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Posts Tagged ‘teachers for global classrooms’

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

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

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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Borneo Day 4: Monday, July 24, 2017

Taking notes in chemistry

The chemistry (kimia) class at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

Today we got to do what we came all this way for: to teach at a school in Borneo.

All schools in Indonesia start Mondays with an early morning flag ceremony, so we had to leave the hotel early to make it. After breakfast, Nazar picked us up in the lobby at 7:00. We drove across the Sangai Martapura and onto the road leading north out of the city that we had used the day before. We turned onto Jalan Ahmad Yani and headed toward the Barito River Bridge, but before getting that far we turned north onto a narrow country lane. This traveled straight through rice fields and past scattered houses to a wooden bridge across a canal, then turned west. I could see the school to our north, a blue building next to a grass field.

Country road

Jalan Achmed Yani, or the Trans Kalimantan Highway. We drove on this out of Banjarmasin to the northwest, then took a smaller country road to the school.

I recognized it from looking up their website and talking about it to my students. This is SMAN 1 Mandastana, the school where Nazar and his wife teach. We passed the school and immediately turned back north onto a somewhat worn cement road leading to the front entrance.

Ride paddie

The school is north of Banjarmasin about 15 km and is in the middle of rice fields. This is the view on the way to the school.

Nazar drove up to the entrance and we saw a sign hanging up welcoming Craig and I by name. We walked in through a breezeway into the school’s main office area and put our bags in the headmaster’s office (except my camera bag), then walked out into the main courtyard. The students and teachers were already assembled in ranks, waiting for our arrival. Our big moment had arrived!

SMAN 1 Mandastana from road

SMA Negeri 1 in Mandastana, near Banjarmasin. This is the school the Craig Hendrick and I taught at for a week in Borneo.

It is hard to express how I felt. I was being given the honors of a master teacher, an education ambassador who had traveled all this way from America to teach at this school. It was difficult for my mind to accept that I deserved this level of respect. Yes, I had come from America to teach here, but although I have multiple award plaques and certificates attesting that I am a master teacher, I have never really believed it in my heart. I know I have so many ways to improve as a teacher, even after 26 years of doing it. I’ve known so many teachers who were more deserving than me, who should be here instead of me.

Welcome sign

Our welcome sign at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

I wanted to shout out that they had the wrong guy, that the name on the banner must be some other David Black and not me. Yet here I was – half way around the world, about to attempt to teach in a place I’d never heard of before to a people I knew very little about. How very presumptuous of me. Yet buried under all that uncertainty was a part of me that knew I had finally arrived, that all my hard work at being an education professional and presenting at all those conferences was finally paying off. That I deserved all of this. I wanted to bask in the attention. I wanted to run away. I was thrilled to be there. I was scared to death.

Students in ranks

Students at SMAN 1 Mandastana standing at attention during their Monday morning flag ceremony.

I finally decided that even if I didn’t know whether or not I was a master teacher, it didn’t matter. All I had to worry about was that I should be a teacher, nothing more. If the students will let me, I can find the common ground that will allow me to be what I know how to be.

Craig with teachers

Craig Hendrick standing with the teachers at SMAN 1 Mandastana for the Monday morning flag ceremony.

We were asked to stand with the other teachers, who were wearing khaki uniforms. The students were in white shirts and blouses, white hijabs, and gray pants or dresses. They stood with their backs to the morning sun, but it was directly in our faces and already blazing hot. As the ceremony progressed, I stepped out of line a few times ostensibly to take photos but also to turn away from the sun for a few moments, as it was making my eyes water and I was beginning to sweat.

Raising the flag

Raising the Indonesian flag at the Monday morning flag ceremony of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

A squad of students marched in practiced formation to the flagpole and unfurled the red and white Indonesian flag. A group of girls sang the national anthem, and the squad attached the flag and slowly raised it until it reached the top as the anthem ended. A teacher recited the five Pancasila principles from a microphone on a podium while the students repeated. Then we were introduced and each made a few remarks while Nazar translated. The ceremony ended and we took some photos of us with the entire school.

Craig and David with students

David Black and Craig Hendrick posing with the students of SMAN 1 Mandastana after the Monday morning flag ceremony.

As the students moved to their first period classes, we went into the headmaster’s office for a few minutes. He offered us some snacks and we answered his questions through Nazar. We were then ready to meet the students.

David with headmaster

Meeting the Headmaster (Principal) of SMAN 1 Mandastana.

