Preparing for our 2nd Experiential Unit in the Chiang Mai Province

This week in English class, students will be preparing for their second homestay. On this homestay, students will be collecting evidence, making claims, and beefing up their arguments in order to hold their own in their final unit assessment. What is the assessment? A Mock Trial – Karen People vs. Thailand Federal Government.

For the past couple weeks students have been learning the fundamentals of mock trial and have been conducting sample trials in class. This week students will learn new content, gain new insight and develop perspective on the Karen people, Nong Tao Village, and the dispute regarding conservation of forestry.

Next week Monday, students will stay in the mountainous Nong Tao village, about 2 hours west of the city of Chiang Mai. Host families are from the Karen ethnic minority group and have been living in the forest area for over 300 years.

In the unit, students will be able to compare and contrast different understandings of forest conservation. The Karen villagers manage 8,000 rai of forest as a community, restricting the use of half of it, and using the other half for forest resources like firewood, vegetables and herbs, and wood to build houses. Thailand’s central government is interested in turning the community land into a national park as a part of its efforts to have 40% of Thailand’s land returned to forest cover. The national park would limit villagers’ ability to continue their traditional livelihoods and they are skeptical the government will protect the forest as villagers have for centuries.

While in Nong Tao, students will have the opportunity to learn about the rights and worldviews of indigenous peoples, question humans’ relationship with nature, and develop their own understanding of what appropriate conservation looks like. They will also experience community-based forest management and practice small-scale coffee production.

We will be in Chiang Mai Province for the next 8 weeks, moving from the plateau of the Northeast to the mountains of the North. We will travel during the day so that students are able to take in the picturesque scenery. Unlike Udon Thani, Chiang Mai is a huge tourist destination, ranking in the top destinations around the world.