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Bintan Boat Restoration: 'Teach a fisherman to farm' or Think Global, Plant Local

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We began with a brief walk through Kampong Panglong, a small fishing village in the north east of Bintan, Indonesia. Our East Campus group, comprised of eight Grade 11 students and two UWCSEA staff, saw the simple coastal houses as they walked the stilted walkways through the village and took their chances on the floating pontoons that make up the (currently unused) fish farm. We were joined by the son of the head man of the village Pak Bonet and a few of The Island Foundation staff for our walk through Panglong. The sights included the ubiquitous plastic soft drinks bottles filled with petrol for the villager’s motorbikes, and lengths of wood submerged in shallow seas to allow for greater flexibility when making fish traps. A far cry from Singapore life and yet geographically so close!

Hirmon, from The Island Foundation (TIF) acted as translator and the link between the UWCSEA team and the villagers of Panglong as we relocated to the site of the broken fishing boats. We had expected two boats, but seemingly one had already been deemed unsalvageable, and used as firewood. These things happen in such places and our students (who had been briefed on exactly this possibility) smiled at the irony and turned to the one boat that we had before us. Initially it seemed as though we’d have not too much work on our hands. The boat looked like a boat. Closer inspection revealed rotting wood, missing panels and a general air of a boat that wasn’t going to revisit its former home - the sea. Time to get to work.

We worked alongside the villagers, TIF staff, and later, the children of the village, to hammer, saw, sand and nurture the vessel back to a reusable form. There was learning, there was laughter. There was clear cooperation and interaction between people with the same goal but no common language. And there was more laughter. Using only recycled wood and staying true to our intentions of making this a project in mutual learning and sustainability, we honed our skills and quickly became familiar with the strengths of the various members of the team. The boat was taking shape, and looking stronger. Watched by village children and yawning dogs, we were grateful for the sea breeze and the shade provided by the old kiln we were working beside. It was past lunchtime, but dried mango kept the wolf from the door and we continued on our mission.

Job done and time to move the boat. We lifted the boat and carried it past the village church, which neighbours the village mosque. Beside the mosque is the TIF Learning Centre, which was to be the resting place for the boat. Stage one of this project was now complete. We ate a great lunch, drank local coffee and failed when trying to catch fiddler crabs on the mangrove bed below us. In a few weeks the next trip will work on stage two - filling the boat with soil and locally made compost, and planting a variety of crops to provide the village with a focal point for learning and growing.

After lunch we took the 15 minute drive to the TIF Learning Farm to see another of their sustainable projects. In the extreme heat of mid afternoon, we saw a wide variety of crops growing, experimenting with different methods of composting, watering and pest control without chemicals. It’s clear that a great deal of progress has been made by TIF staff on the small plot of land. There’s a lot of potential and a lot more great learning to come from this initiative. Our students learnt not to eat red chills directly from the plant. Again, much laughter. We returned to Singapore and it was still the day we’d left. And yet, in many ways, it wasn’t the same day at all.

In March we implement: Think Global, Grow Local. Watch this space.

By Martin Spreckley, Digital Perspectives Coordinator and
Middle School Science Teacher, East Campus

Learn more about the DT curriculum on East Campus:
Shift to authentic learning in Design Technology education




posted date: 
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 14:00