There are two English teachers at this school. I went with Nazar and Craig went with the other teacher, whose English is also fairly good. The school is built in an almost enclosed letter C shape around a central courtyard, with the offices at the bottom of the C, the computer and language lab on the small right leg with the kanteen or cafeteria at the end and a separate wing almost completing the open part of the C. A new classroom was being built at the far end. On the left side, the longest side of the C, is classrooms with a tile walkway in front and a wooden walkway beyond along the inside edge. The front area of the courtyard is cemented and used for the flag ceremonies and for volleyball, basketball, and soccer. There is a small grassy area behind that, along with a greenhouse that is being built for the biology classes. The grass becomes more swampy as it goes further back, along the top curve of the C. The entire school is built up on stilts to prevent it sinking.

English class

Nazar’s English class at SMAN 1 Mandastana. This is the class that I first presented to, showing a slide show about my home, school, and family.

I walked with Nazar on the left side of the horseshoe. Racks of plants and flowers are growing across the tile walkway, causing us to step down onto the wooden walkway next to the swampy area. I wheeled my blue suitcase around these obstacles as best I could, until we could step up onto the tiles walkway for the top section of the C, where Nazar’s first class is located.

David with English class

Posing with the English class after our lesson. They like to take photos and selfies. They will pose seriously, then do a “freestyle” pose such as this one.

Since Indonesian students stay put in one classroom (except for PE or for classes that require specialized labs, such as Kimia or Fisika), the teachers are the ones to travel. Nazar’s morning English class was in the north wing. The students were excited to see me as I wheeled my stuff in and set up my computer. Nazar had grabbed a portable projector, as the one mounted on the ceiling in the room didn’t seem to be working. I had remembered to bring the power converter with me, so I was able to plug my computer into an extension power strip. I had remembered to bring a VGA cord and my conversion dongle, knowing that HDMI probably wouldn’t be available (but I had an HDMI cord, too, just in case – this is why my carry ons are so heavy). Fortunately everything worked, and I was able to project onto a light blue wall at the front of the class.

David iwith chemistry class

Posing with the girls in one of the chemistry classes at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

I had prepared two slide shows, one the night before about American Academy of Innovation and a second show with harder English about the trip my family made to the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona at the end of June. This one was more about geography and geology.

David with chemistry boys

Posing with the boys in the chemistry class. They wanted a separate photo from the girls. There were more girls than boys in the class. I don’t know if this is the case for all science classes or not.

I showed the first slide show during the first block of the period (45 minutes). Nazar translated for me. The students watched carefully, and exclaimed when they saw the photo of my school on a snowy day. They have never seen snow in their lives. After, I asked if they had questions but they were reluctant to speak, probably because they were afraid their English wasn’t good enough. A couple of students were able to ask a few questions.

When the bell rang, it sounded exactly like the tones played in the Hunger Games movies to announce that a contestant had died. Craig and I both found this a bit unnerving.

Going to class

The inner courtyard of SMAN 1 Mandastana. Since there isn’t snow or cold weather, there are not internal hallways, similar to schools in California. The students wear gray pants/skirts and white shirts/blouses with hajibs and/or hats on Mondays.

During the second block of the 90-minute class, I showed my higher-level slide show on the geography and geology of the western U.S. They were interested in the comparison slide I had made between Borneo and Utah and the other four corner states, that Borneo is 3.38 times larger than Utah and just barely smaller than all four states. But as I showed the various national parks (Taman Nasional) and our route, I could tell that the English was too hard for them. They had fewer questions than I had hoped. I picked things up by opening up my blue case and handing out flyers, brochures, and other materials I had been given at the Utah Valley Visitors Bureau the day before I left Utah. They were excited to get them and have something to practice on.

Happy birthday

A birthday cake for a student in the Language Lab room.

At the end of the class, all the students came up and insisted on taking group and individual photos, including many selfies. They wanted photos in normal pose and what they call “freestyle” which is to pose in a less formal fashion. As I was leaving the classroom, all the students came up and did something they had told us about, but which still came as a surprise. Each student took my hand and placed it against their forehead or cheek or kissed it. This is a normal sign of respect for teachers in Indonesia.

Craig with class

Craig Hendrick teaching in the Language Lab room to students at SMAN 1 Mandastana in Borneo.

