Every Friday each teacher has a two hour activity class and I chose to do bird watching. I have a group of nine students, from grades 4 and 5, aged between 9- 11.
On the first day I showed them a power-point presentation of what we were going to do- namely bird watch, take photographs, draw pictures and ultimately make their own power-point presentation at the end of the year of the birds they have seen and learned about.
I don’t know how I ever imagined that these kids were even going to begin to do that. Don’t get me wrong- they turn up with binoculars, cameras and even books that they have bought , but mostly they like it because they get to walk around outside of the classroom.
The lesson lasts from 1.50pm to 3.40pm, so nearly two hours. By the time they have all arrived (20 minutes after the beginning of the lesson) it’s now down to one and a half hours, which is OK because it is invariably hot in the afternoons.
I have been taking them around Burapha University Campus mostly and, always without fail, after around 30 minutes you can guarantee that one of them will say:
“Can we go back to sachool?”
“No”, I reply, “we have another hour.”
So on we go. Every time I see a bird I say:
“Look, a bird!”
One or two of them will reply:
“Beautiful,” because they have actually taken notice of where I am pointing. But the majority of them have no interest whatsoever.
One day we were walking back towards school and the free university bus passed.
“Teacher?” they cried.
And knowing what they were going to ask I replied:
“No we walk!”much to the drivers amusement followed by their little disappointed faces at having to walk back.
Most of the birds we have seen to date are common ones that are everywhere- Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, and Common and White-vented Mynas. It is quite amusing because every time we see a Myna I asked them:
“What’s that?” and they all reply together:
I saw a glimpse of an Owl that my friend had spotted in a certain part of the university but, kids being kids, they were just too noisy and scared it away. Trying to spot any birds with 9 and 11 year olds is virtually impossible.
“You have to be quiet” I say to them. At which point they proceed to chase whatever bird I have spotted and, of course, it flies off.
The last couple of weeks I have taken them to the beach. The first time was good because the tide was out so they were on the beach having fun. Not a single bit of bird watching was going on. Instead, they were collecting shells, playing with sticks, and getting their socks and shoes wet. I didn’t mind though -I was still bird watching and spotting birds for their ever present non-replies and responses. I had come to realise that what I set out for them to do was never going to happen. But who cares-they were having fun and learning about stuff and, even though it wasn’t bird related, fun and learning is the most important thing.
The second time the tide was in. One of the kids, Tat, had already told me he didn’t want to go to the beach, he wanted to watch basketball. I told him he had to come as he was my responsibility for the next two lessons. So off we went me and nine kids in tow-actually as they knew where they were going it was me who was in tow, taking photographs while they steamed ahead.
We got to the beach only to find that there was no beach because the tide was in. They looked at me and said:
“What will we do?”
“No problem,” I replied, “let’s walk to the beach up the road.”
For the first 20 minutes or so they were fine with no moaning or groaning. They were running over the rocks, up and down steps trying not to get their feet wet from the incoming water, poking dead jellyfishes and saying hello to puppies.
By the time we had got to the beach Tat had already began to whine, as 9 year olds do when they are bored, and he was on the phone to his mother. He wanted water but he didn’t want to buy it at any of the beach side carts. He told me his mother was going to come and pick him up from there.
“How long will she be?”
Bearing in mind I had another eight kids to get back to school, after 5 minutes I asked:
“Where is your mum?”
He called her again and I spoke to her and told her that I was going back to school and to meet us there.
“Chai, Ka” (yes, ok).
In Thailand certain things you say get lost in translation. I think she thought I said we will meet you at the beach because one minute later she turned up at the beach and Tat and two other boys, Film and Kan, left to get a lift, waving goodbye as they went. I might add they were getting a lift back to school to collect their schoolbags- little monkeys didn’t want to walk back.
I have only got one more week left with these nine kids and I will take them out bird watching one last time. It’s really awesome to see them having fun with not a care in the world. And even though we didn’t do that much bird watching, however hard I tried to get them motivated, at least they know what a Myna bird is!
Some more photos of our bird watching adventures 😉