In traditional medicine, rosella (also known as hibiscus) is used to increase stamina and endurance, help the body flush out toxins, and lower blood pressure, cholesterol and uric acid levels. It also helps with migraines, coughs and sore throats. Because Leuser Nature School is based on the same site as Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre, the grade 8 students are learning from the women's group working there - harvesting rosella flowers, cleaning them and then drying them to be used as rosella tea. This is one of many nature-based activities the students benefit from at Leuser Nature School, made possible by everyone who donates to keep the school running smoothly. Thank you.
In normal years, a local State Junior High school visits Leuser Nature School. In 2020 and 2021, the COVID pandemic prevented this, but the visit was finally able to happen again this year, in late February 2022. The purpose of the visit is to enable the students to get to know each other and to share with each other the different experiences they have of studying at their respective schools. At the end of this year's visit, the Leuser Nature School children showed their visitors how to plant trees in the Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre. The seeds they used are the ones they donate each month in lieu of paying school fees.
Another event which was disrupted by the pandemic was the Badan Komunikasi Pemuda Remaja Mesjid Indonesia (the Communication Agency of Indonesian Mosque Youth) camp. This year, Leuser Nature School hosted the camp, which was attended by the Camat of Besitang and his staff, the Head of Bukit Mas Village, the head of the MUI (Indonesian Islamic Scholars Council) of Besitang Sub-district, and teenagers from Besitang sub-district. Hosting the camp was a great opportunity for the students to proudly show the other attendees their school, the rewilding project and the permaculture project they all help with, and will no doubt encourage the adults in attendance to send their children there in future years.
The reforestation projects we support in Sumatra all use assisted natural regeneration to restore areas of land that have been degraded. This because although simply planting the trees and leaving them to it would be less expensive, there are several reasons why assisting the process has better outcomes.
Nature cannot be separated from people, and so involvement of and benefit to local communities is vital in ensuring that a restored forest remains protected long-term. Additionally, a lot of seed dispersal relies on animals and birds which may have long ago disappeared from a degraded area, so natural regeneration doesn’t always happen as quickly as it would if these species were present.
With this in mind, a key lesson for the students at Leuser Nature School is tree growth monitoring. They have been carrying this out on a monthly basis since August this year, and they are all really enthusiastic about it. They learn how to accurately measure a tree's growth and how to record and analyse the data. As the school is based at a restoration site, they are also exposed to real world examples of why this process is so important in helping areas of land become functioning ecosystems once more.
Back in April, UNESCO launched a short video competition for students aged 15 to 19 in South-East Asian countries. The theme of the competition was ‘Sustainable EnvironmentduringtheCovid-19Pandemic’. The organisers particularly encouraged submissions from girls, so some of the female students of Leuser Nature School were eager to join in. They recorded a video of themselves sowing reforestation seedlings and entitled it ‘One Tree at a Time Creates a Forest’.
In June, the girls received the good news that they had been picked as semi-finalists - one of 35 out of 370 entrants received by the committee from across South-East Asia.
All the finalists were awarded the opportunity to attend an ecoprinting training session that was held online between 24 June – 4 July. The training sessions taught the participants how to produce natural dyes for fabrics and how to make other solutions needed during the eco-printing process. They also practiced printing techniques. The skills the girls learned during this session will now be incorporated into future activity sessions at Leuser Nature School.
The Leuser Nature School is based at the Bukit Mas restoration and permaculture site, so the school's students often learn about plants, natural ingredients and permaculture as part of their school syllabus. To ensure the teachers' and students' knowledge is up to date, the school management recently invited a trainer from IDEP Foundation to lead a one-day training session on ensuring that the school's layout and infrastructure fits the permaculture concept. The trainer advised that any fences at the school should be made of snakefruit (Salacca zalacca) and thorned-pineapple trees to prevent wild animals from entering the school, and that citronellas (Cymbopogon nardus) should be planted around the school and along the paths within the school as insect repellent.
Leuser Nature School students often have lessons outdoors, and the teachers used the citronella planting as an opportunity to teach English in an outdoor setting. As the students planted the citronella plants, the teachers asked them questions about what they were doing in English, and the students replied in English.
Further integrating permaculture with their other subjects, the students also learned about The Classification of matter and its changes in grade 7 science by learning the theoretical concepts in the classroom and then observing what happens (changing solids into gases and liquids) at the essential oil distillation unit at Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre.
Thank you for continuing to support this wonderful school and the people who benefit from it.
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