The bell rang again (another dead contestant!) and Craig and I traded classrooms. The other English teacher was teaching in the chemistry classroom and we waited a few minutes while the chemistry teacher finished up her lesson. This was the second week of school, and she was reviewing mole fractions (mol fraksi), a subject I don’t often teach until deep into second semester. Even though she was speaking and writing in Indonesian, I was able to follow most of what she was doing as the language of science is fairly universal. Indonesians use Arabic numerals just as we do, and with many words transliterated from Latin in a phonetic alphabet, I was able to follow much of what was written. The teacher was lecturing and writing on the board while students took notes. I walked around and noticed that the students’ handwriting was extremely neat, better than any writing I’ve seen in America (including my own).

Mole fraction notes

Student notes on mole fractions (mol fractsi). Notice the neat handwriting.

Once the lesson was over, I set up the projector again and went through my slide shows. When I came to showing some of the activities my students have done, I had a slide showing two students doing a version of the flame test lab as a demonstration, a lab I’ve done many times. One of the students asked if they could do the lab (through the English teacher) and I looked at the chemistry teacher, who was still in the room, and said we’d have to see what materials she had.

Library

The library at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

After the second slide show was done, I handed out more tourism brochures to these students. We took group photos and selfies again, and as they were leaving to go to mosque, they bowed their heads and kissed my hand as had the other class. This gets to the heart of my basic doubts about myself – that I don’t deserve the great respect they are showing me. Certainly I’ve never seen anything like it before. I wanted to bow back to them, but was told by Nazar later that I don’t have to do that.

Periodic table in Indonesian

Indonesian periodic table. Most of the element names are based on the Latin root words, such as Kalium for potassium (K). Some of the elements, such as Tembago for Copper, must be Indonesian words that predate the introduction of western science.

After the class was over and the students left, we looked through the chemistry supplies and discovered enough materials to make the flame test work. We’ll try the lab tomorrow. While looking through the classroom, I took photos of the periodic table hanging up at the back of the room. I could recognize most of the elemental names, based on the original Latin names, such as kalium for potassium and natrium for sodium. Only a few elements, such as tembago (copper) or beso (iron), were unfamiliar. These must be names that predate chemistry as a science in Indonesia.

Banjar houses craft

Student crafts, including a traditional Bajarese house, on display in the library.

As I walked back to the teachers lounge, I thought of how things had gone and my impressions of it. All of my teaching career I’ve wanted to make a difference in the world, which I have done. There is a part of me that would like to be well known if not famous, perhaps even remembered by history. Whether or not this ever happens, I can at least say that for this week, I was shown the greatest respect I’ve ever known as a teacher.

Teachers room

Teachers’ Preparation Room at SMAN 1 Mandastana. Overall, this school had a lot more light and seemed more airy than schools in Jakarta. There was no air conditioning, so ceiling fans and open windows were the only ventilation. Teachers wear khaki uniforms on Mondays.

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Borneo Day 3: Sunday, July 23, 2017

First light on Martapura RIver

Early morning light on the Martapura River as we travel to Lok Baintan and the floating market. The trees are coconuts and bananas, not tangerines, but close enough.

I woke up at 4:50, thankfully – the front desk forgot my 4:30 wake up call. I jumped in the shower and got dressed in the clothes I had laundered in the sink the day before. They were almost dry. I met Craig, Nazar, and his wife in the lobby at 5:20 just as they were ready to leave. We walked to the parking lot and to a dock on the river and boarded a water taxi. The early morning dew made the top wet and slippery in the predawn darkness, so I crawled under to the back seats as other people loaded in.

Orion and Venus

The relative positions of Orion and Venus at 5:30 am on July 23, 2017

We pushed off from the dock and began our journey up the river to the floating market. The stars were bright this morning, and Orion was rising in the east, much further north than I am used to. I had it upside down, and thought the bright star nearby was Sirius until we got far enough away from the city lights for me to see Orion’s sword. Then I could see that it had to be a planet. At first, I thought it was Jupiter, based on its color, but it was too bright and I remembered Jupiter is in Virgo near Spica right now. It was Venus, much higher in the sky than I have seen it before.

While I was thinking the planet might be Jupiter, a song came to mind that fit the occasion perfectly. It was “Lucy in the Sky, with Diamonds.” Now I know what this song has reference to, but that’s not what came to mind. There was an article written with this same name by an astronomer about how Jupiter may have a core of diamond, since carbon would rain down from the atmospheric methane and the pressure and heat in Jupiter are more than enough to convert it to diamond. Arthur C. Clarke used this idea in his book 2061: Odyssey Three, how people traveled to Europa to mine diamonds after Jupiter was converted into a star in 2010: Odyssey Two by Dave Bowman and the star people.

