Something for everyone!
We offer a range of activities broadly split into five areas – outdoor activities, community project work, fieldwork, cultural activities, and wider (educational) trips.
It is very rare for a group to opt for just one area of experience and even a group coming to do field studies for their IB Assessment or GCSE coursework will usually have time to do some of the fun activities we have on offer be it an evening ‘climb’ or a late afternoon Thai cooking course.
We do not have set programmes but instead like to offer a ‘menu’ from which schools choose activities. The balance of activities will depend on the focus of the trip, and the number of activities will naturally depend on the length of stay. The final programme will be settled only after thorough consultation about the aim(s) of the trip and what programme balance will achieve that aim.
Depending on the number of students we will divide the group and work in rotation. Smaller sub-groups means less waiting time in activities such as climbing, archery and high ropes.
Using a chain walk, narrow beam, swinging ropes and monkey bars or rings, students attempt to cross the pond of murky water! We feel that just taking part, no matter how far the student gets, is a success.
This takes place in an area of woodland adjacent to the centre. Here students learn how to make a fire using flint and steel, cook a meal over the open fire using just green bamboo, make appropriate utensils and pots and to build a shelter from bamboo and straw.
Team building challenges
A half day of team and leadership challenges involves students taking part in a series of exercises to test skills of teamwork, co-operation and leadership and is also great for ice-breaking and a getting to know each other activity.
The 10-metre the climbing wall has 6 routes of varying difficulty. An adjacent bouldering wall adds to the activity as well as providing a good warm up.
A 6-metre indoor abseiling wall, great for wet days, is ideal for learning about abseiling and can be combined with the high ropes experience.
We have a 10-metre archery range in which students will learn the basic principles of this sport through a range of different exercises and ‘fun’ games.
High ropes course
The indoor ropes course comprises 9 elements of varying difficulties and provide a great challenge for all – but with some restrictions on the height and weight of participants.
After time spent instructing (and instructors assessing levels of competence), students embark on a 10 to 25 km ride through the valley on quiet lanes and farm tracks. This also provides the opportunity to observe rural life and various activities.
Expeditions and overnight camps
Expeditions of various lengths and challenge are offered. These range from a half day kayak, overnight camp followed by a bike trip back to the centre, through to a full 2/3/4 day Duke of Edinburgh / I.A. for Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.
Time is first spent on the large resort pond, learning paddling techniques, capsize and other safety drills. After this session, students paddle the kayaks from the border with Myanmar, down the Maekok River. We offer half, one or two day kayak trips and can also make this activity part of the Duke of Edinburgh / I.A. ‘Adventurous Journey’ at Bronze, Silver and Gold level.
We offer a range of hikes from a gentle walk through the local hills and hill tribe villages, which take just a few hours, through to a full-day challenging 12 km hike through Doi Pha Hom Phok National Park. This takes students through the caves and tropical forest, up a gorge, past waterfalls, ending up at a lovely river and some natural hot springs – for a cooling dip or a warm sauna! Particularly with junior groups, we combine the hike with a ‘field study’ which we call a ‘Look and Learn Hike’, completing a worksheet during the walk.
On the banks of the Mae Kok River, small groups design rafts which they have to make using inner tubes, bamboo and rope and then paddle these downstream. This is very much a team effort and a great challenge.
Our community project programme began in 2004 with the discovery that many local schools in the Mae Ai area struggled to provide adequate facilities for their students, especially in terms of sufficient and hygienic toilets, canteens and kitchens and in some cases fresh water supplies. One of the first projects undertaken was to improve toilets in a school where there was only one working toilet for 400 students. Since the start of this programme, almost 150 projects have been completed. These have been funded by visiting international and other schools, as well as institutions from abroad. As of the end of 2016, the combined figure for all the projects was rapidly approaching US$750 000. In nearly all cases, visiting students from around the world have raised funds and then have come to contribute to the building work.
