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Borneo Day 7: Thursday, July 27, 2017

Traditional house model

Models of a traditional Banjar house and a royal barge, at the food court in the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin.

We left the school at the end of the school day after having taught for about five hours total today. We were tired, and rested for a time in our rooms. Knowing that we needed to make an early start, Nazar made no plans for us this evening, but we decided to go out exploring the town for supper. I also needed to get some more rupiah, as the amount needed to pay for our trip tomorrow was more than my cash on hand. I looked up Star networked ATMs in the city, which my wife said should work with my credit cards (I had had some trouble with my Visa card in Jakarta). One was located near the Duta Mall, so I looked up maps and drew one out for the easiest route to get there from the hotel.

Banjarmasin near Hotel

Our walking route from our hotel to the Duta Mall in downtown Banjarmasin. The numbers are ATMs with the Star Network. I needed to get more money out for our trip the next day.

I knocked on Craig’s door at about 7:00 and we walked out to the street, called Jalan Pengeran Antasari. We walked east-southeast to the intersection of Jalan Kolonel Sugiono and turned north. I was getting quite hungry and needed something immediately, so we stopped at an Alpha Mart and got a Hungry Cow. We passed over a canal, then came to Jalan A. Yani. This is a larger road, and we followed the lead of a lady who was crossing, as we didn’t want to get hit. We turned east and soon came to the ATM, a bank of three in a glass booth near the road leading into the mall parking lot. My regular Visa still wouldn’t work – I think the PIN number was accidently reset when I tried it at the hotel in Jakarta because I didn’t know the correct PIN until I my wife e-mailed it to me. My USAA Visa did work, fortunately, and I got more money out for tomorrow and the next few days. When I get out 240,000 rupiah, it seems like a lot of money but it is really only about $20. I got out a bit more than that.

Pizza

This was the meat lover’s pizza. The pepperoni wasn’t pork, and it needed a bit more cheese, but it was pretty tasty.

We walked into the main entrance of the Duta Mall and found many shops and stores selling electronics, toys, and other goods. There was a food court, and we decided to get pizza, which was OK but needed more cheese. The pepperoni was a bit chewy. We had to get food cards at a central kiosk and use them to pay for the meal. It is the same scheme as used in carnivals – you always have some leftover tickets, so that the carnival gets more money than you actually use on rides.

Eat me

I’m not sure if I want to eat this or not, but at least the kentang goreng (fired potatoes or french fries) look good.

We walked up an escalator and discovered other food choices on the second floor: A & W, Baskin Robbins, and Pizza Hut. Oh well! We looked around a few minutes and explored through a large supermarket. There were interesting food choices such as live eels (snakes?), snake fruit, dragon fruit, Sponge Crunch, and green tea Kit Kats. After buying a few snacks for tomorrow, we headed back to the hotel the way we had come. The narrow road of Jalan Kolonel Sugiono was a bit hard to navigate at night. Without sidewalks, it is hard to know which is safer – to walk with traffic but not be able to see it coming, or to walk against traffic so we can dodge if needed.

Eel infested water

After eating supper we wandered through eel infested waters in the mall’s supermarket looking for snacks for tomorrow’s trip. That was the obscure movie quote for the day . . .

I got my camera batteries charged up and uploaded all photos. I e-mailed some to my wife and children along with descriptions of my day, as I have been doing every night. My wife has been reposting some of the photos I send on her Facebook page.

Mushrooms

After supper we explored the mall and a large supermarket, which sold everything from live eels to snake fruit and dragon fruit to these mushrooms. There was no durian fruit, thankfully.

Green tea Kit Kat

Green tea flavor is very big here. It’s not a flavor I would choose for chocolate, but there is it.

Sponge crunch

Something isn’t quite right here – I thought sponges were – well, spongy. So how do you make them crunchy?

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Borneo Day 7: Thursday, July 27, 2017

On our final day at SMAN 1 Mandastana we conducted three professional development workshops.

Early morniing rice field

Driving through rice fields in Mandastana to get to the school

Nazar invited a group of about 20 English teachers from neighboring schools to meet with us first in the language lab room. This session would be without translation, and he wanted us to simply tell some things about our schools and what education is like in America. I went first then Craig followed.

Craig presenting to English teachers

We conducted three sessions of professional development this day. Here, Craig is presenting about his school in Indianapolis to English teachers from the surrounding schools.

I had put together a more extensive presentation on American Academy of Innovation the night before, focusing on our approach to project-based learning (PBL) and what that means. I wanted to plant some seeds of possibility for teachers in Indonesia to think in terms of student projects, which can be done as easily in English classes as they can in science classes. One teacher asked me of an example of a project that could be done by his students in an English class. I said his students could pretend they are taking a vacation somewhere in America or other English speaking country. They are allowed a budget with only so much money, and have a certain number of days for the vacation. They have to research where to go, how much it would cost, where to stay, what to eat, and everything. In the process, they learn the geography, the culture, the food, and a lot of practical English skills. It is meaningful because they may very well take that trip some day, just as I had to do research before this trip. I’m glad I did, or we would not be going to Loksado tomorrow.