Pre-dawn mosque

A mosque along the Martapura River in the pre-dawn light.

Of course, it reminded me of the time when I got to personally ask Clarke a question. It was at a teacher conference in Cocoa Beach, Florida for the launch of the Mars 2001 Odyssey spacecraft. David Seidel arranged to call Clarke up in Sri Lanka and ask questions we’d already written on index cards. My question was: Do you ever see your dream of a space elevator coming true? He answered that there were two factors preventing it. The first was technology – we don’t have the materials to build a space elevator yet, although that is probably a matter of time. The other is more difficult: we don’t have any place to go. No destinations in space that would require a space elevator to reach, nor the will to build one.

Since then, we have discovered white dwarf stars with cores of diamond. One of them is in Centaurus, of all places. Here’s a link about it:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles /2004/02/17/1076779973101.html

As the eastern sky lightened I thought of these things and the words of the song echoed in my mind:

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees, and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly:
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head;
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds . . .

Boats converging

Boats converging on the Martapura River to sell their wares at the Lok Baintan floating market. The skies turned a marmalade orange color just before sunrise.

Orion and eventually Venus faded as the sky grew brighter in the east. People were beginning to stir from their houses on the river, walking out to the front porch to dip out buckets of water to wash themselves and cook breakfast. Fishermen were out on the river in boats tending their nets as our taxi meandered around the bends.

Sunrise on Martapura

Marmalade skies over the Martapura River as we near Lok Baintan and the floating market.

The water and skies turned a marmalade gold color that complimented the brilliant greens of banana trees on the banks (not tangerine trees, but close enough) as we approached the floating market. The morning call for prayer rang out from the many large and small mosques (masjid) that we passed. Boats converged from all around. We reached the market just as the sun was rising.

 

Fishing nets

Fishing on the Martapura River. The Banjarese people that live along the river do everything here – live, bathe, drink, wash, fish, and transport.

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Borneo Day 2: Saturday, July 22, 2017

Colorful jewelry

Colorful jewelry in the souvenir shops of Martapura, a center for jewelry manufacture and diamond polishing.

After visiting the diamond pits of Cempaka, we were all hungry. We dropped off Nazar’s friend at the Indomaret store and drove further along the road to Martapura. Nazar pulled off at a roadside open-air restaurant specializing in soto lambongan, a type of soup that has various types of meat, boiled eggs, rice, noodles, and other ingredients in a tasty broth. It was interesting that they only had one food item on the menu with two choices – a large bowl or a medium bowl of soto, and then 15 drink choices. Each area of the country has its own variety of soto, as we were to find out the next day.

Soto lamongan

The sign of the Soto Lamongan restaurant we stopped at for lunch. Soto is an Indonesian soup that is made differently in each province. Soto Lamongan was the only food menu item, but there were 15 different drink choices. It was very good!

We drove on to Martapura, which is the diamond cutting, polishing, and jewelry-making center near the diamond mines. We stopped at a central plaza and walked through a market where they were making jewelry. Since there aren’t very many large diamonds coming out of the mines, this jewelry uses various types of semi-precious gemstones and colored glass to make rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other forms. It was interesting to watch them making the settings.

Colored stones

Semi-precious stones and glass beads for mounting into jewelry.

We then walked downstairs where there is an open-air bazaar with cross streets and stalls and shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and other items. There were more jewelry stores with many types of colored beads hanging up. There were stores selling sasirangan clothing, the Borneo style tie dye cloth, stores selling hats and T-shirts, stores with electronics, wood carvings, and even Banjarnese style miniature boats.

Brooches

Beadwork and brooches in the Martapura jewelry district.

I found several woven reed hats that actually fit my big head (figuratively and literally), which were inexpensive and in the style that devout Muslim men wear. There were some bark hats that were very cheap, but they didn’t fit. I also found a beaded Dayak style hat for my son, Jonathan. They had Dayak breadfruit bark hats, but I didn’t buy one because none were big enough to fit my head.

Bark hats

Hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, I couldn’t find one that fit, or I would have bought one.

