Ruamrudee International School Bangkok Thailand Magazine - Where Bright Futrures Flourish

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Phoenix Tennis Academy


e are very excited to once again offer our school community a top-quality tennis program presented by PJ Tennis. Paradorn Srichaphan ATP #9 and Jed Gould - Australian #1 lead a team of experienced tennis professionals. The RIS tennis program is overseen by Coach Ton • • • • • •

Thai National Junior Team U14 and U16 R/Up singles and doubles U18 national championships University - Chulalongkorn University Thailand National Junior Tennis Coach ITF Level 1 Qualified Tennis Coach ITF Level 2 Qualified Tennis Coach


Session 2 different training sessions offered per week Monday Training Dates (12 sessions) • • • •

February 17th & 24th March 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd & 30th April 20th & 27th May 11th, 18th & 25th

Wednesday Training Dates (12 sessions) • • • •

Scan QR code to register

February 19 & 26 March 4th, 11th & 25th April 1st, 8th, 22nd & 29th May 6th, 13th & 20th th


2 different levels/age groups offered per training session/day 3:00 pm − 4:00 pm 4-year-olds − 11-year-olds • 450 THB per session • 5,400 THB total

4:00 pm − 5:30 pm 12-year-olds − 19-year-olds • 675 THB per session • 8,100 THB total

For more information, please contact Todd Parham at

4 Message from the Head of School

PUBLICATION INFORMATION Ad Astra is published three times a year by Ruamrudee International School. Its objective is to report on happenings at Ruamrudee International School. At least 1,300 copies are printed per issue and sent to all students and their families. Ad Astra is also distributed among our faculty and staff and is available on the school website. The RIS family is a large and growing community of international citizens.


Managing Editor Elisia Brodeur Graphics Design/Layout Sornchai Ponghemwattana

Printed by

Media Printing Plus Limited


6 Ramkhamhaeng 184, Minburi, Bangkok 10510 Tel: +66 (0)2 791 8900

Special Feature: Pope’s Visit 5 6 8

RIS Alumna Chosen to Be the Pope’s Translator! K. Nilobol (Nicky) Pimdee The Pope’s Visit Through Our Students’ Eyes Dhan (Gr. 4), Indre (Gr. 4), Ellie (Gr. 6), Max (Gr. 7) RIS Student Designs Commemorative Doll for the Pope’s Visit Grace (KG)

Amazing Students

10 HS Students Help Australia Bushfire Victims Ching Ching, Risha, Nampueng, Opal, and Wha Wha (Grs. 10 & 12) 12 RIS iGEM Team Impress at the 2019 Giant Jamboree in Boston Ms. Elisia 16 From Average MS Student to Accomplished, Awarded Research Scientist Titan (Gr. 12) 19 Kids Helping Kids: Raising Funds for Pediatric Craniofacial Surgery Ton Nam (Gr. 11) 21 World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions Ivy (Gr. 8) 24 Amnesty International Club: Ordinary People, Extra Ordinary Changes Menthol & Gao (Gr. 12) 26 Unexpected Rewards Pol (Gr. 11) 28 Award-Winning Pianist and Math Champ Q (Gr. 7) 30 Thailand Youth National Team Gymnast Melody (Gr. 10) 32 2019 Princess Cup Show Jumping Champion Jubu (Gr. 7)

PoPs In Action

33 Universal Children’s Day Ms. Kyleigh & Ms. Lauren 34 RIS Students Attend Holocaust Remembrance Day Ms. Sarah B. 36 RIS Walk-a-thons and Other Fundraisers Ms. Shirley 40 IB Art: Fake Gallery Ms. Pavla

42 Wai Kru 2020 MS Thai Department 43 Why the MUSE Trip Was Totally Worth It Biew Biew (Gr. 10) & Shinn (Gr. 11) 45 Cancelling Cancers Fundraisers Ball, Gino, Vasu, Vic, & Ivy 46 HS Pep Rally Ms. Elisia 47 Hour of Code Ms. Dainty 49 RIS Teacher Featured in the Book Integrating 3D Printing into Teaching and Learning Ms. Elisia 50 100 Days of School!

Awesome Events

51 7th-Grade Thai Field Trip to Ayutthaya World Heritage Sites MS Thai Department 52 International Cultural Week Ms. Jennie 54 MS Knowledge Bowl and Fundraiser Ms. Elisia 56 Almost, Maine Ms. Sarah A. & Performing Arts students 59 More Accolades for the Winner of “The Voice Kids Thailand” Mac (Gr. 7) 60 Griffith Library Reopening Ceremony Ms. Elisia 62 Redesigned Learning Spaces HS Admin & Teachers 64 Ruang Phueng Bangkok Run with Toon Bodyslam Ms. Elisia 66 Chinese New Year Celebration 2020 Ms. Elisia 68 RIS Hosts SEASAC Division II Football Championships Ms. Elisia 70 HS Knowledge Bowl Ms. Elisia

Awe-Inspiring Alumni

72 The Power of Positivity with Coach Bharati Mr. Michael 74 Ice Hockey Star Hideki Nagayama: For the Love of the Game Mr. Michael 76 Life of Po: Interview with Photographer Po Bunya Mr. Michael 79 Holy Redeemer Today: Alumni Commentary 82 Alumni News Roundup 84 Photos of the Day Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020



t’s a humbling challenge to consider the words I can compose in a place where our beloved Fr. Travis traditionally offers his own thoughts to introduce Ad Astra. He continues to recuperate under hospital care and hopes to return to the community he calls home as soon as he can. We truly miss his presence. I know that in my five years at Ruamrudee, I’ve increasingly come to value the example of sincere service, hope, and charity through his words and actions. In these pages that highlight our community’s efforts to truly live the values of our school’s mission through community service and global citizenship, it seems wonderfully appropriate to reminisce on Fr. Travis’ influence on our school. In fact, Ruamrudee was founded just one year after he arrived in Thailand in 1956. When connecting with RIS alumni I’m frequently asked about Fr. Travis and then regaled with memories of his guiding influence at our school. It’s important to note that while so many of us associate him with Ruamrudee, Fr. Travis has also served countless communities throughout Thailand. When I traveled to northern Thailand with some of our students for the water project, he began to share with me some of his many stories of service and support among the rural communities there. As I began to notice the influence of the Redemptorists in villages, schools, and other organizations in the region, I realized that it would be impossible to ever truly account for the years of service provided by Fr. Travis. However, what is most astounding about the amazing scope of all of his work, whether in remote mountain villages or the hallways of our school, is that it can not be defined by one single project, act, or outcome. It is the sum of Fr. Travis’ small gestures and sustained effort over time that has created miracles of change. On the days when I haven’t told him how much is on my mind, he somehow knows he needs to take my hand and let me know that he appreciates my efforts, prays for my support, and offers to help in any way he can. The following articles highlight many similar efforts among our community. Not one of them alone will change the world, but collectively they create a wave of change and influence that truly makes a difference. The Pope’s visit certainly seems significant, but even that makes a difference only to the extent that each individual inspired by his message takes action in their words and deeds with those around them. Students at RIS are committed to knowing their role in the world as global citizens and ensuring that the people and places of our planet are left better, not worse, by their influence. Much of what is documented here, what we teach in our classrooms, and what Fr. Travis demonstrates through his service exemplifies these efforts. It takes compassionate attention to the needs of those around us, the courage to act on those needs, the creativity to fulfill those needs in new ways, and an understanding that every effort matters. Indeed, when Fr. Travis prays for Ruamrudee it’s not simply for our own well-being but because he knows that our individual efforts, combined as a “union of hearts,” can truly change the world.

Mr. Daniel Smith Head of School 4

Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020

An Interview with K. Nilobol (Nicky) Pimdee (arranged by K. Kristina Sethaputra)

How were you selected for this auspicious translation project? There are only a few people in the Ministry, about 12, who can speak Spanish. These people were contacted privately to see if they were interested and told that there was a test that the applicants would have to go through. Later, someone proposed my name to the Permanent Secretary, and they asked me to do the test. I got it, along with another woman from the Thai Embassy in Mexico and two other substitutes as backups in case something went wrong. Who else are you translating for? Apart from the Pope with His Majesty the King, it was the Pope with the Prime Minister, and I also translated in the booth during the meeting with the cabinet members and the diplomatic core with the Pope at the government house. And also on the way back, sending off the Pope, I translated for the people who were sending him off, such as the deputy prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs, the general manager of Thai Airways, just to name a few. I understand you were flown in from Chile for this job. What is your current position there? I’m a counselor at the Royal Thai Embassy in Santiago. The Thai Ministry flew me back to Thailand for this job. Do you have any recommendations for students who would like to pursue a similar career? Try to study a language that Thai people don’t use too much, and then you’ll become one of the “chosen ones.” [laughs] What do you love most about your job? I get to travel around a lot, and I get to live and stay in countries that I never thought I would be living in. And the other part is that I get to meet incredible people, mostly politicians and high-ranking government officials, but also famous people as well. When were you at RIS? From grade 3 until I graduated in 1994.

