Sam Thompson

Science day spectacular

Thais certainly know how to put on a show

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Thai schools love to put on a show. It's not always a GOOD show, but at least once every week or so, my school has some kind of event happening during morning assembly that lasts well into the school day.

A few weeks ago, we had two in a row: ASEAN day on a Thursday that lasted through third period (which was quite good... I was impressed), followed by a Mother's Day ceremony the next day to commemorate the Queen's birthday the following Monday. Both of these were quite amusing, and the students seemed to relatively enjoy the proceedings. Hey, it's a good excuse to skip a few classes during the day... who wouldn't be happy?

But, I must say: Science Day takes the cake for my school's events I've seen so far. I was highly impressed; the science department put on a day-long event hosting booths of student work on various science subjects (mostly in Thai, but interesting nonetheless), as well as a multitude of games, dances, and competitions throughout the day.

The theme: reduce, reuse, recycle. The highlight of the festivities was a very well organized beauty pageant and/or fashion show. I'm not exactly sure which. I was surprised; 30+ "couples" waltzed around the assembly area in clothes made entirely or almost entirely out of recycled materials. Some of them were quite extraordinary; one couple dressed as a peacock and its mate, with costumes made entirely of Big C plastic bags, trash bags, various pieces of used paper, and other paraphernalia that would otherwise have been thrown away. Another couple dressed up in Lady Gaga-esque attire with very fashionable outfits made entirely of newspapers and bottle tops.

The day was obviously was meant to be more fun than serious, and the fact that it incorporated a competition and science (related) was quite impressive. I was really surprised at how well the entire event was organized. If you've ever been in Thailand, school or not, you'll know organization isn't always a top priority. But today, it was!

I also love how the students - even those not participating in the festivities directly-genuinely enjoyed the day. It's great to see students actually having FUN... while doing something school related! That's quite a feat, if you ask me. Sure, it was hot as it always is, but I saw nothing but smiles on the faces of students and teachers alike all day.

The fact that the school A) allows students to "skip" classes all day for such festivities, and B) allows students to dress in manners which show off a LOT more skin than would be allowed in any school (one student was even shirtless for the fashion show), makes for a great establishment in my mind. Sure, most days are surrounded by conformity and uniforms, but it's not the end of the world for a little fun and relaxation within the rules. Western schools, take note.

The emcee for the fashion show was nothing less than a male student dressed as a lady (can you call a student a ladyboy?), there were lesbian couples for the shows, some costumes were made out of whiskey bottles and boxes... can you imagine that ever happening in a Western school? My school sent students home just for having a t-shirt that said "Budweiser." And they say Thailand is conservative. I beg to differ, and am quite thrilled to do so. It's refreshing!

I can't speak for other countries, but I remember science in the USA as being tedious and boring. Sure, we'd have the odd fun experiment day, but any "fun" was always overshadowed by a multitude of rules and chaperones, and it was generally more effort than it was worth for teachers AND students to even bother breaking away from the norm. Here in Bangkok, students actually are finding science fun! Thrilling, exciting... fun!

My hats off to all of the students and teachers at my school who obviously put a lot of effort into the whole ordeal. I am part of the science department, but was sick all the week before and wasn't around to help much. I'm really impressed, and it makes me proud to be a science teacher.


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