As it was Saturday, and Nazar and his family had missed Friday prayers to pick us up at the airport, we stopped next door at the largest mosque in Martapura, the Masjid Agung Al Karomah, brightly colored with yellow walls and blue domes. Nazar and his wife went inside for prayers as Craig, I, and his daughter waited outside and took photos.

Beads and jewelry store

Beadwork and jewelry at a shop in the Martapura souvenir district.

As I had expressed interest in buying a Javanese black hat similar to the one President Widodo wears (and most officials in the government), Nazar asked around and found a stall at the open-air bazaar next door (next to the souvenir market and bling bling stores). With a little trial and error, we found one that fit my large head for a good price. My hat collection is continuing to improve. Some people collect spoons or stamps or thimbles of a country. I collect hats that symbolize the culture of the places I visit, and I have them hanging up in my den at home.

Borneo batik

Sasirangan hanging up in a store in Martapura’s open air bazaar.

My hat collection started when I was 13 and bought a large black ten-gallon hat at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I have hats from around the world including some my sister has bought for me on her own travels. They include a Tyrolean cap from Bavaria, a Palestinian kafia that I bought in Nazareth, a fez from Jerusalem, banana hats from Taiwan, a cowboy hat from Phoenix, a sombrero from Chichen Itza, a huaso hat from Chile, an embroidered hat from Istanbul, a tri-corn hat from Colonial Williamsburg, a wizard’s hat from the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City, a Greek fisherman’s cap from San Francisco, a goat skin cap from Ghana, and various hats from JPL and other NASA facilities. One of my favorite hats is a dark blue leather cap I bought in a gift shop near Disneyland on a band trip when I was a senior in high school. I wore this frequently as a freshman in college, along with a brown leather jacket, tan pants, and a black turtle neck shirt. Yep, I was stylin’.

Stone beads

More stones and beads for jewelry making.

On our way out of town, we stopped at a roadside stall to get a snack that is famous here, consisting of small lumps of fried dough with a coconut and sugar coating. They were a bit sweet for my taste and the texture was interesting, but I enjoyed the flavor. It had been a long day and I dozed off as we drove back to Banjarmasin. Nazar dropped us off at the Swiss Belhotel and I took a shower and a nap in my room.

David by Martapura mosque

David Black by the main mosque in Martapura, called the Masjid Agung Al Karomah.

I was running short of clothes and attempted to launder some underwear, shirts, and pants in my room’s sink using some Tide liquid detergent I had brought, but despite lots of scrubbing I couldn’t entirely get the smell of sweat out of my clothes. I hung them up to dry around the bathroom. I will have to bite the bullet and send out my clothes to be laundered by the hotel, despite the high cost.

Martapura mosque

The Masjid Agung Al Karomah in Martapura, South Kalimantan.

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Borneo Day 1: Friday, July 21, 2017

Central mosque with bougainvillea

Sabilal Muhtadin mosque with Bougainvillea

After we had rested for an hour or so, we walked to the lobby and met Nazar and his wife, who wanted to show us parts of the city. We drove over the Martapura River on the bridge by the hotel, then traveled a short distance to a large mosque on the opposite bank of the river. This is the Sabilal Muhtadin Grand Mosque, built in the 1980s and having a more modern style than many other mosques I’ve seen. It is the largest mosque in the city. We parked in the lot behind and walked around. Afternoon prayers were taking place, and as this is Friday, many people were in the mosque and the lot was almost full.

David by central mosque

David Black in front of the Sabilal Muhtadin Mosque in Banjarmasin.

There is a nice park surrounding the mosque with beautiful trees and planters with multicolored bougainvillea. We walked to the river and continued north along it for a hundred yards to a large sign labeled as the 0 Km location – the center of the city. We took some photos by the sign. Across the river was the Siring Watch Tower, an iconic landmark next to an ironwood house that was once one of the oldest in the city, although it has been rebuilt. Along the walkway were beds of white rocks cemented into the sidewalk with their rounded ends pointing up. It is supposed to provide a massage for the feet. I didn’t try it, as I am the proverbial tenderfoot, but Craig gave it a try in his stockings but couldn’t stay on it longer than a few seconds.

Banjarmasin trees

Trees in the park near the Sabilal Muhtadin Mosque in Banjarmasin. Everything was brilliantly green.

We turned around and walked back to the main bridge and across it. There were quite a few bicycles, pedicabs, food and other hand carts, and other non-motorized vehicles. As we crossed the bridge I could see what appeared to be a large Chinese temple on the other side; there is an appreciable China town in Banjarmasin.