What are some of your fondest memories of RIS? Wow, there are a lot! But the best part about having gone to RIS is that I have made lifelong best friends. And even though we don’t see each other much because I travel a lot and work abroad a lot, whenever we get to meet, in Thailand or wherever, our friendships are still the same. [Love you all!] What was it like spending time with the Pope? Before I started I was very nervous, but when I met him, I was fine. He is such a warm-hearted person. You could feel his charisma, actually, and his warmth and love. He’s like a fatherly, grandfatherly figure who you feel comfortable with. Was there a special process to be able to fulfill this task? [laughs] First of all, when I found out that I had to be the translator for HM the King, I had to study the Royal Thai words, the words that I would need to use when I translate for HM the King. Apart from that, I had to practice how to crawl and sit on the floor for a very long time! Is there anything else you would like to share? It was really an honor and a privilege for me to have done this job. At first, I didn’t feel that way about it because I was scared that I might screw it up [laughs], but now I’m so happy that I’ve done it and that it came out well. So, if any of you want to do something like this, don’t back out. When your chance comes, just grab it! Thank you so much for your time, K. Nicky! Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


Dhan, Grade 4 When I was in the car and on the sky train I was excited. I thought about what I would be doing at school if I weren’t going to see the Pope and what I was going to do when I reached the stadium. When I reached the stadium I was surprised. I saw many friends, there were so many people, and the stadium was really big. I was very bored while I was waiting for the Pope to come to the stadium. Hours passed, but then the Pope came and I was excited again and finally I wasn’t bored. And I thought about how lucky I was to see the Pope because he stayed in Thailand for only 2 days. Actually, I don’t think he will ever come back to Thailand again. Hearing everyone saying “Viva il Papa” was really nice, and I shouted it too. The Pope came very close to me, but I still couldn’t see because I am short. So my dad carried me up high so I could finally see the Pope. I saw the Pope’s big smile, and I felt his smile was a loving smile. At the Mass, I had no idea how I would receive communion because the stadium was so big. Then, when I saw all the priests handing out the holy bread I wondered if everyone

received it or not. It was a very long Mass, but it was worth it. At the end of the day, I thought about how lucky I was to see the Pope.

Indre, Grade 4 I was so excited when I found out that I would be able to see Pope Francis at St. Louis Hospital. We were there since early morning and he arrived at 11:00 am. We were standing so close that when he passed by I could tell that he heard us screaming “Viva il Papa Francisco!” He turned to us and waved his left hand directly to us. It was such a strong emotional moment for me. And when I turned to look at my dad, his eyes were also filled with tears.

Ellie S., Grade 6 The first couple of hours were a bit chaotic. We had to run to the car at 2:40 on the dot. Once we got to the stadium, we had to do passport checks, find a seat, and get snacks. My family was all feeling very excited as the crowd was chanting, “Viva il Papa!” which means Long live the Pope in Italian. The empty seats quickly filled up with people. Adults were taking pictures of my siblings


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[Max and Ceci] and me with our sign, which read “Peace for the Pope” in Spanish. Priests from all over the world gave readings. We prayed the rosary in three different languages. When we found out that the Pope would be at the stadium in less than an hour, we all got super jittery as questions zoomed

through our heads, “Is he going to notice our signs?” and “Will he acknowledge us?” Eventually, we stopped asking ourselves questions when we saw the Pope begin slowly going around the stadium. Butterflies filled our stomachs. “I see him! I see him!” my brother shouted. I saw him too. And I felt blessed. Right then and there I said a small prayer for him. I prayed for peace for the world and for individuals. When we left, I had a big smile on my face.

Max S., Grade 7 On the second day, we left early because it was about an hour’s drive to the small church where the Pope would speak. All three of us [me, Ellie, and Ceci] were dozing on and off as the car drove further and further from our homestay. When we were about 15 minutes from the church, the on-ramp that we needed to go on closed. The car in front of us was the last car to go in! This added some time to the drive, but we still got there early. When we arrived, we realized that there was no shade and that we did not have any umbrellas to block the sun. Luckily, a kind lady lent us her umbrella. And so we waited for the Pope to come through in his popemobile. Thai students lined the road for 3 km to greet Pope Francis.As we all waited, the crowd got bigger and bigger and we got more and more anxious until we heard the crowd roaring “Viva il Papa!” (long live the pope) and then we saw him come through the crowd.

We held up our signs and cheered our loudest. As he came through we saw him look at our sign and that simple act brought us a wave of joy. We knew that he saw us. After the Pope passed by my sisters and I chatted happily saying “He saw us! I know he The first day, the Pope saw us!” It was a very drove all around the stadium, waving to special time because Thai, Vietnamese, and when such an important Chinese pilgrims. man acknowledges you it creates a feeling of importance. The opportunity to see Pope Francis close up two days in a row was one of the most special moments in my life.

Waiting for the Pope’s motorcade on the 2nd day

Our point of view on the second day Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


ope Francis’ apostolic visit to Thailand took place from November 20–23, 2019. The Pope’s visit also coincided with the anniversary of 350 years of the Catholic Church being in Thailand. There are about 300,000 Catholics in Thailand, all of whom were very excited about his visit because the last time a Pontiff visited Thailand was 35 years ago. While the Pope was here, he led two Masses–one at Supachalsai National Stadium and one for youths at Assumption Cathedral— where part of his message was about the importance of speaking up for the welfare of migrants and putting an end to the abuse and human trafficking of women and children. The Pope also met with various political and religious leaders, including Prime Minister Prayut Chano-cha and an audience with King Maha Vajiralongkorn. Five-year-old Grace, in KG here at RIS, helped her father design a special plush Pope doll as one of the keepsake items that were made and sold to celebrate the auspicious visit of Pope Francis’ visit to Thailand. I spoke with Grace’s mom, Prim, to learn more about how their family had the great honor of being involved in this project. I also talked with Grace to hear what she had to say about the experience.

to commemorate the Pope’s visit. We were involved in every aspect of the project, from designing each item and securing manufacturers to setting up a website and managing online sales to packing and shipping the items to buyers. We had only four weeks to come up with the designs and make all of the items in time for the Pope’s visit. All but one of the items was made here in Thailand.

Grace’s mom, Prim: Our family is a member of the Catholic Business Executive Group, and Grace’s godfather is the president of the group. Our family volunteered to develop and distribute a whole series of memorabilia

Prim showed me each of the souvenirs, all of which were artfully designed and beautifully made.

• A baseball cap with the symbol of the Vatican on it • A pop-open fan • A reusable canvas bag • A pin of the Thai flag and the Vatican flag (1,000 of which were donated to members of Parliament and the media during the Pope’s visit) • A sporting event scarf • A silk scarf • A polo shirt • A set of commemorative coins in bronze, silver, copper, and alpaca [a metal alloy of copper, nickel and sometimes zinc] that were designed and made by Natee Kevalakul, the only Thai artist who graduated from Michaelenlo’s school in Italy— Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara. • A stunning Limited Edition box set of coins: one large coin, and one of each of the alpaca, silver,


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and copper coins in a beautiful silk box with display risers. • And of course, Grace’s plush Pope doll, which was designed specifically for the younger generation. Interview with Grace: Tell me about the doll that you helped design. I helped my dad with the design. I wanted the doll to be cute, to have big eyes and a big smile and to look kind. I dreamed about the doll and then told my dad about my ideas and they became part of the design. How many dolls were made? 2,000 dolls. What does your dad do for work? He draws for work. He is a graphic designer. What else did you do to help? I helped to pack the dolls, and I helped stick the stickers on the packages. Did you get to see the Pope when he was here in Thailand? Yes! I saw the Pope two times in one day! And I went to the Mass as well. Did the Pope get to see your doll? Yes, the Pope got to see my doll at Saint Louis Church. I was very proud.

All proceeds from the sale of the items, after costs, went to the Funds for Pope Francis Apostolic Visit to Thailand.

Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


An interview with Ching Ching, Risha, and Nampueng, Grade 10


hing Ching, Risha, Nampueng, Opal, and Wha Wha are a group of smart, dedicated, and compassionate high school students. Earlier this year, they joined forces to raise funds to help Australia cope with its devastating wildfires. At the time of this interview, the bushfires in Australia had destroyed more than 2,000 homes, 65 million rai of land, and killed over one billion animals. These students have been at RIS since elementary school. Now Sophomores and Seniors, they are members of several high school clubs. Collectively, they represent RISing Coffee, Amnesty International Club, the RIS Red Cross Club, Student Council, National Honor Society, the Leo Club, the Ecomerits Club, and World Scholars Cup. Already very busy and dedicated young women, I spoke with Ching Ching, Risha, and Nampueng to learn more about why they decided to take action to raise funds to help people and animals in Australia. What gave you the idea to initiate this project? We had all seen the news about the fires in Australia on our social media accounts. Ching Ching: I wanted to help, at least donate to help Australia, but I couldn’t find a way to get the money there. Almost half of the websites weren’t actually reliable; the money wasn’t necessarily going to help Australia. (We could tell from the comments.) Then I happened to see a post on Instagram from the Thai Red Cross that they were accepting donations from Thai citizens. I got the inspiration from the Laos project when the dam collapsed and also the Pray for Nepal project in 2015. So did you all start talking about it? How did it start? Ching Ching: I started discussing it with my sister but it was just a random idea. She suggested that I call some friends, so I called Risha and Nampueng and we talked


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about what we should sell and what we should do, and it became a project. Did any RIS teachers help you or was this all studentled? Risha: It was all student-led. However, we did need an advisor, so we asked Ms. Sabrena to help as she also contacts the Thai Red Cross and would be able to help us with the process of getting them the money. Ms. Shirley also helped us a lot, especially with the t-shirts. At first, we were thinking about selling t-shirts online. She basically told us how to organize it because she’s helped with all the projects that have been done before. She knows the best ways to sell and advertise. What motivated you to help humanity at large? Ching Ching: I’ve never been to Australia but I dream of going there. When I knew the fires were spreading I got sad, but what made it sadder is that we can see the effects of global warming and that it is becoming more serious. Our generation, we children, have many more dreams and because global warming is getting worse I want to be sure other children grow up to achieve their dreams. I want to help our earth. Because of the fires, a large number of kangaroos and koalas are dying. I want to try to save these animals so kids younger than us, other generations, will be able to see them in the wild. Nampueng: The fires were man-made because all of us have contributed to global warming. Every contribution

matters, so I think we should all do something. Even if we raise a small amount of money, it will still help. Risha: The Australian government and business were trying to help the environment somehow but it went wrong and now the fires have affected a lot of people and killed a lot of wildlife. Many species native to Australia could become extinct. How did you come up with the idea of selling t-shirts? Ching Ching: Initially, we wanted to sell cookies shaped like animals (koalas and kangaroos). Risha: But cookies take a long time to make, are more labor-intensive, and typically don’t raise as much money. I suggested making t-shirts as I know upperclassmen have done that before. They are still unique because we made our own designs. Who designed the t-shirts? Ching Ching and Wha Wha drew one of the designs. Pob and Risha designed the other. How did you come up with the goal to raise 50,000 baht? We knew that other fundraisers had raised about this amount so it seemed like a reachable goal. Why did you choose to support the Red Cross, specifically? Risha: The Red Cross was the only source Ching Ching found that was legitimate and reliable. It was also easier because we could easily connect with the Thai Red Cross in Thailand and we knew we could ask Ms. Sabrena for help.