Craig presenting in teachers room

We gave the same presentations (about our schools) to all of the teachers at SMAN 1 Mandastana in their break room during lunch time. Here, Craig is showing the diversity of students that he has in his classes in Indianapolis.

Craig spoke of the diversity of his school and the average school day for teachers and students. There is surprisingly little diversity here in Mandastana – almost all Banjarese with maybe some Dayak mixed in, but no other ethnic groups. I know there are some Chinese in Banjarmasin, but apparently none out here in the country.

Craig with students freestyle

We also took some final selfies with students and teachers. This was Thursday, which is the day in Indonesia to wear local batik (or sasirangan in Borneo). This is to promote Indonesian culture. As it is the beginning of the school year, not all students have been able to purchase their sasirangan patterns yet, so many students were wearing their regular uniforms.

We took photos with the teachers and answered questions, then went to the faculty room. Nazar wanted all the teachers at his school to see the same presentations and have a chance to ask questions during lunch. We projected up on a light blue wall again and the teachers asked frequent questions, especially of the everyday lives of teachers and students from Craig’s presentation. Mine was a bit more pedagogical than ordinary life, so there were fewer questions.

PD class

We met in the biology room at the end of school to present our final professional development session on integrating technology into the curriculum. We had about 40 teachers from surrounding schools attend.

The teachers were especially interested in how our workweek went – that we teach five days instead of six, but must be in school an hour or more after classes are over – we don’t go home with the students as teachers here do. We also talked about the differences between the advancement tests given here and the testing required of No Child Left Behind; that here, the students are tested to determine which track they will take in high school whereas with us, the teachers and school are the ones actually being tested. There are no consequences for students to fail the end of year tests. They thought this was fascinating and a little alarming. It was interesting to think of this from their point of view.

Singing the anthem

We started the session with all of the teachers singing the Indonesian national anthem.

We had a brief time to rest, then moved over to the biology room, which is the best suited for a larger group. This was the session we had been planning for some time. 40 teachers from around the area came and we held a training session on technology integration.

Presenting to headmaster

We presented a certificate from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program to the Headmaster. Notice the nice banner in the background advertising our professional development session.

Craig and I had planned out what we wanted to do. I would look at two tools I have used, and so would Craig. His would be more on how to use cell phones constructively in the classroom to do quiz games. Mine was on using the MIT BLOSSOMS website and videos and using Scratch to as a programming language from Code.org and MIT.

After some introductions, I began with MIT BLOSSOMS and showed them how to find videos, including mine on the parallax lesson I taught here yesterday. Since their bandwidth wasn’t good, I wasn’t able to actually show the video. I also wish they had an option to translate into Bahasa Indonesia, but at least they do have Malay as an option.

Craig and David presenting PD

Nazar was kind enough to take photos of us presenting to the group. I am showing the MIT BLOSSOMS website and scratch programming with the MIT site. Craig’s presentations were on how to use cell phones to do quizzes and other classroom possibilities.

Craig then showed how to run a quiz using Kahoots, and had the teachers sign up and play the quiz as he demonstrated their scores realtime. The teachers got into it, and he handed out school lanyards as prizes at the end.

Edy wins award

Edy, the computer and video teacher here at SMAN 1 Mandastan, receives a school lanyard from Craig for winning the Quizziz game.

I then showed how to use Scratch, but was in the Code.org site instead of the MIT site, so it wasn’t as easy to log in and show. People weren’t as interested, but I had wanted to show them how it was possible to teach computer programming without many materials or that the students could be self-taught. But I think computer programming is so far away from where they are realistically that I would have been better off showing something simpler. I had thought of showing EarthExplorer, but it isn’t very useful unless you can go all the way to 3D models, which is too far beyond them now. Maybe some day.

Craig and David with PD group

Craig and I with many of the teachers who attended our final professional development session in the biology room.

Craig showed Quizzizz, another cell phone/online game or quiz, and got great participation. I should have found something more active, but I don’t have a smart phone. I think it is time to get one; then I could have demonstrated some apps that are more accessible for the needs of teachers and students here. We finished up with questions and answers.

Laughing teachers

The teachers wanted to take selfies with us afterwards. Here they are trying to get lined up to take a selfie with Craig.

We were given some nice certificates by the headmaster and assistant headmaster, and we presented the headmaster with a certificate as well – I had given Nazar his already when I presented the Embassy bag to him earlier in the week. We took photos with the 40 teachers and a lot of selfies with teachers afterward. I just goes to show that teachers like selfies as much as students. I was a fun and informal gathering.

Certificates

We were also presented with certificates by the Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster.

