ODA Students Explore Global Conservation in Thailand

This summer, nine Upper School students, accompanied by Mr. Kinser and Ms. Smithey, traveled for 12 days through Thailand as part of ODA’s first credit-bearing study abroad course.
In May, the group started their program with a Hybrid Learning Consortium (HLC) hosted course. Students completed three weeks of research by reading case studies and learning the five stages of Stanford’s design-thinking process (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test). The students were expected to apply this to cultural and conservation issues in Thailand, ultimately prototyping one which they felt passionate about.

During the trip, students kept field journals for idea sketching, interviews, and reflections on their experiences. They traveled extensively, by boat, tuk-tuk, and on foot through the country, visiting modern and historic locations including Chiang Dao, Krabi, Bangkok, and Dubai. They worked with the Thailand  Elephant Conservation Center, Chiang Mai University forest researchers, and ecologists. They experienced the beauty of a remote monastery, and explored historic temples, secluded beaches, delicate reefs, underground caves, and extensive jungles.

Each night, the group conducted Harkness discussions to answer questions such as: How has agricultural waste affected local habitats and the tourist industry? and After experiencing Ao Nang as a tourist, how might human encroachment threaten one of the world’s most pristine coastal areas?   
“During this trip I realized that there is so much more in the world to experience. There were so many stories behind small objects that I would normally look past,” said Kaitlyn Hornung ‘22. “It was a great way to learn about the culture and the issues in the country. I enjoyed Railay Beach the most of all of our experiences...the views and scenery of the location were absolutely incredible.”

In the weeks following their return, the students designed prototypes and proposals for improving the cultural or environmental issues they chose. Ideas include a 3D-printed sapling planter made from biodegradable materials which could assist with reforestation initiatives, and a training program for citizen veterinarians to help monitor the country’s growing stray pet population.

Click for photos of the groups’ experience in Thailand.

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