How many t-shirts did you end up selling? We sold just over 250 t-shirts. We also got money from donations because not everyone wanted to buy a t-shirt, they just wanted to donate. We raised a total of 51,000 baht. What Principle(s) of Phoenix do you feel you reflected with this project and why? Hands (by taking action to make a difference) and Heart (by helping others). What takeaways do you have from this experience and this project? Ching Ching: It warms my heart that everyone is willing to help the earth, after all, we are all living here together. Nampueng: Even if people didn’t have a lot of money, if they only had 20 baht in their pocket at milk break, they were still willing to donate, because every baht matters. Risha: Some people even came over from other sections to drop off donations. Would you do it again? [Unanimous]: Yes!

Thank you for initiating this fundraiser. As Mr. Jafferali said, “You truly embody the spirit of oneness with all humanity, with each other, and with the environment. You put the idea of ‘Thinking Globally and Acting Locally’ into action.” I agree: you are all wonderful examples of compassionate global citizens, and RIS is very proud of you!

Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Elisia Brodeur As promised in the last issue of Ad Astra, here is the follow-up on this great team of diligent, hardworking RIS students who truly embody all of the Principles of Phoenix.


n October 29th, 2019, six* of our seven iGEM team members, along with their advisors, RIS teachers Mr. Sean Fisk and Ms. Nicole Sabet, flew to Boston, Massachusetts, and became the first-ever high school team to represent Thailand at the international iGEM Giant Jamboree. This was also the first time a country had sent a high school team to iGEM before a university team. The iGEM Jamboree is an acclaimed international science and technology competition that focuses on synthetic biology. Our RIS_BKK team was just one of 350 other teams who were in Boston to showcase their work. Even though our team members knew they were out of the running for a medal—having made the tough decision to drop one of the required parts of the project due to time restrictions—they went to the Jamboree for the experience of presenting, to seek feedback, and maybe even to earn some smaller awards. They were also looking forward to meeting some of the 3,000+ other student competitors, as well as university professors and representatives from a wide range of bioscience companies.

I met with the RIS_BKK iGEM team members to hear about their impressions of the event and their takeaways from the whole experience. “The conference was more flexible than I expected. There were many simultaneous presentations and students were allowed to choose the ones they were interested in. The conference was in a convenient location, so travel was easy, and we got to see some sites of Boston, such as the Liberty Trail.” “The Jamboree was more friendly and not as competitive as I expected. It wasn’t a stressful environment, and people were enthusiastic about sharing their projects. Overall, it was a really good, fun experience.” “Each team was assigned six judges. It wasn’t a very cut-throat environment; our judges were really nice. Some of their feedback mentioned that it would have been beneficial for us to focus more on human practices and the social studies elements of our project, such as direct interactions with the community we were aiming to help.

* Ping Ping had to make a tough choice and ultimately opted to fulfill his captain responsibilities with the varsity football team.


Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020

“The judges suggested approaching some Thai farmers and finding out exactly what they think needs to be approved, talking to the community and asking their views, conducting mini-workshops and surveys, and so on.”

“We realized that we focused a lot on the biology part versus the engineering or math part. Also, we could have done more with the entrepreneurial and social sciences aspects of the project.” “[I think] we gained a lot of experience. You have to be interested enough to put the time into the project, which is not easy to do in high school, partly because of needing transportation to get to a lab and partly because we don’t have a lot of deep knowledge. Also, our high school clubs typically have an average of 20– 30 members. But not all club members are interested in such a specific topic/area of focus. Ideally, we would have had 10–15 members on our team but we only had 7. Raising money for the trip was also an issue. We wonder if we should have reached out to alumni to help us sponsor it?”

• You

Ms. Nicole shared some of the comments from the six judges (see below). Both she and Mr. Sean suspected that the judges would have liked to have awarded this project a medal but couldn’t justify it based on the criteria the team didn’t meet.

could have … add[ed] data … [which] would have allowed us to award your hard work with a medal. • Good work identifying an extremely important - but difficult - project! • Great presentation! You all did an awesome job telling the story, and the slides looked amazing. Definitely keep the iGEM work going and come back next year! • I think you guys ... are in the perfect position to draw some attention to how synthetic biology could solve some of the problems in your country.

Some of the comments from the judges


• You should be congratulated on choosing a project

In mid-December, our RIS_BKK iGEM team met with an ambassador from “After iGEM,” K. Cheewin Kittikunapong, who was himself a participant at the 2018 Edinburg iGEM Jamboree. K. Kittikunapong is a PhD student currently pursuing doctoral research in biology and biological engineering at Chalmers

that concerns such an important local issue especially as you are the first iGEM team from Thailand. I was impressed on how well you performed the difficult task of PCR amplification from bacterial genomic DNA.

Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


University of Technology in Sweden. He came to get feedback from the team and discuss how their project went. I was invited to sit in on their conversation. The students recapped by explaining that the ultimate goal of their project was to create plants that can fix nitrogen by themselves. They successfully transferred the gene into the bacteria, but due to time and resource constraints, they didn’t know if the gene was really expressed because they didn’t have a way to test it. What considerations would you have had to put into your project to make sure it worked? Because the general public in Thailand views GMOs (genetically modified organisms) negatively—partly because there are strict regulations in Thailand about food/food products that contain GMOs—we could have reached out to farmers to find out what they really think of GMOs and have gotten some solid data on that. We would need to think about how to control the GMOs and contain them in a specific area so they don’t affect local biodiversity or spread to other unintended areas. We would try to conserve biodiversity AND increase crop output. If you were to go back and do it again, what would you do differently? It was quite a journey, with many obstacles. We would have started earlier; we were essentially getting started towards the end of the deadline. We also changed our idea many times. We tackled one task at a time as a group and could maybe have delegated better. We would have tried to assemble a bigger team with more diverse interests and skills to include students who are into math, physics, or computer programming, for example. 14

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We also realized that iGEM is multidisciplinary, as is science in general. Every field is interdisciplinary in some way or form. We could have used some help with writing (there was more writing than we anticipated) and more creativity in general—it was almost artistic the way some people at iGEM had come up with their ideas. How do you envision this agrobacterium as a project? Initially, we imagined the results of this project as providing an alternative to chemical fertilizers. But there are many different factors that go into fertilizers, like production costs, environmental issues, sanitation issues surrounding rice growing, etc. We wonder if this agrobacterium could still make improvements in agriculture in general though. How does this translate to iGEM next year? That’s the big question. One big limitation was not having a local Thai university to work closely with. The project would “sell” better if we had a relationship with a nearby university so we could have the facilities we need to do the lab testing. We’re also wondering how we can pitch iGEM to the new cohort of younger RIS students. What was the Jamboree experience like? Everyone liked our design, which felt good. We met some cool people, including a student who had gone to summer camp with one of our team members. The vibe was nice. It felt more like we were competing against ourselves and that it was a celebration of our hard work. How can we make resources more available/ accessible? Our challenges were mostly inexperience and the unavailability of other local teams to advise us. It

turned out that most of the things we needed were on the iGEM website, but there wasn’t a good “how-to” manual so we didn’t know. Perhaps it would also be useful for high school teams to have a manual to give to parents because the money that supports and sends high school teams to iGEM comes from the parents, not from a grant like it can for students at a university. How did your fundraising go? We didn’t get much response from our fundraising letter. But we weren’t sure what kind of response to expect. Where do you see synthetic biology in Thailand? Synthetic biology is growing but is restricted by Thai law, esp. GMOs, as well as other cultural aspects, so we have to be aware of and sensitive to that. Do you have any other feedback? We think iGEM is a unique program, but the challenge will be getting another team with the same enthusiasm. It’s hard to sell because it doesn’t have as many “shiny awards” as some of our other school clubs and activities do. The advisors were kind enough to share their take on the iGEM experience as well. Mr. Sean Fisk said “It has been a pleasure serving as the main PI for this group of talented and driven Ruamrudee students. (PI means ‘Principal Investigator’—I essentially made sure the science was sound, directed the track the research took, and ensured the team followed the iGEM protocols as closely as they could.) I have been teaching AP and IB Chemistry for several years around the globe, as well as coaching students in science fairs such as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the Google Science Fair. My background as both a science teacher and a former research biologist means I have a unique perspective and skill set to share with my students. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the team leaders approached me, but it sounded right up my alley so I signed on to do whatever I could to help them be successful. I am very proud of what these seven students have been able to accomplish through their own hard work, and I look forward to possibly seeing Ruamrudee International School becoming a regular competitor in the iGEM event.”

Ms. Nicole Sabet shared that she “was honored to serve as one of the advisors for the RIS iGEM team and am truly impressed with what the members were able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time. Our team began this adventure as grade 10 students with limited exposure to genetics and molecular biology, and they very quickly had to dive into academic literature, standard lab techniques, and the jargon of genetic engineering. Their poster, presentation, and wiki demonstrated not only their outstanding academic accomplishments but also showcased the enjoyment and camaraderie among the group. Throughout the competition in Boston, we met with university and high school teams from all over the world (a complete list can be found at https://igem. org/Team_Wikis?year=2019), who were harnessing the power of biological machinery to solve a myriad of engineering, medical, and environmental problems. It was very clear and frequently emphasized that success in science demands creativity, collaboration, and clear communication. In all these respects our team received praise and commendations from the judges. Our community should be incredibly proud of the initiative and academic risk-taking shown by the first ever Thai team. (There are now close to 400 teams worldwide that participate.) I hope we can continue a culture of iGEM at RIS and explore possible collaborations with universities or other schools in the Bangkok area.”