Click below for details about our projects:
Health and hygeine
When we began our school improvement programme, priority was given to projects which addressed health and hygiene problems. To improve some very dire conditions, projects were aimed at building new or refurbishing existing toilets, canteens, kitchens, and medical rooms and also drilling wells and building water tanks to improve water supplies.
In some cases a visiting school has focused on one particular local school during their annual visits. For example, over a 6 year period, West Island School from Hong Kong provided toilets, a canteen, library, nursery, school shop and a medical room to Hang Tum School. The help from West Island School was a great impetus for the school to take in initiatives of its own, adding to existing projects, improving the landscaping and developing a small farm. As a result of this joint effort, Hang Tum School has won awards for being one of the best equipped and best kept schools in the North.
We have been fortunate that teachers from international schools have given their time and paid their transport costs (but we provide free board and lodging) to conduct professional training for local staff. These ‘workshops’ in English teaching, art, special needs support and I.T. have been very well received as these opportunities are not readily available for local staff. Visiting schools have also brought library specialists to set up and demonstrate how libraries can be places of more active learning.
Continuing education support
Another area of support is for local students (and families) who find themselves in a difficult position when they have completed primary school. As in most cases the primary school is close to home and so a walkable distance, but when it comes to moving on to middle school, parents find themselves unable to afford the extra costs of transport and school lunches, plus other necessary equipment. We ask the heads of primary schools to identify children in need and visiting international schools are now taking on sponsorship of these young people who want to complete their schooling. Dreams of a better future are now more likely to be realized with this generous support and currently, over 40 students are being supported through this project. Several students from the earlier cohorts have already entered university and more are planning to do so in the future.
A Special Needs Centre – Thomas House
For a number of years we have been very aware that there is virtually no adequate provision for children with severe learning difficulties. The children either do not go to school, or at school, are offered little more than a ‘baby-sitting service’. The only other option is for children to go to special school in Chiang Mai, 180 km away. Parents are understandably very reticent to send their children that distance. Thus our largest and most exciting project to date is the construction of a small specialized SEN School and Training Centre. Apart from the usual facilities, there is accommodation for both staff and volunteers. The land was granted to us and the construction started February 2016. We have the full support of the Chiang Mai Department of Education who have agreed to provide funding for staff and the day to day running, It will provide a facility for up to 24 students and will also act as training centre for interested local teachers in the region and maybe, a model for what could and should be done.
The programme broadened out to focus on improving educational facilities such as the provision of libraries, classrooms, language centres and IT rooms. New nurseries have allowed more children to attend school (and to learn Thai) and also have given both parents a better opportunity to work while their children are taken care of. We have also constructed a number of dormitories and this allows students to be weekly boarders rather than face, as in some cases, an 8 km walk down from and back up to their village in the hills.
Summer holidays and gap year opportunities
It is often the case that students have returned to the MRVR to teach in local schools during their holidays or on leaving school before moving onto university. This has encouraged us to offer a short packages for Year 11s, 12s and 13s in their summer holidays, giving an opportunity to broaden horizons and become more independent – a valuable experience before applying for college! The MRVR has also become the Thailand base for Africa Asia Venture a UK gap company as well as offering our own longer stay gap opportunities to those wanting to come independently. To this send, we have also built accommodation for volunteer teachers in 4 schools.
Visiting school groups also enjoy the challenge of teaching. Lessons are either prepared before arrival or during the time they are here. Full guidelines and advice is provided. In many cases, students tell us that of all the various activities they undertook during their time with us, this was the most rewarding and enjoyable.
Other curriculum areas
Whilst building projects and teaching English has been the main focus, we also provide opportunities for schools to engage in other types of activities. Visiting students have offered I.T. and art based projects as well as music and drama and it has been a great experience for both local and visiting students to work together and learn from each other. In addition, all visiting schools enjoy sporting and cross-cultural activities with their hosts.