We packed up our things and put them into Nazar’s car. We were reluctant to leave this school, which has been a welcome bit of normalcy in this foreign land. No matter how different education may be here, teaching is still teaching and teachers are much the same everywhere. We have felt at home in SMAN 1 Mandastana.

School on stilts

Part of SMAN 1 Mandastana. Because this is a tropical climate, there are no interior halls. The school buildings, as are all buildings around Banjarmasin, are built on stilts because of the swampy nature of the ground here.

Frustasi no

A good slogan to live by!

Craig playing volleyball

While we were waiting to pack up, Craig played a little freestyle volleyball with the volleyball team, who have won several championships.

Last view of school

Our last view of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

 

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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sasirangan hanging up

Sasirangan patterns hanging up to dry at the factory along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

After resting for a couple of hours, we met Nazar, his wife, and his older daughter in the lobby. He was taking us to see how sasirangan, the Banjarese form of tie-dye, is done. As we drove across the river the clouds that had been gathering all day were turning dark black and rain was immanent.

Threatening clouds

Threatening storm clouds over Banjarmasin. This is supposed to be the dry season.

We crossed the Martapura and traveled along a series of ever smaller roads leading us along the west bank. The dyeing process requires a lot of water, so the factories are located inside some of the Banjar style houses along the river we had seen on our trip to Lok Baintan. As we drove along the roadway just to the west of the river, the skies opened up and the rain began. Nazar commented that this wasn’t normal for the dry season. It came down in torrents and buckets, and before long it was impossible to tell where the rainflow ended and the river began – it was all just one sheet of water. We parked under and overhang at the factory outlet and watched the rain for a minute. I took some photos and video.

Rainstorm on river

The rain begins – it came down so fast it became hard to tell where the runoff ended and the river began.

This was quite a storm, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been through the edge of a typhoon in Taiwan, and I was once in a downpour in Minneapolis in April 1986 that was beyond belief. The rain there came down so fast that the drainage system couldn’t handle it, even though the city is along the Mississippi River. The pressure in the drains was so great that manhole covers were being blown into the air and fountains of water eight feet high were geysering out of the holes. On my way to the airport a short time later, my shuttle van drove through what looked like a shallow puddle that wound up being five feet deep. The engine got wet and stalled. They had to call another shuttle van to come get us – it drove more carefully into the “puddle” and I had to climb out the window and over to the second van with my suitcase so they could take me on to the airport.

Sasirangan choices

Sasirangan samples in the factory showroom. You can find all types of colors and patterns.

As we were looking at samples in the sasirangan store, a load thunderclap and lightning stroke boomed out and the power went out. I was able to use my flash for photos, but not for video. Craig got his cell phone out and set it to flashlight mode so that I would have some light. We crossed the road to the dye factory on the other side along the river. A man showed us how they use stencils to trace the traditional patterns onto white cloth. The cloth is then tied tightly with small ties to follow the pattern of the stencils. Parts that aren’t to be dyed in the first color are covered in plastic bags.

Tied green cloth

Died green cloth with the ties in place. Where the ties gather in the cloth, the dye won’t penetrate and will leave white places, just like western tie dye. This may be the origin of tie dye.

Next door were the dye vats. Since dye works better in hot water, the room was like a sauna with steaming vats of various colors. My camera wanted to fog up, but I did get some good photos and video. The men there were wearing gloves and dipping the cloth repeatedly into various colors. The bags are moved to the previously dyed areas so that other colors can be applied where the bags had been. The cloth is then rinsed and hung up to dry on railings between the two buildings, something a bit hard to do in this rain.

Plastic covered parts

Dyeing the sasirangan cloth. The dye area was a sauna bath from the steaming hot dye vats. To protect color in areas, plastic bags are tied on to prevent the second color from reaching the first color.

The rain soon let up, and we returned to the outlet store. We looked through the colors; there were many beautiful combinations, and I bought two different bolts of cloth. One was purples and magentas, the other oranges and brick red. These will be for gifts for my sister and daughter.

Dye vats 2

The dyers used rubber globes to repeatedly dip the fabric into the dye vats. The power was knocked out by a lightning strike nearby in the storm. Between the humidity from the rain and the steaming dye baths, this room was like a sauna. They had many types of dye powders and could do any combination of colors and patterns.

Now that the rain was ending, we got back in the car and drove through winding streets to find a restaurant for supper. Nazar knew an excellent place for bakso nearby, and we drove past alleyways and along narrow roads to get there. The late afternoon light after the storm provided a silvery golden cast to everything as it reflected off the wet pavement along the alleyways. It was extremely humid after the rain, but the air was cooler and quite comfortable, so I rolled down my window to get better photos. We passed a cemetery, including the memorial to a local hero. After a few minutes, we reached the restaurant. Nazar’s son rode a Gojek to the restaurant and met us there. I had beef bakso and chilled bottled water for supper, and it was excellent. I like bakso a great deal, and have had some good stuff, but this was the best I had anywhere in Indonesia.

