Connecting to the curriculum: kehidupan sehari-hari – an Indonesian-language trail in the Adelaide Botanic Garden

Steve Meredith

Adelaide Botanic Garden, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia

Looking at ways of using botanic gardens to link to local and national school curricula can be a great exercise in lateral thinking. This is especially so if you wish to move away from traditional areas like plant science, but still maintain a strong environmental perspective.

This session looks at some of the innovative ways in which educators in botanic gardens integrate their programs across diverse curriculum areas. A particular case-study on teaching foreign languages in botanic gardens is used to highlight the way that plant collections, when used creatively, can give students the chance to learn languages within a cultural and environmental context. The session also looks at how cross-cultural themes can exploit new and perhaps under used areas of botanic gardens.

The way we teach is as important as what we teach. This session also looks at how different arts-based approaches can quickly gain and hold students' attention. Learning through the arts can become an almost incidental byproduct of the process of creating or enjoying a performance or an exhibitiocollections, arts programmes can be a powerful educational springboard for a multitude of different learning themes.

Connecting to the cirriculum should not just end at the garden wall. Technology now lets us reach distant audiences cheaply and instantaneously. This helps overcome some of the distance disadvantages which precludes isolated communities from access to our Garden and our expertise. Technology can also provide the opportunity for other Garden staff to share their knowledge, with a minmum of disruption to their daily work.

Teachers are key players in the educational community. By targeting the cirricular needs of schools, well designed teacher training programs can influence the design and delivery of classroom teaching. Teacher training can be particularly effective when programs have a strong practical bias towards developing local resources for ongoing ecological and biodiversity studies.

If botanic gardens are to be leaders in environmental education, they must provide innovative, diverse and relevant programs that are adapted to the changing needs of the education communities that they serve.

A key element in developing new education programs in the Adelaide Botanic Garden has been to broaden the appeal of the Garden to a much wider range of teachers than the traditional specialist botany or biology teacher. In looking at what types of teachers use our Garden it was not surprising to find foreign language teachers a rarity.

On discussing the reasons for this with language teachers a number of points emerged. Firstly, few language teachers ever considered the Botanic Gardens as a resource for their subject. Secondly, because of their training and teaching background, many lacked the confidence to deal with plants and thirdly, even if they were interested in using the Gardens, no relevant materials were available to support their visit. These comments provided the stimulus and the challenge for the development of our Indonesian language-trail, 'Kehidupan Sehari-hari'.

Developing the trail


The trail was based on the rationale that the learning of language is more powerful, meaningful and intrinsically interesting if taught within the cultural context of the country whose language is being studied. Botanic gardens are ideally placed to exploit this notion. Their plants, collected from all over the world, possess fascinating stories relating to the people and the culture of other countries.

Choosing a language

The choice of the Bahasa Indonesia language was an easy one for us. Apart from the fact it is taught in over 80 local schools and is the language of one of Australia's nearest neighbours, our tropical Bicentennial Conservatory collection has many plants which come from, or are used in, Indonesia.

Working collaboratively

The trail was developed jointly with a leading Indonesian-language specialist who provided advice on suitable curriculum content, methodology and age-appropriate activities. Funding was obtained through a grant for the development of local initiatives in the area of language and cultural education programs. The trail was aimed at middle-school students between 9 to 14 years of age.

The trail

In Indonesian, Kehidupan Sehari-hari means 'daily life' and embraces the idea of living in harmony with others and with nature. This approach provides both a cultural and environmental perspective to language development.

The trail itself was written as a self-guiding booklet based around a simulated visit to an Indonesian rainforest. Its combination of practical language-based tasks and cultural information on the uses of plants is designed to give students a glimpse of traditional Indonesian village life while experiencing the feeling of being surrounded by a tropical rainforest environment.

Kehidupan Sehari-hari is divided into six main sections:

  1. Selamat Datang—Welcome!

    As the doors of our Bicentennial Conservatory pull back, students are encouraged to believe they have just touched down in the wilds of Indonesia, courtesy of Bicentennial Airlines. Their first task is simply to explore, in small groups, the environment of the rainforest inside and to note, in Indonesian, their first impressions of the Asian rainforest environment and how it differs from the local (Adelaide) environment.

  2. Village Visit

    Once students feel acclimatized, they begin an Indonesian plant-hunt by translating navigational directions given in Indonesian. As they find each of the ten listed plants, they match the living plant to a drawing of it on their Indonesian village scene page. Once they have a match, they then write the Indonesian name of the plant in the appropriate place on their village scene.

  3. Plant Cards

    Once the ten plants have been located, students revisit them to learn about their different cultural uses. They are required to read information and respond to questions about the plants in Indonesian. A vocabulary list on the side of each page is provided to help with more difficult words. Questions included in this section involve explaining how rotan fish traps work and what must be done to Pandanus leaves before they can be used for weaving.

  4. Di Kebun Raya

    After finding a suitable spot in the Conservatory or the Garden, students use a postcard-writing activity to reflect on what they have learnt about Kehidupan Sehari-hari in Indonesian.

  5. Other Places to Visit

    This is an optional activity for students to collect further information about Indonesian plants growing out in the Garden and to explore the tropical foods on display in our Museum of Economic Botany.

  6. Back at School

A series of post-visit activities have been developed to follow on from a visit to the Gardens. Suggestions range from re-creating an Indonesian village from natural or recycled materials to finding things at home that are made from plants which might grow in Indonesia.

The booklet

The trail was published in an easy-to-photocopy booklet form. It contains extensive teacher planning information, a vocabulary list, and diagrams of plant parts, fruits and spices, all labelled in Indonesian. Our Garden's artist developed nuith their language translations.

Some outcomes

Following the launch of the Trail and associated teacher workshops, many schools teaching Indonesian have successfully used the trail. One of the main benefits has been the use of the Garden by a group of teachers who would not normally have done so. Already teachers of other languages have requested similar trails for their students. The trail has also enabled language teachers to broaden the boundaries of their subject by integrating an environmental perspective into their teaching programs.

Students enjoy the plant-hunt approach. They also respond well to working in small groups independent of the teacher. There is often a lot of discussion and collaborative decision-making evident, as they translate directions and answer questions about the plants they have found.

Of particular value to the Garden Education Service has been the opportunity to work with an outside curriculum specialist in the development of the program. Collaboration like this brings in new knowledge, skills and a different perspective of the Gardens. It also provides a ready-made network of contacts with the wider education community. This has been especially useful in the evaluation and promotion stage of the project. The partnership has also led to the successful completion of a junior primary trail 'Dunia Alam—the Natural World', and a further grant to develop an 'Asia in Australia' theme trail.

Kehidupan Sehari-hari highlights how botanic garden plant collections can help to give students a glimpse of other parts of the world and experience the language, culture and environment of another country. It is also another example of the enormous range of learning opportunities that our diverse plant collections can bring to the school curriculum.

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