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An Interview with Titan, Grade 12 How long have you been at RIS? Since 3rd grade, so 9 years. I hear you’ve been busy conducting research and taking part in conferences and competitions. Tell me about those. This past summer and last semester, I’ve been conducting research at Vistec, a research institute in Rayong, about 80km from here. I collected data from test subjects there, including tracking EG signals from the brain, and used the powerful computer to help analyze it. This contributed to two parts of my research. The first is to do with detecting fatigue and drowsiness at work—office condition fatigue—to help office workers be more effective. I had the opportunity to present the same research at BMEiCON2019, the Biomedical Engineering International Conference, in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, where I demonstrated my work to predict drowsiness in office environments. I got some valuable feedback there from international researchers, who suggested that I change some of my protocols, which was very useful because sometimes you concentrate so much on the research that you don’t see any other aspects. It’s not just about computer science and EEGs and neuroscience, it’s also about the whole world and how this work and research can be more applicable. The second part of my research involved collecting brain signals that can be used to detect drowsiness in drivers. This was inspired by a car crash. When I was about eight, my dad was hit by a sleepy truck driver. He was OK but was hospitalized for a few weeks. It was a horrible accident that has stuck with me. Since Thailand has the second-highest road fatality rates in the world, it is a meaningful problem, not just to me but it also has local and global implications for helping people. After the conference in Ubon Ratchathani, I came back to Bangkok for the YGA Competition. Tell me more about the YGA competition. For this competition, I presented my work using brain 16

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signals to prevent road fatalities. The YGA competition is sponsored by PTT who gave me around 10,000 baht in funding. I also got to attend their camp sessions, where I learned about the social enterprise aspects of businesses—how corporations can benefit society as well as benefiting the corporation itself. That’s the kind of work I want to do. I’m inspired to do research that will help alleviate problems in society, so it’s crucial to find something I can do to make money and still do what I love. There were two rounds of the YGA competition. During the semi finals, I was selected to be Thailand’s representative at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2020, out of 300 teams—except I worked on my own, not with a team. ISEF will be held in May in Anaheim, California. I was also the first person from the competition who qualified for both the ISEF and the final round of YGA, which no one has ever done before. At the finals I placed second and received 25,000 baht in funding towards my research. My research has been awarded a lot of funding from PTT and the JSTP (the National Science and Technology Development Agency), for Auditory Steady State Response (ASSR) signals. ASSRs are a special type

of brainwave for detecting mental fatigue. Basically, people hear sound through a sophisticated mechanism. Initially, the ear collects soundwaves. Once those waves hit your eardrum, they create an electrical signal, which is processed in the brain. If you stick an EEG to the brain you will see the exact frequency of the sound you’re hearing. When people are fatigued, there may be a time lag in processing sound or their brain might not respond as well, which is the premise of my research. Can you elaborate more on ASSR? Auditory Steady State Response signals are based on a sound signal that generates a brainwave, which can be monitored to detect drowsiness. The system I’ve created inputs sound signals while you’re driving, for instance. If you’re drowsy, the system generates a sound stimulus that is designed to wake you up. It’s a constant loop of feedback—your brain is processing the sound and if your brain processing time slows down, the volume and the frequency of the sound changes. It’s a complete, real-time detection system, which has never been done anywhere before in the world. What kinds of sounds are you talking about? The system monitors your brain and plays a constant frequency through a bone-conduction headset. When people think of EEGs, they picture a bunch of electrodes stuck to your head. But that’s not practical in real-world applications. So I devised a headband that uses consumer-grade dry electrodes that can detect drowsiness immediately. When you wear the headset, you’ll hear the sound but it won’t be obstructive. When the system detects drowsiness, the sound is then amplitude-modulated, meaning it becomes more like a siren—a short burst of sound—that your brain picks up. Once the different sound starts to play, the person’s drowsiness level drops. Besides your dad’s accident, when did you realize that you wanted to pursue this, in terms of serious research? I think it’s about asking questions like “why” and “what.” For me, it was when I witnessed a traffic accident on the way home from school one day. I began to think about the problem of drowsy driving and wondered why it was happening and what could be done. I started doing research to find out what people have done before. For example, BMW now uses an eye-tracking system to detect drowsiness, but most people can’t afford BMWs.

I wanted to create a solution that’s more accessible and applicable to everyone. Also, when I met Todd (an RIS alum who is currently at Harvard). He got me into research and that kind of changed my life. He was really kind and introduced me to the professors he was working with at Thammasat University. He was an inspiration for me. How long have you been working on this particular project? Since 11th grade. I did a lot of work over the summer at the Vistec lab. I stayed in a dorm about 2km away from the university and had to walk there and back every day. I also did research in 10th grade on lung cancer research. What prompted you to do that research? It was inspired by my aunt’s death. She was misdiagnosed, so they didn’t catch the cancer until it was already at Stage 4. I was in 8th grade and was really close to my aunt. I used to practice piano with her for about 6–8 hours every day after school. After she passed away, I couldn’t bring myself to play the piano any more and needed to focus on something else. That’s when I found my passion for science. I’ve always been a curious person and like to ask questions. Are you doing the IB or AP track here at RIS? I’m taking all AP courses. In grade 11, I took 5 AP courses at school and I self-studied 3 other AP courses. This year, I’m taking 4 AP courses. My favorite AP Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


me the ideal start for this research. Without both of them I wouldn’t have started this at all. How do you think your research reflects the Principles of Phoenix? In terms of Head, I’ve been working on a problem that no one else has found the answer to yet, and being on the frontier of research is exhilarating—to think that you can possibly find an answer. That requires a lot of creativity and critical thinking. classes are Psychology and Calculus BC. I also enjoy Physics C with Mr. Ross. Personally, I don’t think a high school GPA is an effective measure of a person. I don’t have the highest GPA here. I do well, but I don’t aim for perfect scores because I think it’s much more important for me to pursue work that I actually love. I would rather do creative research than memorize formulas and how to do problems. That’s what excites me and why I devote my time to research. Tell me how RIS has influenced you as a student and also as a person. I’ve been given a lot of support from the school administrators, especially Ms. Sara and Mr. Jim. I would not have been able to complete this work and research without their support and kind words. Also my friends here, who are always helping me. It’s definitely the community of RIS, which is both supportive and competitive in terms of pushing each other to be the best. And the fact that the community here is so diverse, that has helped shape who I am because having friends with different strengths and interests helps with creativity and has given me a broader perspective. On top of that, RIS offers a really good course selection. I was able to take psychology and something totally different, like calculus. By taking calculus (which is the basis of computer science) and psychology (which is the base of my neuroscience), these two classes gave 18

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For Heart, I’m definitely doing this for the Thai society. It’s important to keep that in your heart because without knowing the impact of your work, you wouldn’t be as passionate about your work. As part of my research, I check the Thailand road/traffic death statistics almost every day. Recently, there were 53 road-related deaths in 12 hours. That’s definitely something that inspires me to do this work. There’s a line I used on my university applications: “with 100 lines of code, thousands of lives can be saved,” which I believe from the bottom of my heart. As for Hands, since I’m working in both the computer science and neuroscience fields, I have to collaborate with all kinds of scientists. I was kind of like a bridge between these experts in their own fields who are all speaking their own “language,” including acronyms and jargon. So it’s important to have good communication skills! Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you would like to share? I’d like to thank my mom. Sometimes when I feel down or my results don’t work or I’m tired and not getting any sleep, she’s always there for me, always helping me and supporting me emotionally. She has given me a positive outlook on life, and has been encouraging my research, and has driven me wherever I needed to go. All of this would have been impossible without her and for that I am truly grateful.

An Interview with Ton Nam, Grade 11


on Nam, an RIS junior, has initiated a project called Gift for Face to raise funds for the Princess Sirindhorn Craniofacial Center at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital to help families pay for their child’s craniofacial surgery. She explains more in her project proposal, “Craniosynostosis is a congenital defect in which one or more joints between the plates of bones in the skull close too early, resulting in abnormal brain and skull growth. This congenital defect occurs in 1 in every 500–1500 children in Thailand and is mostly due to premature birth because the skull hasn’t had enough time to fully form. If left untreated, certain forms of craniosynostosis may result in death. Craniosynostosis may be corrected through craniofacial surgery; however, craniofacial surgery is currently one of the most challenging procedures. The Gift for Face project provides an opportunity for a variety of students, staff, and teachers in the RIS community to fundraise. Treatment for craniosynostosis may not be affordable for certain families in Thailand. Craniosynostosis is not a commonly known condition. Hence, by starting this project, we hope to raise awareness about craniofacial abnormalities and provide support for pediatric craniosynostosis patients, as well as create an opportunity for students in our community to help those with disadvantages: to promote the idea of kids helping kids.” The specific aims of Gift for Face are to: 1. Create an opportunity for students to help other kids who have disadvantages and allow students to directly bring about positive impacts in the lives of others. 2. Empower and embolden craniosynostosis patients and parents of craniosynostosis patients. 3. Raise awareness of craniofacial abnormalities. 4. Create stronger bonds between elementary school students and high school students. 5. Promote and raise awareness of the project and craniofacial abnormalities through social media platforms like a website, Instagram, and Facebook.