The Maekok River Village Outdoor Education Centre has been providing fieldwork at junior, GCSE, AS and A levels; and I.B. since opening. The area offers a range of opportunities to carry out quality fieldwork in biology, history, human and physical geography, and environmental studies. The work carried out is aimed at:
- providing quality coursework
- teaching fieldwork skills
- providing unique case studies
All fieldwork is planned to meet the needs of the different syllabuses and all the teaching, written materials and necessary equipment is provided by the centre.
There are two air-conditioned classrooms with projector and screens for planning and follow-up work’
Click below for details about the types of fieldwork we offer:
This region is populated by different ethnic groups, in addition to northern Thai people. These ethnic groups include Shan (originally from Myanmar), Chinese, and various hilltribes such as the Karen, Akha, Lahu and Lisu. As well as a rich Thai culture, a variety of other cultures can be observed, and various issues relating to the treatment and status of these ethnic groups can be explored.
Buddhism and its relevance to day to day life
One of the teachers in a local school, who himself was a monk and is also an excellent English speaker, is available for sessions on looking at Buddhism – the underlying philosophy and how it is practised. This can be combined with a temple visit.
The same teacher can deliver a session on meditation and particularly concentrate on Vipassana meditation, relating this to life styles and stress relief.
Time is spent in a school where the majority of students are Shan. Here the local students engage with visiting students and illustrate and teach aspects of Shan art, music, dance and martial arts. It would also be possible to carry out a study of their sense of identity and level of integration into Thai society.
The Chinese of northern Thailand
There are several groups of ethnic Chinese in the area who arrived either as traders in the 19th century or as refugee Kuomingtang soldiers in the 1960’s. One settlement in particular lends itself to a study of the KMT – the reasons for their arrival, the reasons why they remained and their integration into Thai society.
Thai Art: Umbrella painting
Chiang Mai is famous for ‘umbrella art’ and experts from the ‘umbrella village’ of Borsang near to Chiang Mai, teach students the basic techniques and then after practise are given the opportunity to paint their own umbrellas.
Our expert chef teaches students how to cook a number of famous Thai dishes. This activity can be extended to have a short Thai lesson, introducing ‘language of the market’, followed by a visit to a local market to purchase the necessary ingredients to cook a couple of Thai dishes.
We also offer a longer option where students spend several days learning to cook appetizers, main dishes and desserts and which culminates in a Master Chef ‘cookout’. Here, students plan a menu and put their skills to the ultimate test – as their dishes are assessed by our Thai chefs.
The area also lends itself to general visits to places of diverse interest. These can either be informal ‘look-see’ visits, or could be more a formal information gathering experience and indeed students have used their researches for their Extended Essay at I.B.
The Golden Triangle and Hall of Opium
This area became known as The Golden Triangle during the hey-days of opium growing in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The story of this drug is superbly told at the Hall of Opium, from its early use in Ancient Greece, to the Opium Wars in Hong Kong through to the role it had in the Cold War years, and ending up with today’s issues of drug addiction. This visit can also include a trip on the Mekong River and even a non-visa trip to Laos!
Doi Angkhang Royal Project
The Royal Projects in this part of Thailand were very much aimed at eradication of opium poppies and the reliance that many hill farmers had with this crop. It is a stunning project, set in a bowl in the mountains at an altitude of 1400 metres. Flowers, vegetables and fruits of all varieties are exquisitely laid out over an area of several hundred hectares.
The Nationalist Chinese Settlement of Mae Salong
After being expelled from China in the 1950s and Myanmar in the early 1960’s, the Nationalist Chinese (or Kuomingtang) began to settle in the north of Thailand. The history of this settlement is fascinating and is much linked to the opium trade, the conflicts in S.E. Asia in the 1960’s and 1970s as well as the Cold War. Set high on a long ridge, this settlement has mixture of Chinese and hill tribes who now grow fruit, coffee and tea ,and this all makes for a very interesting visit.
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
We can provide groups which wish to stay in either of this cities at the beginning or the end of their trip to North Thailand, with a programme of educational (and other) sightseeing opportunities which may include the more spectacular temples, elephant camps and parks, and the ever popular night markets.