Alley near bakso place

Alleyway near bakso kitchen after the rainstorm.

Bakso kitchen

Bakso kitchen in Banjarmasin where we ate after visiting the sasirangan factory.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

Road after rain

Traveling through the narrow streets of northern Banjarmasin after the rainstorm.

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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26

Pink mosque and rice field

Ripening rice field and a pink mosque in Barito Kuala Regency, South Kalimantan.

The counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana was celebrating the birth of a new baby and invited us to his home, along with the other teachers. School would be let out early so the teachers could attend. After we had rested a bit from our morning teaching and had re-hydrated, Nazar drove us to his home.

Coal barge on Barito

A coal barge on the Barito River. Sorry that it’s a bit blurry – I took this from a moving car as we crossed the bridge.

He lived out in the country beyond the Barito River Bridge and past the river town we had stopped in a few days before. This was the furthest we went to the west. Nazar hadn’t been to his house before and had to call him a few times for directions and turn around a few times. Google Maps isn’t as accurate out here. I had the chance to observe people as they were beginning the rice harvest.

Mosque and rice field

A field of rice ready to harvest and a blue mosque, out in the country of Barito Kuala Regency.

Rice can be grown twice each year in Indonesia. I’ll write about the process of planting and growing rice in a later post, but let me here talk about the harvesting. As the rice becomes ripe, the fields are allowed to dry and the rice heads and stalks turn golden, although never as golden as wheat. Some of the farmers use mechanical rice pickers (there is my obscure Star Trek reference for the day – what episode of the original series discusses Spock’s unfortunate accident with a mechanical rice picker?). Some still harvest by hand with machetes and carry the bundles to their house courtyards, where they use a hand-cranked threshing machine to separate the grains from the stalks (chaff). I saw quite a few of these threshing machines as we traveled today, as the harvest is beginning and farmers have brought them out to use. Once the grain is threshed, it is placed on top of the courtyard or on tarps by the road to dry. The farmers rake it around to help it dry faster. Then it is collected, bagged, and sold. We saw people on motorcycles carrying the bags, and stores by the roads selling the rice.

Drying rice in front of house

Harvested rice is laid out on tarps in the courtyard or driveway of the house (or sometimes at the edges of country lanes) to dry. The rice is raked frequently to aid in even drying. I’m not sure what happens if it rains (as it did later this afternoon).

We finally found the counselor’s house, by a rice field next to a pink mosque. This was his own rice field. We were welcomed into the house, where we removed our shoes and sat on the floor to eat the ceremonial meal.

Drying rice

Laying out tarps for drying rice. The wooden wheel-shaped object behind the farmer is a rice thresher. The stalks are placed inside and a crank is turned, causing the rice grains to be separated or threshed from the stalks. It is then placed on the tarps to dry.

The baby naming/presentation ceremony is an important one in Banjarese culture, and we were treated as honored guests. Different dishes were brought out on a carrying rack for us to choose from, as well as trays of the plastic water cups and steamed rice that he had grown and harvested himself in the field next door. The food was good. After the meal, as other people were beginning to arrive, we took photographs with the mother and mother-in-law and got to hold the baby.

Baby naming ceremony

Food for the baby naming ceremony. The blue plastic cups in the trays are sealed cups of purified water.

Nazar drove us back to the hotel to rest as clouds were beginning to gather.

Rice field and pink mosque 2

The counselor’s rice field and the pink mosque next door.

House and mother in law

The counselor’s house where the ceremony and meal took place. The mother, baby, and mother in law are on the porch. The rice field next door is his field, and we ate rice he harvested from it last year.

David holding baby

Getting to hold the baby. The father is to my left and the mother to my right. He is the counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26

Physics class

The physics class at SMAN 1 Mandastana. I gave all the students a MAVEN postcard. I taught two astronomy activities on this day. The teacher is standing next to me with the NASA sticker.

Today Craig and I taught lessons in our subject areas. He taught the spaghetti tower engineering project and the DaVinci helicopter activity. I taught two astronomy lessons: the human orrery and the parallax activity.

Martapura River at dawn

The Martapura River at dawn, taken from the entrance to our hotel.

We had worked out what we would be teaching with the physics teacher the day before. When we first met the teachers on Monday, I noticed that she was the only female teacher not wearing a hijab, for whatever reason, and that she didn’t seem as carried away in the general hoopla about having us here. I could see that I needed to convince her that this would be a good experience for her students, so I asked Nazar if we could meet with her and discuss what we wanted to do. She warmed to the idea of teaching engineering and astronomy, and that we would trade off with another class so that both would get the lessons. We decided on the details and were good to go.

Laying down planets

Laying out the planet rings for the human orrery activity.

