Opportunities to engage with nature are in abundance at PTIS (http://ptis.threegeneration.org), with an organic farm and farm animals, a stream, pond, and a variety of trees, plants and wildlife. The farm and cooking school staff also collaborate closely with the school. Together they develop and offer learning experiences that engage students with nature and encourage healthy eating.
So, in addition to promoting active lifestyles through physical education classes and teaching children social skills, PTIS also provides children opportunities to engage with nature and eat healthy foods.
What does this look like in practice? Students explore nature and healthy eating both as part of a yearlong ‘healthy living’ project in physical education classes and as part of their units of inquiry. Here are a few examples:
Healthy Living Project
Students in Early Years through Grade 5 visit the on-campus farm monthly as part of their physical education classes. Beginning in January this year, each Junior School class is visiting the farm once a month and students have the opportunity to plant, attend to, harvest and cook healthy foods. The visits are planned in collaboration by physical education teacher Ajarn Dustin Yakoubian and farm coordinator Ajarn Chrissie Bleach.
The aim for younger children in the Early Years classes is to encourage them to eat fresh vegetables and challenge them to eat vegetables with their peel since that's where many of the good nutrients are. Students in Grades 1-5 are introduced to healthy alternatives by making pizzas, granola instead of cookies, and fresh smoothies made using Traidhos’ bicycle blender instead of purchasing commercial drinks. By focusing on food and healthy eating, the students begin questioning their own diets. They compare what they are learning to their current lifestyles and think about change.
Ajarn Chrissie believes that providing students with opportunities to cut, blend, get sticky fingers and bake has many benefits. These include introducing students to the life skill and enjoyment of preparing food rather than relying on convenience foods or others to cook for them. Also, experiencing where their food comes from allows students to discover the labour that is involved in growing food.
Methods of Farming
In addition to visiting the farm as part of the Healthy Living Project, students have learning experiences at the farm related to their grade level units of inquiry. For example, in Grade 1 during the unit 'Where we are in place and time', students look at different methods of farming. They discuss the pros and cons of traditional and conventional farming, and students follow the discussion by planting corn in a traditional way. Afterwards, students visit the farm periodically to check the progress of the corn they planted.
Water Quality and Organic Farming
Another example is the Grade 5 visits to the farm during their 'Sharing the planet' unit. One of the recent visits began with meeting Buddy, a newborn kid (goat), who had been orphaned and needed to be hand-fed and -raised. Students learned how to feed him using a bottle of milk. Students also met a new puppy, Barry. The students then rotated through three activities to learn about water quality and organic farming practices: planting sunflowers to attract bees, making organic pesticide and testing water quality of sources at the farm. The most fun was had by the risk-takers who overcame their mud inhibitions and ventured into the irrigation canal to search for macro-invertebrates in the water.
Exploring nature and healthy eating lend themselves to experiential learning, or learning from direct experiences. This type of learning is active and generally engages most children. For many children, a visit to the farm is a highlight of their day. Joe, who is in Grade 2, shares, “I like learning how to eat healthy foods. I really like making smoothies.” Kai, a PTIS Early Years 2 student, says “I love the baby animals. I really like the black goat. Goats need grass and water.”
Life lessons are learned too, Emmy, a PTIS Grade 2 student: “I like that there are animals and I learned that when animals are old you still have to be careful as they die. It’s sad when they die because you’re still there and they’re not.” Additional benefits related to exploring nature include a strong increase in respect and appreciation for nature. Other qualitative outcomes include reports of increases in compassion, wisdom, guidance, and inner peace. Seeing the positive effects of nature are strongest in middle childhood, ages 6-12 (Davis, 2004), PTIS is continuing to look at ways to enhance outdoor learning experiences for Junior School students.
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Established in 2001, PTIS International School is one of the most prestigious international schools in South-East Asia and one of only a few boarding schools in Asia offering the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) including IBCC.
Residing on the tropical grounds of Traidhos Three-Generation Community for Learning, PTIS provides a holistic (Pre K-12) IB education on a spacious, nature-filled campus, with comfortable boarding facilities to accommodate international students from across Asia and beyond.
More than 35 nationalities make up the international school student body. At Traidhos, visiting students and adults of all ages can also enjoy specialized professional sport academies in Tennis, Golf, Cricket and Football.
With a 100 acre campus admired by international schools of Thailand and across the world, the school prides itself on its peaceful and studious environment along with famous Thailand hospitality to help nurture the students' growth and development.