The first fundraising activity the Gift for Face team organized was a Games Night for RIS elementary students at the end of February. The afternoon included fun activities like origami, bag toss, face painting, slime making, soccer, and free popcorn! To participate, the students were asked to donate 100 baht. All of the booths and activities were set up and managed by RIS High School students. I met with Ton Nam to learn more about this amazing project and what inspired her to help. How long have you been at RIS? For 6 years. I started in grade 6. Do you belong to any high school clubs? Yes, I’m a member of the STEM club and the RISing Coffee club. How did this idea come about? My mom used to work at the Princess Sirindhorn Craniofacial Center at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, and I volunteered there two years ago. The current wait time for craniofacial surgery is one year. I wanted to find a way to raise awareness about craniofacial abnormalities and make these children’s lives easier. Even though these children may look Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


different, they are not actually different from the other kids at all. What did you do when you volunteered at the hospital? Mostly basic caretaking, like helping them get dressed. I also played games with them. Friday was “Play Day,” and the nurses would have activities for the kids to do. For the older kids, these were usually educational activities that would help them with life skills, such as practicing buying and selling. Sometimes we would do role-play games to help them with their fears, such as if they had a fear of needles, the game would mimic instruments used in hospitals. What did you get out of volunteering? I was nervous at first as I wasn’t used to seeing their faces. And, understandably, the kids were shy and scared of new people, having been stared at and told mean things. But I quickly realized that even though these kids may not look the same as others, they have similar likes and dislikes, just like regular kids. What will you be doing to raise funds? At the end of February, we will be holding a Games Night where children pay to participate. It will include an obstacle course, art projects, science-type games, etc., things that the elementary kids can do together. I really like the idea of kids helping kids. If they’re having fun, they will want to participate. We will include the parents as well, partly to help with supervision, but also so the parents and kids can have fun while spending time together. What will the money go toward? The money will mostly go to funding surgeries. The children often require multiple surgeries—some 20

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children can have up to 10 surgeries to correct facial abnormalities. The procedures are mostly so their facial features can actually function properly, so they can breathe through their nose, for example, more than for aesthetic reasons. The funds will also go toward transportation because most patients travel to this hospital from other provinces and need to stay at the hospital for a long time. The parents have to take time off of work to travel and be with their children. In addition, doctors and nurses from the center take trips twice a year to Buriram and Chiang Rai provinces to help patients there who are unable to travel to Bangkok. The whole center has only 4 or 5 doctors, so it’s hard for them to see all the children who need care. What are your future goals for Gift for Face? Our future activities will include integrating activities into the arts program here at RIS. In March, we plan to collaborate with the Elementary School Art department to have 5th-graders paint on T-shirts to express their creativity under the theme of “helping others.” We’re continuing with the idea of kids using their creativity and having fun while they help other children. The T-shirts will then be sold to parents at 250 baht per T-shirt, as well as at booths in fairs outside of school. In the future, we plan to expand this activity to the 4th-graders as well. If the activities are successful and we receive positive feedback from the students and the parents, I would like to expand the project to other international schools as well. If you are interested in volunteering or donating, you are welcome to email Ton Nam:

by Ivy, Grade 8


n mid-November 2019, our school’s World Scholar’s Cup team went to compete at the prestigious Tournament of Champions at Yale University. It was an amazing experience competing at Woolsey Hall and debating in the nearby buildings. Apart from being a bit cold, the atmosphere there was awesome. Overall, the trip was highly successful and everyone returned with at least one medal. All of us had a blast and made unforgettable memories at the Tournament of Champions at Yale University. All of the scholars would like to thank Ms. Shirley for organizing the trip and all the chaperones who made this trip possible. Every scholar can agree that this trip to the Tournament of Champions is something that will linger in our minds forever. At the end of the Tournament of Champions, they announced the new theme for next year’s World Scholar’s Cup. The theme for 2020 is “A World Renewed.” They also revealed the six new Global Round locations. After qualifying at the Regional Round at Brighton College in Bangkok this March, the participants will get the

opportunity to attend a Global Round in either Prague, Muscat, Johannesburg, Vancouver, Phnom Penh, or Melbourne. The school’s World Scholar’s Cup program is also going to be moving to an EDP after the regional round. Here’s what other participants had to say about the WSC Tournament of Champions: “The World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions was an amazing experience in which people from all over the world came together at Yale University for a celebration of our cultures and our love of learning. It taught me to work hard and never give up. Going to the US for the first time was a very fun experience, and I’m very grateful that I got to share it with the WSC community of RIS. Pwaaaaaa!” — Belle “Throughout the three years I have been participating in the World Scholar’s Cup, the Tournament of Champions was undoubtedly the most memorable and exceptional for many reasons. The ToC allowed me to reunite with many of my friends from RIS and around the world. It opened up an opportunity for me to view the world through different lenses as a result of the information I’ve attained throughout this season. Additionally, it blessed me with the chance to interact with the admirable community of the World Scholar’s Cup that I commemorate. For that, I will cherish every moment and every experience I have acquired throughout this journey.” — Boonboon Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020




CHALLENGE SUBJECTS 1st Place Science Gold Pear

Gold Pear, Sushi, Nuprare Pung Pond, Bomb, Titan

1 Silver Spc


2 Silvers Sci/Art Biew Biew Sci/Soc Pat

Gold Titan Pear Pat DC

3 Silvers Spc/Lit/Soc


Pung Pond

2 Silvers, 2 Golds Sci/His/Soc/Lit Titan Lit/Soc/Art/Sci Sushi

TEAM BOWL Silver Biew Biew, DC, Pat

4 Golds Art/Lit/Sci/Spc Pear

Gold Pear, Sushi, Nuprare Pung Pond, Bomb, Titan

3 Silvers, 2 Golds Spc/Sci/Lit/Art/Soc DC Lit/His/Art/Sci/Spc Bomb


TEAM DEBATE Silver Pear, Sushi, Nuprare Pung Pond, Bomb, Titan

Gold Pear

Gold Biew Biew, DC, Pat

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TEAM WRITING Silver Biew Biew, DC, Pat Pung Pond, Bomb, Titan Foster, Jackie, Pim Gold Pear, Sushi, Nuprare TEAM WRITING Silver Pear, Sushi, Nuprare CHAMPION SCHOLARS Silver Titan Gold DC Pear CHAMPION TEAMS Silver Pear, Sushi, Nuprare Gold Pung Pond, Bomb, Titan SCHOOL TOP SENIOR SCHOLAR Pear

TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS AT YALE, 2019 JUNIOR RESULTS TEAM CHALLENGE Silver Pear, Tara, Boonboon DEBATE CHAMPIONS Silver Boonboon Pear Donovan Belle Gold Tod Ivy Tara TEAM BOWL Silver Praew, Ja-Jar Minna, Grace, Khao Pun Pear, Tara, Boonboon Gold Belle, Peemai Gino, Krit, Tod WRITING CHAMPIONS Silver Pear Rainbow Minna

Gold Boonboon Belle Ja-Jar Praew Ivy Khao Pun CHALLENGE SUBJECTS 1 Silver Spc Ivy Sci Phoom Soc Minna 1 Gold Sci Ja-Jar 2 Silvers Sci/Soc Boonboon Spc/lit Khao Pun 1 Silver, 1 Gold Spc/His Pear Art/Spc Krit Art/Soc Praew 2 Silvers, 1 Gold Spc/Soc/Sci Donovan 2 Silvers, 2 Golds Lit/Art/His/Spc Belle Lit/Soc/His/Spc Gino

TEAM DEBATE Gold Ivy, Phoom, Donovan Pear, Tara, Boonboon TEAM WRITING Silver Ivy, Phoom, Donovan Minna, Grace, Khao Pun Pear, Tara, Boonboon DAVINCI AWARD Silver Pun Gold Elle CHAMPION SCHOLARS Silver Ivy Ja-Jar Belle CHAMPION TEAMS Silver Pear, Tara, Boonboon SCHOOL TOP JUNIOR SCHOLAR Belle

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by Menthol and Gao, Grade 12


he Amnesty International Club at RIS was introduced to high school students in the first semester of the 2019–2020 academic year. The four executive members who formed the club are Menthol (President), Gao (Vice President), Prai (Secretary), and Tarun (Treasurer), along with our Club Advisor, Ms. Farrah Collette. The club is interested in individuals who seek to promote and create awareness of human rights and refugees. We decided to create two main goals for this academic year: to let our members learn and to share the issue of human rights while doing service through using our own skills in promoting the problems pertaining to refugees in Thailand. Our club initiated a variety of fundraising events such as selling bubble tea on Sugar Rush Day and flower bouquets during Senior Convocation. Throughout the first semester, the Amnesty International Club also hosted various activities such as a refugee talk, a Human Rights 101 session, Write for Rights, and an introduction to the refugee community by Amnesty International. These activities and events allowed us to understand more about the lives of refugees. On Sunday, November 24th, the Amnesty International Club at RIS had its first field trip to visit a refugee


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community in Bangkok. We had planned activities for the children, such as origami, face painting, games, and candle making. During the visit, there were many refugee kids who joined us. We were able to separate them into groups so we could teach each child directly. After the activities were done, we did a sing-along and distributed colored pencils to each kid. The highlight of the field trip was candle making where the children were able to pick their favorite scent, which included vanilla, coconut, and more. A candle is also the logo of our club, which aligns with our slogan: “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces lit our day too. We put a lot of work into this trip by funding and organizing the arts and crafts for the children. Despite several unexpected situations that occurred, we managed them well. It was RIS’s first successful visit to the refugee community. We would like to thank all the club members, our advisor, the chaperones, and Amnesty Thailand for making this trip happen. Good job, everyone!

Quotes from club members: “I still can remember the joy and fun the children had when we went there. I was able to teach origami. I taught them how to make an origami dog and butterfly. The kids were very happy to pick the colors they wanted and to choose the type of origami they would like to make. It was an experience that I haven’t experienced before.” — Gao, Gr. 12 “One of the most interesting club activities I did in the Amnesty Club was writing a letter to a woman from Iran who had been imprisoned after standing up for

women’s rights. Doing that felt rewarding as it felt like an honor to talk to one of the many admirable people in the world, and I hope to participate in many more activities in the future like this.” — Aryn, Gr. 11 “Experiences can come from listening and what we learned in the refugee talk came from people who actually have real experience. We know more about refugees now and it was really interesting as all of the information we never knew before. Even those experiences we [can] never know by ourselves but [can] only listen from experienced people, which can be a really precious experience that is hard to find. I hope to participate in the experience again next time.” — SiangSiang, Gr. 10 “[Visiting the refugees] was one of the most wonderful memories I had. The kids were very happy about all the fun activities that the Amnesty Club provided. I was able to paint their faces and play some games with them. I still can’t believe how happy the children were. This was one of the best experiences I ever had.” — Pair, Gr. 9 Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


An Interview with Pol, Grade 11


ol shared that, “In October I helped a neurological institute lower their workload by volunteering at a nurses’ station. My assigned task was to help check patients’ blood pressure. I didn’t expect much from doing this work, but I had a lot of eye-opening experiences during my time volunteering.” I talked with him to learn more. How long have you been at RIS? For 12 years (since Kindergarten). Where did you volunteer? I volunteered at the Prasat Neurological Institute next to Ramathibodi Hospital in downtown Bangkok. The institute specializes in helping people with mental


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disabilities, people who have dementia, older people with communication problems, and those who have more severe disabilities. Essentially, anyone who has challenges to do with the brain. What inspired you to do this? The first time I had been to a public hospital was for a shadowing session with a doctor. Right away, I noticed how chaotic and intense it was, which had not been my experience of going to private hospitals. There were many people needing help but not enough nurses to help them compared to the number of patients. How did you get set up with this opportunity? I contacted the organization, which is quite well-known.

