau Forest for the school trip. Back in April 2015 just before the huge forest fires, Chris and the other teachers came to Sabangau forest for the school rainforest visit.
“It’s really about connecting the students to real science in action. Sometimes, in school setting, there’s a sense of disconnection because we do everything in the classroom” said Chris to BNF.
A teacher like Chris realizes that giving the students experience outside the classroom is a powerful way to transform their understanding of science compared to just learning in the classroom with limited exploration.
Before taking the boat to the Sabangau Forest, the participants were required to come to Center for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP) of University of Palangkaraya for an introduction presentation. The orientation was led directly by Drs. Tampung N. Saman M.Lib who explained about the biodiversity in the region and the threat of the fires that overshadows Sabangau Forest.
After the orientation, we hit the road by taking a Bemo (local taxi) to Kereng Bangkirai village. When we arrived, three traditionally hand-made wooden boats, called Kelotok by the local people, were ready to take turns to bring us cross the dark river of Sabangau.
During the three days, the school trip participants from Cleveland and Springfield were actively involved in challenging full day activities. On the first day, we arrived at research camp in Sabangau Forest around 12.30 in the afternoon, and enjoyed the tasty traditional Indonesian lunch served by the camp kitchen team. After lunch, the participants gathered in the camp’s “hall” for a presentation led by the field staff regarding instructions and information about the activities they would be undertaking.
After a brief explanation, the participants were then split into three groups. They firstly learnt to set up butterfly traps with the assigned BNF field staff member. The trap was a mix of sliced bananas and Malaga (an alcohol drink) to get the butterfly trapped in the net. All the participants had a chance to put the traps up on the trees in the forest and experienced how it felt like doing a butterfly survey.
Each group was guided by two BNF trained personnel to get into the peat-swamp forest. Walking on the rail boards was apparently fine but then the field team led the group into the slippery and spongy peatland. Some participants got stuck in watery holes in the peat; during the rainy season, the water level in the river is high, which affects the peat inside the forest leaving it flooded. Even so, it all paid off as we saw red langur monkey (locally named kelasi) swinging from one tree to another in quick movements. Ika, a BNF Primate Scientist, explained that it was kelasi time to eat so the group were coming out.
The next day, participants started early in the morning to catch the dragonflies and damselflies that they found nearby the water holes in the peat. “Dragonflies and damselflies are both important insects that can be used as the indicators of the rain and the water condition in the forest” said Iwan, BNF’s Biodiversity Staff.
In the evening the school trip participants joined discussions about primates with BNF scientists. They learnt how the scientists conduct research on primates particularly on the iconic big ape, the orangutan. Walking through spongy peat-swamp forest, the participants could easily see signs of orangutan activity from the nests they leave high up in the trees.
When the last day came, the members of the school trip went to the reforestation and dam areas. During the reforestation session, they were asked to find seedlings to plant in the nursery area; once they have grown, these saplings will be planted out in the reforestation areas. After this, the group went inside the forest to learn the dam building processes and to see how it works to block water from coming out of the forest.
Molly from Cleveland District State High School expressed her pride and joy in joining the school trip. “I’m so excited that I have learnt so much. I didn’t think it would be as educational as it has been. BNF has helped me understand through this experience and it will drive me more to do more to take care of the planet” said Molly.
Overall, the participants from both schools were very cooperative making the trip unforgettable for BNF and the schools. “The groups are so good, they seem to be very well behaved, and I heard some of them raise very good questions, which means that they understand what they’ve been informed during the programme” said Karen Jeffers, BNF’s scientist. It is expected that the participants of this school trip could spread their positive experience back home in Australia and to the world. (AE)