I set up in her classroom this morning, preparing the materials I had brought with me all the way from America in my blue suitcase. I had the string orbits and space probe for the orrery and the materials for making sextants. I also had my final presents for students, the remaining NASA stickers, postcards, and bookmarks. My suitcase will be much lighter after today.

As the first class started, I introduced the idea of the planets and how they were called the Wanderers by the Greeks. I asked them for the Indonesian words: Earth is Bumi and the other planets are essentially the same words as English and Latin. Then I asked for the name of the sun and this one surprised me: it is Mata Hari. I asked if it was the same name as the infamous World War I spy that lived in Paris, and they said yes. She was a Dutch woman who had lived in Indonesia with her husband and studied dance here when her marriage fell apart. She took the name of the Sun as her stage name.

Space ship arrives at Mars

The spaceship arrives at Mars after a six month journey. Now it has to wait there until Earth comes back around, and then a six month return voyage. We simulated all of this through our human orrery.

I described how Ptolemy worked out the motions of the solar system based on a geocentric model with deferent and epicycle circles like a spirograph. They understood the translations given by Nazar, but no one has seen a spirograph before. No matter. I plunged onward. I explained that Ptolemy had been brilliant but wrong, and that Arabic astronomers had gotten better observations and that Copernicus created a heliocentric model based on them. I certainly put Nazar to the test. I asked for volunteers to be the planets and Mata Hari, and then we went outside into the courtyard.

We laid out the string orbits in as circular a pattern as possible, then I ran the simulation calling out “Two weeks.” They certainly know what that means now. I pointed out how Mercury is fastest and Mars slowest. Then I showed how a space probe or human mission would take 6-8 months to reach Mars, starting when Earth is 90° from Mars and overtaking it, then arriving at Mars on the opposite side of the Sun. Astronauts would have to wait until Earth came back around to the same position before starting back, a 30 month round trip. At the end, I had students stand around the circles as zodiac constellations and demonstrated how retrograde motion works as Earth overtakes Mars.

Measuring stars

Students at SMAN 1 Mandastana measuring the angles from planets to stars in our parallax activity.

It was a hot activity out in the sun in the courtyard and we were all grateful to get back inside, even if the classroom isn’t air conditioned. I handed out Mars MAVEN postcards (I still had quite a stack) and the students insisted that I sign them as an autograph. That took a few minutes. Then we took photos again.

Mata Hari in 2010

Mata Hari in 2010. She was born from Dutch parents but moved with her husband to Indonesia, where she learned Javanese dancing. After divorcing and moving to France, she started a career as an exotic dancer and took her stage name from the Bahasa Indonesia word for sun, literally “eye in the sky.” She was accused of being a German spy and was executed in 1917 by the French.

After we traded classrooms, I was in a math teacher’s class and I taught a second astronomy lesson, this one a bit more challenging. This is the lesson I developed on how we calculate the distance to nearby stars using trigonometric parallax. I introduced the idea of using the tangent function to find the distance to the star based on the parallax angle created by the star’s apparent wiggling back and forth compared to the background stars because of the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. I had to ask the Indonesian word for star, which is bintang. There is a beer in Indonesia (popular on Bali but not so much elsewhere, because Muslims don’t drink alcohol) called Bintang or Star Beer.

Measuring stars 2

Helping students measure the angles to simulated stars in our parallax activity.

I divided the students into groups and handed out the wooden dowels, protractors, tape, string, and beads I had brought. The built the sextants, and then they drew up stars and planets on the cardstock with the markers I brought. Then we headed outside to the courtyard again. I used two meter sticks we had borrowed from the physics teacher (kept in the teacher’s lounge because they are very valuable and she doesn’t want them broken) and laid out and measured the planets on one line and the stars on another perpendicular line. I explained how to measure the angles with the sextants, and the math teacher helped her students figure out the process. The girls jumped in a lot more willingly than the boys (no surprise there), who were more willing to stand in as stars. Once we had at least two measurements from each planet to each star, even though not all groups had all measurements, we headed back inside as we were all getting heat stroke. I hadn’t thought of the problem with the heat, and the poor girls were roasting in their hijabs.

Measuring stars 3

Measuring the angles to stars from simulated planets using a sextant. It was a hot day, so once we got a few measures for each planet to each star, we headed back inside to do the calculations.

The students pulled out calculators (I hadn’t needed to bring the ones I had) and set to work on the tangent calculations once I had explained the formula. They seemed to all understand it, and had obviously worked with trig functions before. I drew up a table on the white board and we added their measurements, then their calculations. They results were exactly as expected, fitting the pattern much better than any class I’ve ever tried this with. The further out the planet, the better the results compared with the actual answers. The further out the star, the less accurate the results. We talked about why and how the tangent function reaches infinity the closer you get to 90°, so being off by even a degree for the further stars means great differences in the tangent function.