I had to apply to volunteer and specify what inspired me to help. What did you do when you were there? As with any hospital, there are different nurses stations for patients. I volunteered at the blood pressure station because there were no nurses available to help with this. Because the patients have mental disorders, I had to help them write their information down. Did you have any training? Yes, there were about 20 other volunteers, from aged 16, like me, to retired 70-year-olds. The first two days were orientation, which included icebreakers so the volunteers could get acquainted with each other. We were also trained in how to speak with these patients and how to comfort them if they became agitated or if something unexpected were to happen. We also had doctors come to tell us about special cases and how those patients came to be there and what symptoms those patients display. What did you take away from the experience? At first, I didn’t expect much because I was just taking people’s blood pressure, but I saw many things that I hadn’t expected, such as patients fainting. Many patients have to wait for a long time to be seen. They faint because they’ve been waiting at the hospital since 5:00 am and haven’t eaten since then. A lot of the patients are elderly, too, and the waiting areas are crowded. Some of the patients needed CPR because their hearts stopped. But there were many positive takeaways, too. One particular patient was very memorable. She was at the hospital by herself and I noticed that she was carrying several heavy bags. I talked to her and found out that she had traveled there by herself, quite a distance, on public transportation. She couldn’t walk or talk very well, so I offered to carry her bags and walked with her to another hospital where she was scheduled to get an x-ray. When we arrived, I helped by telling the nurses why she was there and explained that she had a mental disability. I noticed that a lot of other patients in the waiting room were also alone, and I took the opportunity to ask them how they were doing. Several of the patients commented that I made their day, which felt good. Even

though the original reason I volunteered was to reduce the workload of the hospital, I ended up providing convenience and support for the patients. Which Principle of Phoenix do you think this experience reflects? I think it reflects all of them. In terms of Head, I learned how to read the results of the blood pressure cuff. For Hands, I learned how to use different machines, both manual and automated, and also how to talk with these patients. For Heart, I got to practice compassion. I now see Thailand from a different perspective, and I realize how fortunate we really are and how important it is to give back. What are your future goals? I plan to pursue a career in medicine. Ultimately, I’d like to be a doctor. I’ve known this since grade 8 when my teacher challenged me and I got a good enough grade to be able to pursue my interest in anatomy. Since I want to do medicine, my next plans are to shadow a doctor and volunteer at a public hospital again. Do you have any advice for rising RIS students? High school isn’t as hard as it seems, but the transition is hard because the workload increases quite a lot. But because the work and pressure are more intense, you will mature faster and become more responsible. Time management is an important skill to learn!

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An Interview with Q, Grade 7 I hear that you have some significant math and music skills. Tell me about your recent math competition. It was the Australian Maths Competition or AMC. [According to the Math Mission Thailand website, “The AMC was introduced in 1978 … [and] has since spread internationally, with students in more than 30 countries attempting the same problems…. [which] are designed so that they can be answered just as quickly without a calculator as with one. The problems get more difficult through the competition so that, at the end, they are challenging to the most gifted students.”] What did you win and in what category? I won a bronze medal in the Upper Primary category. To earn a bronze medal, you have to be in the top 10%–25%. Was that your first competition? No, I have taken part in other math competitions. I usually enter a competition at least once or twice a year.

of questions to get better at math. That way when they see a similar question again they’ll recognize it and be able to do it more easily.

Is math your favorite subject at school? Yes, math is my favorite subject at school, but I also like humanities and PE.

I hear you have also taken part in piano competitions. What were they? The Thailand Preliminary Singapore International Piano Competition, where I won two gold medals: one for the Age-Based Class (under 14) and the other was in the Composer-Based Class (I played a piece by Grieg).

Who is your current math teacher and what makes that teacher special? I have Mr. Brian Elshoff this year. He’s a great teacher and teaches us how to use the math we learn at school to help the outside community. For example, we learned how we can use fractions to help solve realworld problems such as air pollution. When did you realize you really like math? I’ve always loved math. My dad has always been good at math too and liked teaching me. When I was younger, I attended Math-Eng competitions. My dad helped me and guided me to try to solve problems that I didn’t know yet. That’s what I really like about math. Do you have a favorite area of math? Not really, I enjoy all kinds of math. What would you suggest to other students who enjoy math but who may not feel very successful at it? I would tell them to practice a lot and to practice lots 28

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That qualified me for the Finals, the 2020 Singapore International Piano Competition in early January, where I got 2nd place in the Age-Based Class and 3rd place in the Composer-Based Class. [According to the Singapore International Piano Competition website: “[the competition] is rapidly establishing its reputation as one of the major competitions in the world. [It] endeavors to promote classical piano music in its best possible light by attracting exceptionally high-level competitors from all over the world.”] How long have you been playing the piano? Since I was 4 years old. How often do you practice? I practice piano 1 to 2 hours a day, every day.

Even on the weekends? Yes, even on the weekends unless I’m not able to. If I can’t do my usual practice, I’ll play some scales instead. What’s your favorite kind of music to play? When I’m not practicing pieces for a competition, I like to play pop music like “I’m Yours” or “Girls Like You.” What kind of music do you typically play? Mostly classical. I particularly like Beethoven. I like to play Mozart on the violin. You play the violin too? Have you competed in violin competitions as well? Yes, the last competition I took part in was the Thailand Preliminary for the Hong Kong Youth Performance Arts Festival. I placed third, which qualified me for the final round in Hong Kong next year. How often do you practice the violin? I usually practice violin between 30 minutes to one hour a day. Do you enjoy competing? If so, what is your favorite aspect of competitions? Yes, when I compete it makes me want to practice more and encourages me to go further. I also enjoy being on stage and being able to show and share my skills. Do you feel that your achievements in math and music are somehow connected? If so, how? Yes, because they both reflect my talents and the way I think. I believe you can’t be truly successful with talent

alone. Most of my achievements have been because of my commitment to practicing. If you only have talent but don’t practice frequently you won’t improve. It doesn’t sound like you need to be reminded to practice. Is that true? Yes. Sometimes my mom reminds me to practice, but mostly I just practice on my own. Are there other competitions lined up for you? I’m planning to take the Grade 8 Piano Advanced Certificate from ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). Do you play other instruments besides the piano and violin? The latest instrument I’ve started playing is the drum. I just attended my first concert. I had only practiced for about two months, so it was very challenging. I play in a band with five people: the drummer (me), guitar player, bass player, keyboardist, and vocalist. They’re not RIS kids, I know them from a TV show I took part in. A TV show? Tell me more about that! I played the piano with these other students on a Thai TV show for kids. The show teaches children how to spell Thai words. The music consisted of singing and playing instruments along with the words. What do you enjoy most about being a student at RIS? I enjoy the subjects and the teachers who teach in multiple ways that allow students to really be engaged and to think critically. I also love the canteen—the food is yummy! Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


An Interview with Melody, Grade 10


.spoke with Melody to learn what it takes to win a silver medal at an international gymnastics competition and to represent her country as an official Thai Youth National Athlete. How long have you been doing gymnastics? I started taking gymnastics classes in September 2015, so for 5 years. How did you become interested in gymnastics? I actually started gymnastics because of ballet. After a two-year hiatus from ballet, I realized that I needed to get my strength back. My friend who I did ballet with recommended gymnastics. I started working with a coach who could teach me the fundamentals and how to use my muscles. He also teaches tumbling and tricks, but only if there’s time. When I started, I didn’t have any plans to become serious about gymnastics, but the coach told me that I had the ability and potential to become an athlete. After three weeks of going to this gym, I decided that I wanted to pursue gymnastics. A lot of gymnasts start at a very young age. How did you feel about coming to it later than most? In the beginning, I wondered if I was too old to be a gymnast because the other girls in my team are mostly younger than me. I’m the oldest gymnast on the team and in my first competition, I was the only one in the 13–15 age range. But now I actually think it gives me an advantage. Who else is on your team and how often do you practice? It’s a mixed-gender team. There are two boys, one in 3rd grade and one in 5th grade. The girls are a 4thgrader, twin 5th-graders, one 9th-grader, and two 10thgraders, including me. Our team practices every day except Wednesdays. When we’re practicing for a competition, we start at 4:00 pm and finish at 9:00 or 10:00 pm. On Sundays, we practice for only 3 hours. We get a one-week break for Songkran and two weeks off for New Year. After competitions, we get two days off.


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Tell me about a typical practice. A regular practice often starts with running 20 laps around the gym. Sometimes the coach times us and we can’t go over that time or he gives a length of time to run, like 30 minutes. Then we do a series of basic movements, like jump lunges, knee-ups, and kicks. That’s followed by set exercises, which are personalized to strengthen certain areas or to prepare us for learning a new element. Then we stretch and do splits and high kicks. If a competition is coming up, we practice our own routines. If not, then we work on new elements, tumbling, or tricks. What is your coach like? He likes to tease us and can be funny sometimes and doesn’t mind if we laugh at him. But he can also be strict. How long have you worked with this coach? I’ve worked with this coach since I started, except before this most recent competition. For that, the 9th-grade girl on our team and I went to practice with the national team and their coach at the Gymnastics Association of Thailand. They have a large gym with specific areas for the three different types of gymnastics in Thailand: rhythmic gymnastics, floor

routine, and ribbons. I do aerobic gymnastics, which is a routine set to a song. It has three parts: required elements (like the illusion and the helicopter), dynamic strength elements (such as explosive push-ups and leg circles), and tumbling. What is your favorite aspect of gymnastics? The whole team and all of the Thai aerobic gymnasts are friendly. We only get competitive right before we get on the floor. Many gymnastics events are more like a reunion than a competition. When did you start competing? I started competing about a month after I started learning. My first competition was at the Gymnastics National Championships Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Cup 2016. What was your most recent competition? Over October break I competed in the Korea Open 2019 in Seoul Olympic Park. It was a two-day competition, but between pre-competition practices, a series of rounds, and finals, we had only 5 hours to actually explore the area, despite being in Korea for almost a week. You won a silver medal! How did that feel? Yes, I placed second for individual women aged 15–17 and was really happy to get the silver medal. The last time I competed internationally (in 2017), I didn’t get past the first round. What do you think made the difference? I gave more time to practice.