We walked back north on the opposite bank past the docks where all the water taxis were pulled up. We climbed onto the dock and Nazar negotiated with one of the boat owners to take us on a trip down the river.

Bougainvillea colors

I love bougainvillea, especially its ability to have multiple colors on one plant, as seen here.

These boats are long and narrow, with an inner open compartment with rugs where people can sit and look out, covered by a tin roof. At the very back next to the motor are some seats that are open to the sky. Instead of crawling through the interior, Nazar, Craig, and I walked across the roof (it is built to handle this and people do it all the time) to the back seats. Nazar’s wife climbed through under the roof. It was just the four of us, no other passengers; the driver cast off and we headed down the river.

Foot massage 1

Craig tries out the foot massage. It doesn’t look very comfortable!

I was hoping to travel on the river at some point, but didn’t expect to do so on our first day here. We passed under the main bridge and headed around a bend. On the left side was a large statue of a proboscis monkey (bekantan) that was shooting a spout of water out of its mouth as children played in the stream. Nazar said it was the mascot of the city.

0 km Siring Park sign

David Black, Craig Hendrick, and Muhammad Nazaruddin at the 0 km marker along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin, South Kalminantan.

We passed under another bridge and then the bridge by our hotel and could see it on our left. There were small mosques by the river, as well as wharfs and businesses and houses. A lot of small boats like ours were traveling up and down, but no large barges. We went down the river about two kilometers before turning around and heading back.

Crossing bridge

Walking across the bridge over the Martapura River. A Chinese temple lies on the other side.

All the houses along the river have their back porches as docks, and children were out playing on the docks and swimming in the river. One lady was doing laundry while her children swam nearby. The Banjar are river people, and this river is a major artery of travel, commerce, and livelihood.

Clouds had been gathering as we traveled, and it began to drizzle. It had been a very humid and hot day, and the warm rain felt good. As we passed back under the bridges past the giant spitting monkey statue, the rain began to intensify. It actually was refreshing, and we stayed out in it. I was mostly concerned with keeping my camera dry. We traveled further north past the taxi docks up to the bridge north of the Siring tower, then turned around and came back to the docks. It was about a 40-minute ride altogether, and a lot of fun.

Water taxis close up

Water taxis and the Martapura RIver bridge near Siring Watchtower in Banjarmasin.

We clambered back over the water taxi’s roof and tfdsanked the boatman. The rain was getting worse and we took shelter under a pavilion next to the river near the boat docks to wait it out while a group of men played a card game. The sun was about to set beyond the Sabilal Muhtadin mosque and the entire sky and river turned golden as the rain fell. I took some nice photos.

Giant spitting monkey

A statue of a proboscis monkey, or bekantan. It spits a fountain of water out of its mouth. This is the mascot of Banjarmasin.

The rain let up after about 30 minutes and we walked back across the bridge, past the mosque, to the parking lot and the car as the sun set. The air was very humid but the rain had cooled it down a bit; it was rather refreshing. It was only about 6:00, but sunset and dusk come early in the tropics. In Banjarmasin, I was only 3° south of the equator.

Nazar-Craig-wife on river

Nazar, his wife, and Craig on board a water taxi on the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

Nazar drove us over the main bridge past the Chinese temple (the Klenteng Soetji Nurani) and we took a side road that brought us back to Jalan Pangeran Antasari, where our hotel is located.

Tall tree

A beautiful pine tree as seen from the Martapura River.

Mosque on the river

A small mosque on the Martapura RIver.

Swiss Belhotel from river

The Swiss Belhotel as seen from the Martapura RIver. This is the hotel we were staying at. Notice the wings at the corners of the traditional Banjarese roof.

Swimming in the river

Children swimming in the Martapura River while parents shop and work along its banks.

Wharves on the river

Wharves along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin. A great deal of shipping and commerce occurs on this river.

Siring tower and oldest house

Siring watchtower and the oldest house in Banjarmasin, made from ironwood.

On the Barito River

On the Martapura RIver in central Banjarmasin. This river is the lifeblood of the Banjar people, who live along it, drink and wash from it, fish, and transport on it.

Water taxi driver

Our water taxi driver. It is beginning to rain as we exit the boat.

Craig and Nazar

Nazar and Criag waiting out the rain storm.

Dominos

Playing dominos in a pavilion while waiting out the rain.

Rain on the river

Rain falling on water taxis, the Grand Mosque, and the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

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