As you can imagine, this lesson took a bit longer than 90 minutes, but the teachers said to go ahead and continue because the students were really getting into it. I don’t know how many hands-on physics activities they normally do – I didn’t get to see the Fisika lab room or any equipment, but if they only have two worn out meter sticks, it can’t be that well equipped. Considering that astronomy isn’t regularly taught in high school, they seemed to have a pretty good grasp of basic astronomy, which leads me to think it is taught in junior high or elementary school. I saw some mechanical orreries in one of the elementary classrooms we visited in Jakarta, so it must be taught at some point.

Calculating answers

Students calculating the tangent function to find the distances to the simulated stars.

It was audacious of me to try to teach these lessons, which are hard to teach even in America. That they were so successful was beyond anything I could have hoped for. I saw some real comprehension in the students’ eyes; I actually taught them something new. I knew the language barrier would be a challenge, but Nazar’s English is good and we managed to communicate. It helped that I learned a few Indonesian words, enough to show my desire to reach them. The students reciprocated by listening and following instructions well, and they seemed to truly appreciate seeing how trigonometry really can be useful, or how simulations and kinesthetic activities can help to demonstrate science concepts.

Calculating star distances

Students calculating the distances to stars using the tangent function for the parallax activity. Their answers were the best I’ve ever seen in this activity, and showed the expected pattern that the more distant a planet, the more accurate the answer. The more distant the star, the less accurate the answer.

It also helped that science really is a universal language. Its concepts remain the same throughout the world; only the specific words change, but because many of them are based on Latin, they are fairly easy to understand and interpret across our two cultures. I have great gratitude to Nazar and the other English teacher for helping to translate the words, and to the science and math teachers for having already laid the foundation of math and science concepts. None of this would have worked otherwise.

Calculating star distances 2

Finding the distances to simulated stars using trigonometric parallax. These students at SMAN 1 Mandastana in Borneo did a great job with the parallax activity. It was a great honor to teach one of my own lesson plans here.

Craig’s engineering exercises also went well, although he did not see the level of creativity and divergent thinking one might expect of American students. Whether or not these types of activities will be used by the science teachers remains to be seen. One day of demonstration is not enough to overcome a lifetime of teaching habits. We won’t be here long enough to follow through, but at least we provided lessons that were unforgettable and truly lived up to our hype as master teachers.

Craig and David with teachers

Craig Hendrick and David Black with teachers at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

I don’t consider myself to be a great educator compared to many teachers I have met, but there are moments when I do well and this was one of them. As my message came through across barriers of culture and language, using concepts that are hard for even English native speakers to understand, I realized that I can be an excellent teacher, after all. We all rose to the challenge, partly because we dared to do what should have been impossible. At least at that moment, I felt deserving of the accolades and respect I have been shown here.

Physics class 2

The second class of the day. I did the parallax activity with them, and they did a fantastic job. I’ve decided that science is truly the universal language.

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Borneo Day 5: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

IMG_4152

The pool at the Swiss Belhotel Banjarmasin

We were back at the hotel early enough that I got a chance to rest and relax at the pool. The Swiss Belhotel Banjarmasin has a very nice pool with a patterned blue tile bottom that is quite inviting. Craig was already enjoying the pool when I arrived, and we were the only two in the pool until about 5:30 when others started coming out of their hotel rooms. I swam a few laps and exercised my legs, which needed stretching.

Right at sunset the call to prayers began, and the buildings reflected the sound of the muezzins of several mosques as they recited the adhan and read sections from the Quran. One mosque in particular seemed loudest or most nearby, but it was hard to tell which based on the reflection of the sound. As the sunset progressed, the clouds shaded from white to yellow to orange to pink. They were morphing and transforming as they moved slowly across the sky, and swallows wheeled about searching for mosquitoes to eat.

There were small kites flying high in the air, and occasionally we would see one flying and tumbling through the sky without a string. This happened several times, and I asked Nazar about it later. He said the kites are flown for fun, but that the kids who fly them like to have kite wars. They fly near others and try to break their strings. That explains why several kites seemed to be zooming around each other.

Sunset

Sunset over Banjarmasin. Small kites are flown near the river, and the children who fly them often have kite wars. We saw several kites with their strings broken tumbling through the air.

As sunset faded into twilight the prayer call from the nearby mosque continued quite a bit longer than any others. Craig went inside but I stayed and listened and watched. The swallows headed home to their nests and were replaced by bats fluttering in the air, also looking for mosquitoes. Darkness came and the stars shone out. I walked to the parking lot again and looked at the Southern Cross and Alpha Centauri as the prayer continued. It was an interesting experience, looking at unfamiliar stars with the unfamiliar sound of the muezzin rising and falling in the sky.