Do you have other hobbies or passions? I love dancing too. I sometimes skip Sunday gym practices so I can dance for 7 hours instead. I also love writing and reading. How long have you been at RIS and what do you like about being a student here? I started at RIS in 7th grade. I like the fact that the school helps me try to balance my academics and my athletics. Last year, 9th grade, was a tough year for me, but now I feel less stressed about school. I chose to drop some classes and learned not to overextend myself academically. Sometimes it’s important to admit that you can’t do it all. Do you have any long-term goals for your gymnastics? Yes, I plan to continue my career as a Thailand Youth National Athlete. (I just became an official Youth National Athlete on October 31st, 2019.) In 2020, I will be competing at both the youth national and national levels. The athletes in the youth nationals must be between 12 and 17 years old, but the nationals are open to any age range. I can compete against other youth national athletes at the national championship to get onto the National Team. If I do well on the national team, then I’ll go to the SEA Games. This particular kind of gymnastics is not an Olympic sport, but I could compete in FIG gymnastics competitions. (The Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique is the governing body of competitive gymnastics.) Do you have any tips for other young gymnasts? There will be good days and bad days. Do your best on the good and the bad days. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


An Interview with Jubu, Grade 7


n November 20–22, 2019, grade 7 student Jubu competed in the country’s biggest annual equestrian competition, the Princess Cup Thailand. Jubu won a bronze medal in the show jumping category, successfully jumping a height of 105 cm, competing against over 40 other riders. This year the Princess Cup Thailand included riders not only from Thailand but from other countries in Asia and the Middle East competing in five categories – dressage, jumping, eventing, best farrier, and best groom. I spoke with Jubu to learn a bit more about her impressive achievement. Congratulations, Jubu! What did you win? I won 3rd place, or bronze, and received a bow and prize money. How did you prepare for this competition? A coach came from Holland to train me and other competitors at my stables specifically for this competition. The coach helped me to be more confident with my jumping. She mostly focused on my technique. Tell me about the horse you rode in this competition. I actually rode two horses in this competition. One I had competed on in the Thailand Championships, a pony called Peter Pan, and the other horse I recently bought


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from Holland. Each horse has a different style of riding, and the coach helped me learn more about each of them so I could improve my skills with both of them. What stands out about this particular competition? During the competition, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to control my new horse, Happy Star, because she’s young and energetic. But I was really proud and happy that I was able to finish the course and win a medal with her. What’s your next goal? My next goal is to jump 115–120 cm on my new horse, and I also plan to compete in Junior A (under 16). Watch this space!

by Ms. Kyleigh and Ms. Lauren


n November 20th, 2019, the Early Childhood Department participated in the United Nations Universal Children’s Day by inviting the entire school to join us in wearing blue. The Early Childhood Department decided to take part in this global event in an effort to raise awareness of children’s rights and to share these rights with the RIS community. As educators of young children, we believe that all children have rights and that it is our responsibility to share these rights with our school community. We believe that all children are capable and competent individuals who have the right to be heard and valued within their community and around the world. We wanted to empower the children to advocate for their own rights within our community and also to raise awareness of the rights that all children deserve. We

discussed Universal Children’s Day with the two-, three-, four-, and five-year-old children and, through these discussions, the children generated a list of words they felt reflected their rights. These words were then made into headbands that the children wore in a parade around the RIS campus. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Sarah Boulware


n January 28th, 2020, eleven Grade 10 History students and two IB Global Politics HL students attended the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day at the UNESCAP building in downtown Bangkok. The event was hosted by both the Israeli Embassy and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Ms. Debbie Klongtruadoke Scott, the Executive Assistant to the Head of School and an RIS alumna, arranged this opportunity for a select number of RIS students to attend this solemn event. Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed globally, and this year marked 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland and the death of 15-year-old Anne Frank. The life of Anne Frank, who perished in Auschwitz, was the focus of this year’s Remembrance Day. Mr. Jake Curtis and Ms. Sarah Boulware invited Grade 10 history students to attend as part of a commitment to educating students about the events of the Holocaust. Before the event, the students and distinguished guests viewed an intricate set of museum panels detailing the life of Anne Frank, put together by Mahidol University and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The RIS students took their time reading over each display, discovering how an optimistic young


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teenager lost her privacy, her freedom, her rights, and finally her life. When they entered the conference hall, the students were met by an unusual occurrence: complete silence. The silence remained unbroken until family members of Holocaust victims were called to the front to read off the names of their murdered relatives and to light a candle in their honor. The Ambassador of Israel, Dr. Meir Shlomo, reminded the audience that no one listened to the Jewish people as they endured unspeakable hell in Auschwitz. Dr. Shlomo also warned the international community about the rise of hate against groups based

on their ethnicity and faith and dangers for increased persecution and state violence in our current political climate. Each speaker revisited the terrible crimes of Auschwitz in a different light. The Ambassador of Germany, Mr. Georg Schmidt, spoke out against the crimes of the Nazis and his country’s commitment to preventing such atrocities from ever happening again. The representative from the Dutch embassy told the story of young Anne Frank and her family as they listened to the D-day invasion on the radio and awaited a liberation that would come too late to save them. He then relayed the cold facts of her separation from her father and mother, the death of her sister, and finally her demise. One speaker shared Anne’s final diary entry that reflected a belief in the good of people, despite the evidence she experienced to the contrary. Another poignant highlight of the event was the performance by Ms. Monique Klongtruadroke, an international opera singer, who is not only Ms. Debbie’s sister but also a former RIS student. She sang two pieces in Hebrew, “A Walk to Caesarea,” commonly sung on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the prayer “Avinu Malkenu.” Her stunning voice rang through the UN conference hall, capturing both the sorrow and the hope of the remembrance ceremony. After the ceremony, the students mingled with the diverse international diplomatic community, meeting one especially important employee of UNESCAP, another former RIS student, Ms. Marisa Panyachiva, the Programme Officer in the Strategy and Programme Management Division, who attended RIS with

Ms. Debbie. The students were excited to interview her about her background and experience working at the United Nations. Some students were inspired to imagine a future where they too might work in the Secretariat of the UN, which launched an impromptu tour of the UNESCAP building led by Ms. Marisa. During the tour, the students learned about former Executive-Secretaries, the work that takes place in the building, and the artwork throughout the building that was gifted by many countries. The air-filtering garden was of special interest to all, and the students and teachers peered out to discover what plants can be used to improve the air quality in our environment. Before we left, RIS received an invitation from the Israeli Embassy’s press secretary to return next year to attend Holocaust Remembrance Day and encouraged all students to “never forget” the tragedy of the Holocaust and to care about the fate of all peoples, regardless of their race, faith, creed, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, politics, or any characteristic they may have that is different from ours. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Shirley

Annual RIS Walk/Run/Bike-a-thon


his school-wide fundraiser took place in late November. Participants donated 200 baht each to run, walk, or bike as many laps as possible in a set amount of time. We raised a total of 135,100 baht and were able to make donations to the following organizations: Sarnelli House in Nong Khai • 5,000 baht for diapers for babies and toddlers • 20,000 baht for daily necessities Mahathai Sueksa Tha Bom School in Loei • 50,000 baht for completing a new space for the student’s break time (cement floor, tiling, and paint) Camillian Home for Children with Disabilities • 20,000 baht for Ensure Protein Powder Fr. Ray’s Foundation • 25,000 baht for daily necessities Children’s Improvement Organization (a local orphanage in Siem Reap) • 15,000 baht for daily necessities


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Make a Wish Come True Project for Fr. Ray’s Foundation


his Christmas, we helped coordinate the fulfillment of a school-wide Christmas Wish List for 163 children on behalf of the Redemptorist Fathers Foundation of Thailand. The items were for children at the School for the Blind and the Children’s Home and the list had each child’s name, age, gender, and item that he or she would like so that our students and faculty could sign up to buy a specific gift.

Since we were already going to visit the Fr. Ray Foundation to drop off our annual donations of daily necessities, we were really excited to be able to take the additional 163 individual Christmas gifts. We also had the opportunity to spend two hours playing with the local daycare children and helping to feed them lunch and get them ready for their afternoon nap.

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Sarnelli House


he Sarnelli House in Nongkai is home to many orphans and children formerly afflicted with HIV or AIDs. Every year, a group of 10 RIS students visits them for three days, taking with them lots of donations for the children’s basic needs. Our students also organize a full day of games and fun activities for them to do together. Our students particularly love visiting the “House of Hope” to deliver donated diapers for the babies and young toddlers who live there. Here are some quotes from a few of the students who went on the trip: “It was very melancholic to see familiar faces who I have met over the years I have been volunteering at Sarnelli House... This being my last year, it ended on a very positive note for all of us to learn that, through successful research and medication, the children with HIV/AIDs can now integrate into society outside the institution without feeling confined by their lifelong illness.” — Poupee (Gr. 12) “This was our first trip visiting the Sarnelli House and it was a fun, mind-opening experience that taught


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us a lot regarding the lifestyle, as well as the medical problems that rural children have. It was definitely a joyous moment as the children welcomed us, essentially strangers, with open arms. If there is another chance that comes up, we hope to be able to visit once more.” — Jackie & Flesh (Gr. 12) “I visited the children [at Sarnelli House] last year and did not want to miss my last chance to see them, so even though I had a science competition that morning, I booked another flight later that evening and still made it. It was definitely worth it!” — Titan (Gr. 12)

ServICE Conference


his year’s 9th Annual ServICE Conference was hosted by ICS (International Community School) on November 15–17, 2019. ServICE is a for-students, bystudents event that provides opportunities to inspire, connect, and empower one another to bring positive change to their communities. The main focus of the conference is to create and develop practical ideas that will better our society. To do this, ServICE focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals—global issues that need to be addressed as outlined by the United Nations. The weekend was full of opportunities for students to build partnerships and relationships with people who are passionate about giving back to their communities.

