Places of Learning



Discovery Learning

Children, when they are not hindered, actively steer their own learning processes. They are curious, motivated, learn through trial and error, prefer a connection between “theory” and “practice” and opportunities for “learning by doing”. The children’s farm can act as a basis station for discovery voyages á là Jules Verne. Gaining knowledge, skills and abilities serves the continuation of the children’s projects. The pedagogues no longer function as lion tamers who try to get the entire class to jump through a hoop, they act more as stimulators, developmental advisors, and assistants in the research and discovery voyages. 

Entrepreneurship Education

Thailand’s National Education Commission has ideas for vocational training schools that are significantly further than we find in the current international discussion regarding education. The vocational schools should be developed into “entrepreneurial schools”, and the graduates will be equipped with double qualifications: The ability, as an employee, to work as part of a team, yet possessing skills as an “innovative entrepreneur” to create jobs. 

The pilot study “The Development of Entrepreneurial Schools in Thailand” (Zimmer/Puntasen/Suksirikul/ Wawsri 2001) shapes the project planned here. 

The goal: Educate pupils to develop their entrepreneurial spirit. An innovative entrepreneur is a person without particular resources who plays with an entrepreneurial idea and carries it out on the marketplace. His best capital is a good idea that contributes to an improvement in the quality of living. This unique entrepreneur acts socially and ecologically responsibly and is successful without plundering resources. The résumés of people who have taken the plunge into running their own businesses have some characteristics in common: They were already developing entrepreneurial initiatives during their childhood, and they usually had difficulties with conventional schools. 

The project School for Life, the children’s farm, wants to create a setting that encourages children and youth to develop and attempt entrepreneurial ideas in a playful setting and without the pressure of starting a business. In this manner, children and youth prepare themselves for situations later in which it will be important to create employment positions for themselves and for others (instead of chasing after positions that are not available) to enable them to break through the circle of poverty. Entrepreneurship education does not mean encouraging children and youth to jump head first into a rapidly spinning consumer spiral, it means educating children and youth in intelligent humility with the goal of attaining a higher quality of life while using fewer resources. 

Community Education

Community education means “learning in, with and for the community”. Learning is considered participation in lasting developments in the community. Community schools open themselves from the inside and the outside and participate in developing and shaping the community. The School for Life and the village of Pongkum create a network that serves such developments on a small scale. 

Examples of this include: The farm creates jobs for people in the village and teaches them competencies in the area of organic farming. Guests helped the village school develop a recycling center, where garbage from the village can be recycled; the children became managers and experts in recycling. The school often fed the orphaned children; through charity rallies, which have been partially planned by the children, guests could improve the means with which the children are cared for. 

Educational Projects

Many small and large projects characterize educational practice at the School for Life. These are some examples: 

• The children discover how the royal forest can be used as a pharmacy. They search for healing herbs, bulbs, and fruits, and use them to make traditional medicine and lay out a garden of healing herbs. 

• A bicycle repair station is being developed. One of the guests, an enthusiastic bicyclist, helps and teaches the children, how to conduct professional repairs. 

• Children lay out vegetable patches. The area on the farm is big enough to provide for vegetables for everybody. With the help of farmers, they learn to counter the problems of organic agriculture: how to ensure enough water supply during droughts, how to attract the right insects and get rid of harmful ones, and how to achieve successful harvests using natural fertilizers. 

• Children spend days kneading clay. They create figures and tableware, built a furnace with the help of a ceramist, and are immensely proud of their achievements. 

• Children of the North and South create a unified percussions band: "Drum of Victory". They develop traditional percussion and dance pieces and win an inter-regional competition. 

• Children, guests, and a Thai cook prepare food together. They use ingredients from the vegetable patch and prepare a meal of several courses and levels of spiciness. They eat together and in the whole process learn English ‘by cooking’. 

• A lot is being invented and practiced for the Cultural Art & Road Performance. Music, singing, dance, and painting are being combined to a one and a half hour show. On a journey lasting for several weeks, combining social-geographic and cultural-historic experiences, children learn more about their native Thailand and perform for an audience of more that 1000 people. 

• A volunteer versed in directing musicals works on part of the piece “Cats” with the children. Since then, the musical is part of the children’s repertoire. 

• Pop-musicians from Europe visit the farm and let the children inspire them to twelve wonderful and heart-warming songs. The “Home” CD/DVD is created and can now be purchased (www.beluga-schoolforlife.com). 

• A trick box is built: a big box with an open front and top. A camera can now film whatever is being staged inside using dough and colored paper. The children produce an animated video clip for the Thai children’s song of the happy elephant. The song and the clip are included on the “Home” CD/DVD. 

• A Gallery in Pattaya exhibits large works of the children. Due to the success of the exhibition, the children’s pieces will now be on display longer at the gallery. 

• First-aid courses are conducted. A member of the German Red Cross awards 60 children with a certificate. These children will from now on help in the infirmary.