I also asked Nazar questions about the call to prayers and how it is done in Indonesia the next morning. I know some things based on my World Religions class many years ago at Brigham Young University, but Nazar explained more and how it is practiced in Indonesia. Islam requires five acts of faith, called the Five Pillars. One is a submission of will to Allah as the One God and Muhammad as His prophet (the Kalimah). This is done through the salat, or call to prayers, that all believers need to do, bowing to Mecca five times per day. The phraseology depends on which sect of Islam one practices (Sunni, Shi’a, or Zaidiyyah) and is called the adhan, so a muezzin is also called a Mu’adhan, or One Who Recites the Adhan.

Silver tower mosque

A mosque near our hotel that has an especially powerful loudspeaker system.

The exact timing of the calls depend on the phases of the moon and the lunar calendar, but generally the first prayer is early in the morning between 4:30 and 5:30 (we heard this call as we floated up the river on Sunday). There is a late morning prayer, noon time prayer, afternoon prayer, and evening prayer at sunset. Friday afternoons are a special prayer, with longer length, where all believers are expected to attend a mosque.

If people cannot go to a mosque to pray, the muezzin’s call acts as a reminder to pray wherever you are. All that is required is purity before God, symbolized by washing of the feet, hands, head, and other parts of the body. This is why there is a small pool near the school’s mosque (or taps for water near the junior high mosque). Friday evening prayers are especially important; all people are expected to attend a mosque for this, as it starts the Saturday Sabbath observance. The prayer call can be of various lengths depending on what section of the Quran the Imam chooses to have read.

The position of muezzin is important at each mosque (or masjid) as the people around rely on him to know the specified times for prayer, which can change depending on the time of year and phase of the moon. Evening prayer begins at sunset, so the muezzin must know when it sets even on a cloudy day. They are chosen for their character and the quality and loudness of their voices. Before the age of microphones, the calls were done from the top of the mosque’s minaret so everyone could hear. Now they are broadcast via microphone and loudspeaker. In some cities, it is possible to hear several muezzins calling at the same time, in different melodies, from different mosques, in stereophonic sound.

Central mosque 4

The modern styling of the Sabilal Muhtadin mosque in Banjarmasin. The towers near mosques are minarets, from which the muezzins would traditionally call people to prayers.

Another of the Five Pillars is the Haji, or pilgrimage to Mecca expected of all Muslims at least once during their lifetimes. Nazar said that it is difficult either for money or for time for all people to go, but when the desire comes you must obey that wish and go. Those who do go are given a higher status in their community and are considered to be especially devout. The final pillar is the month long daytime fast during Ramadan.

I expressed how many similarities Islam has to my own religion. I am impressed by Islam’s focus on purity of thought and modesty of dress, and on the type of devotion and dedication it takes to follow all of the daily and lifetime expectations and observances. My own religious requirements as a Latter Day Saint (Mormon) seem pretty simple by comparison.

We talked about how religion is practiced in the United States as we drove to school, before the topic turned to other matters. I was glad to understand more of how religion affects the daily lives of the teachers and students and people of Kalimantan. I wish all Americans could get the chance to meet these people; perhaps they would learn not to fear, as knowledge and faith will always replace fear.

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Borneo Day 5: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Country lane near school

The country road leading to SMAN 1 Mandastana.

On our second day at SMAN 1 Mandastana, I was faced with a bit of a challenge. During my presentation yesterday on my school (American Academy of Innovation) I showed slides of my students doing chemistry demonstrations, including the well-known flame test demo, where nichrome wires are dipping into solutions of potassium, lithium, sodium, calcium, barium, strontium, and copper salts, then heated in a Bunsen burner flame. These elements have fairly simple quantum structures (one or two electrons in an outer shell) and emit very definite colors. As the electrons are heated up, they absorb energy from the flame and jump to specific higher quantum levels. They then emit the same wavelengths of light as they fall back down to their ground states.

Doing flame test lab

Doing the flame test lab with chemistry students at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin in Southern Borneo.

The students asked, through Nazar, if they could do the same lab. My response was, “I don’t know – let’s look and see what you have and maybe we can.” I didn’t want to commit the chemistry teacher to do a lab, but she seemed willing, so we looked through her supply of chemicals after the class and found cupric sulfate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and barium sulfate. No lithium or strontium, which give off the best colors, but at least these four will work. Then we looked at her equipment. She has a lab assistant, and we unlocked the cabinets in her storage room. They have one nichrome wire, alcohol burners, and a good supply of beakers. So we could make this work.

So this morning I went to the chemistry classroom first thing, about 45 minutes before the students were to come in. The teacher got out the chemicals, and I discovered something interesting: none of the chemicals had been opened, not even the sodium chloride. The equipment also appeared to be unused – not brand new, as the storage cabinet had some dust on it, but sitting there for I don’t know how long. No stains on the beakers, and the alcohol burners had never been lit. We had to scrounge around to find a cigarette lighter. At least the container of alcohol for the burners appeared to have been used – about 1/3 of it was gone.

Flame test 2

David Black helping students with the flame test lab at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin in Southern Kalimantan.

Now I know this is not the norm throughout Indonesia, as I had seen the Assistant Principal at the elementary school we visited do the Priestley Experiment, the chemistry equipment at the SMAN 8 Jakarta school was well-used, and I found out later that other teachers saw science experiments being done at their host schools. So I don’t know why the equipment and chemicals have not been used here. The teacher certainly knows her stuff, as I saw from the class the previous day when the students were taking notes on mole fractions. And she is very willing to do this lab. So it seems to me that she either hasn’t had the training/professional development of how to conduct labs and use her equipment or she is unwilling to use up her supplies.

It also appears to me that the chemicals and supplies were part of a package provided by the central government, with a set list of materials. As chemistry classes go, she was fairly well supplied, but the chemicals were stored inside the fume hood as well as underneath, and the hood looked as if it might not function or be hooked up properly. The school is 20 years old and all the sinks in the chemistry lab were rusted out and nonfunctional, so that I had to get water for my solutions from a container on the counter. It was not possible for me to inquire further to see if this condition is general throughout Kalimantan Selatan or other provinces, but I guess that this might be a common problem in rural schools in Indonesia. After all, it is a common enough problem in the United States. Many teachers in both countries do not do the types of inquiry labs that students need to understand the practical side of chemistry.

David with chemistry teachers

David Black posing with the chemistry teachers (left) and English teachers (right) of SMAN 1 Mandastana. I really need to get my name tag straightened out . . .

Once I had the solutions made, I lit an alcohol lamp and saw that its flame was orange, not the blue I’m used to in Bunsen burners or with methanol. But with repeated dipping and heating, the colors were visible except for the barium, which is always the hardest one to see. We were able to find or make five wires, and divided the students into five groups. They traded off the four solutions. I told them what the five chemicals were and what colors to expect. I found that most of the elements are named the same in Bahasa Indonesia, except that the ones with Latin symbols are also pronounced with their Latin names. For example, sodium is called natrium in Indonesia and potassium is kalium. The only chemical I had to learn was copper, which is common enough that an Indonesian word exists for it: tembago. I labeled the solutions A, B, C, and D and told the students that they would have to observe the colors in the flame, then make their best guess as to which chemical each solution was. It took some doing and many dips. The copper kept contaminating the results for subsequent chemicals, but the potassium was good and the sodium simply made the orange flame oranger.

Flame test lab

Students in the chemistry class at SMAN 1 Mandastana conducting a flame test lab. I had to improvise for materials and chemicals, but the lab turned our fairly well. It was a true challenge in global education!

When we finished, I had the students shout out which solution they thought each was, and they got it right. I understood the names of the elements in Bahasa Indonesia by this time, so I didn’t need as much translation. Barium had to be guessed by a process of elimination. Given the challenges of the materials and the alcohol lamps, which simply didn’t get hot enough to really see the colors well, this lab turned out quite well. I will never forget this experience of teaching a science lab in a foreign language using scrounged materials.

As I observed the chemistry teacher the day before, and as I taught this class, I was struck by how impossible this would have been if this had been any subject except science. Yes, Nazar helped translate, but I was able to use Indonesian words for the elements and explain a few things where he didn’t know the words, since he is an English teacher and not a science teacher. Where Nazar couldn’t translate and I didn’t know how to explain, the chemistry teacher and her assistant were able to. Science is truly a universal language, but I have never put it to the test like this before. I was even able to do some explanation of quantum leaps and color emission, which the students seemed to understand. I don’t know if they have studied this before, but I saw comprehension on their faces despite some fumbling with the translations, more so than I usually see in American students’ faces.

Flame test

Looking for the blue flame of copper (tembago) sulfate.

Nazar said we could treat him to American food today, so we drove back to the city. We passed a large mosque at a roundabout that we had stopped at on Sunday in order to say prayers and use the restroom, but now there was a protest going on in front of the mosque in the traffic circle itself. The signs said this was a protest in favor of Palestinians in Israel. We didn’t stop, as we had been told not to get to close to protests as the mood of the crowd can turn ugly fast. This protest seemed pretty peaceful, with a few banners and people chanting but nothing else.

PE class with Nazar and Craig

Before the chemistry class, we went out with some of the students during their PE class to visit the junior high school next door and to see the area. Notice that the students are walking (and running) on a rough road surface in bare feet. The girls wear PE hijabs which seem very hot to me to wear in this heat.

We found a Kentucky Fried Chicken place near the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin. It was fairly standard KFC, except for the steamed rice they served. You can’t get away from that. But I think I’ve had about enough fried chicken for a while. I was running short of money, so we found a currency exchange place not far from the hotel and I exchanged the rest of my U.S. dollars (about $60) into rupiah, which was quite a pile.

Interesting name for a store

We passed this store on our way to the school, and I got a photo of it this morning. It is the old logo of my college alma mater, a strange thing to see in Borneo.

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