Here are some of the highlights: • 19 of our MS and HS students attended • 7 of them went on to take part in the Youths for Sustainable Development Goal’s Challenge, which took place on January 25–26, 2020, at BPS (Bangkok Patana School) • RIS was represented by two teams and one individual student: Alice, Sunny, and Belle (Gr. 11) First, Nampueng, and Risha (Gr. 10) Vic (Gr. 9) • Special congratulations to Sunny, Alice, and Belle’s team, whose proposal was selected as the winner of the Case Challenge at the conference! They were given a challenge to address issues on sustainable agriculture in Thailand. Their team proposed an app that would educate and encourage Thai youth to better understand Thai farming practices and skills, the goal being to change perceptions about farm work and to encourage young people to have a better connection with the earth. The team will be working to implement their proposal over the next year, using the 10,000-baht prize seed money they were awarded at the conference.

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by Ms. Pavla Pooch


n January 27, 2020, in St. Luke’s Gallery, the IB Year 1 Visual Arts students presented their work at the opening of the exhibition Fake Gallery. The art on display was a culmination of their artwork during their first semester and consisted of a wide range of media, both 2D and 3D, including photographs, sculptures, prints, and drawings, as well as augmented reality (AR) pieces that could be viewed with iPads. The exhibition was on display for several weeks. During this time, Ms. Callie’s PreK 4 class came to visit the gallery. The students were each given 10 stickers and asked to carefully observe the artwork, pick their favorite pieces, and label them with their stickers. At the end of their visit, they were asked to point out their favorite pieces. This is a great introduction to have these young students looking at, appreciating, and thinking about art. Finally, the PreK 4 students were given an Ipad to look at the “work that didn’t have any pictures.” They were excited and shocked when they saw the augmented reality artwork come to life. Initially, many of them kept moving the iPad out of the way in disbelief to see how it was possible for a drawing to come to life. Thank you to everyone who supported the students, and a special thank you to Mr. Josh and Mr. Aaron who helped support the students’ augmented reality pieces.


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Even though the exhibition is over, you can still see some of the augmented reality pieces right here on this page. Follow the instructions below to see the artwork come to life: 1. Download the app EyeJack on your phone. 2. Allow EyeJack to access the camera on your phone. 3. Hold your phone over one of these QR codes. 4. Hold your phone over the image and watch the artwork come to life!

Olivia Canfield “1”

Pholrach Pholchawaporn “A line”

Patiwat Srivanich “Uninterrupted”

Ye Yint Shwe “Continuous”

Apisada Sommano “Continuous line”

Livia “Continuous line”

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by the MS Thai Department


eachers’ Day in Thailand is celebrated with a Wai Kru Ceremony, which is a very special ritual during which students pay respects to their teachers to express their gratitude and formalize the student-teacher relationship. This year, the MS Wai Kru Ceremony took place on Tuesday, January 21st, 2020, in the Phoenix Nest. The emcees, student representatives from grades 6, 7, and 8, opened with some brief information about Teachers’ Day and then recited the Wai Kru chant. One of the traditions required in this ceremony is the reciting of the poem “Pajera,” which expresses the students’ gratitude to all their teachers for giving them such a priceless gift of learning. It loosely translates to: I would like to say thanks to all of my teachers for having taught us and dedicated themselves to education. And I would like to recognize all the hard work and teaching they have for us over the years. And we pray that I will be a successful learner and become a better and well-educated person. For myself and for my beloved country, Thailand. Then Prim P. sang the “Prakhun Tee Sarm” song, which means “The third gratitude, the respectable teachers who gave us knowledge, trained our minds to know


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right from wrong. We chant and pray each time. May virtues and merits bring happiness to our teachers.” All of the students then gave their flower garlands to Fr. Yutthana, the MS administrators, and their homeroom and subject teachers. PrimWa had this to say about the ceremony: “We volunteered to sing in the Wai Kru Ceremony. We have been working very hard on this piece, to present our best in the Wai Kru Ceremony. From listening and singing these two songs, we uncovered the meaning and importance of the lyrics to truly understand and express our feelings in each and every word. We proudly represent every student’s respect for their teachers by reciting the “Pajera” poem. We believe that every student respects the importance of the Wai

Kru Ceremony and our teachers dearly. After singing, each and every student shows respect to their teachers by giving them a flower garland. The Wai Kru Ceremony went as smoothly as we hoped, as the room filled with the scent of mali and the love for our teachers.”

by Biew Biew, Grade 10, and Shinn, Grade 11

Fourteen students from the HS MUSE Club and two chaperones traveled to Chiang Rai last semester to visit the orphans at the Catholic Mission Children’s Project. Here’s what Biew Biew, Gr. 10, and Shinn, Gr. 11, had to say about the experience.


ur time in Chiang Rai on the MUSE trip gave us one of the best experiences that we’ve ever had. We had the opportunity to really show the true potential we have, both as teachers and simply as upperclassmen, as friends. It was an opportunity to see where our creative passions could take us. Here at school, we mostly just focus on academics and grades and GPAs. We don’t have as much time to showcase our more creative side, other than in a handful of classes. But at this orphanage, it was a different story.

Each of us in the MUSE club had at least one special skill in art or music that we could use to the best of our ability. From music skills that we had from over a decade ago, or even a couple of years ago, to art skills that have been developed over years and years of hard work, to photography skills that require the most precise hand-eye coordination, everybody had something to contribute on this trip. With these skills, we taught the children at the orphanage to play the piano, drums, violin, and guitar in order to play a massive concert. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


We also showed them how to draw, cut, and paint. This was an experience in which all of our talents wouldn’t go to waste and their talents could be uncovered from within them. But it wasn’t just about teaching these kids skills. We weren’t getting paid. We were giving up our time, our money, to go teach a new generation. We had to remember that they are still kids and that all of us are also still kids at heart. So the true bonds that we created with these kids were through the games, the conversations, the laughs we shared—how they laughed and we laughed back. It was through the tiniest passing of a ball, the quietest note of a piano, that could spark a friendship that would be cherished for the rest of our school days, and beyond. But how long can those moments really last within our memories? How will we be able to look back and remember those memories and cherish them? Photos are how those memories will last, also videos. As the photographer and videographer of the trip, I got to experience the trip from a different perspective.


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Though I wasn’t able to engage in the activities as much as my peers, I was able to capture the prime essence of the trip. Being on the sidelines and documenting the trip allowed me to better observe the environment and the people around me. I recognized the different teaching styles and techniques of my peers. Some are comfortable with large groups of children, while some prefer smaller groups. Whatever each person’s comfort zone was, they were able to find a fitting role that provided the greatest utility for the entire group. I know I’m writing this as if I’m analyzing an economic issue, but as I see it, this does represent a real-world issue regarding access to education. Some individuals do not have a choice, they don’t get to choose their path of education. This seems like humblebrag along the lines of “these children are lucky to have this experience with us,” but we all feel that sense of pride when we do something beneficial for other people. The act of helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. However, as long as all of the participants relished the positivity they received on the trip, then I’m glad I went on this unforgettable trip.

by Ball, Gino, Vasu, Vic, and Ivy (MS Cancelling Cancers Team)

Halloween Cookie Sales Right after Cancer Awareness Week, during the Halloween season, the Cancelling Cancers Team arranged a cookie sale and a candy sale with the objective of raising more funds for affordable immunotherapy for all Thais. We sold eight batches of cookies over the span of four days of cookie sales at the Middle/High school breezeway. We had prepared thoroughly to be sure we had enough cookies for four consecutive sales days. It was challenging as we had to figure out the logistics, but we executed the plan accordingly and were able to raise lots of funds to bolster our mission of fighting against cancer. We really appreciate every purchase of our Halloween cookies and candies!

#Make It Possible Run On November 10th, 2019, the Cancelling Cancers team organized a charity run at the Nongbon Watersports Center, which included eight schools and over 300 participants. Our goal for this event was to extend the awareness of affordable cancer care beyond our school communities while gathering support for cancer immunotherapy research at Chulalongkorn University Systems Biology.

Along with that, we encouraged numerous at-risk individuals to attempt vital dietary and lifestyle changes to improve their immune systems. Additionally, harmony and unity were fostered between the eight different schools that participated in the run. As students from all of these schools participated with each other in the activities, however direct or indirect, they managed to promote cancer research at their school as well. This first Inter-School #MakeitPossible run proudly raised a total of 150,000 baht to support an affordable cure for cancer. We are looking forward to next year’s fundraising events!

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by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


he first HS Pep Rally of the school year took place on Tuesday, November 5th. All high school students gathered in Godbout Hall to watch our student-athletes and their peers play fun and silly games to help generate school spirit as the Varsity teams prepared to head to their respective SEASAC championships at the end of the week. The Athletic Leadership Club, or ALC, which was initiated last year, organized the pep rally, which consisted of four games in the theme of Wild Wild West. Mr. Todd, Director of Athletics, opened the rally wearing an inflatable horse costume, while members of the ALC emceed, demonstrated each game, and asked for volunteers. The first game was a 4-team relay race, which involved studentathletes having their wrists and then their ankles tied together before attempting to shoot baskets. The girls’ Varsity Volleyball won that round. The second game was called “Balloon Stampede.” Two girls and two boys were asked to volunteer from each grade, which involved pairs of students hopping, wheelbarrowing, giving piggy-back rides, and running a three-legged race, stopping to pop balloons between them


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on the way to the finish line. The seniors took first place in that round. The third game, “Pony Riders,” required a boy and a girl volunteer from each grade. The game involved a wheeled scooter that acted as a pony. The “rider” sat on their “pony” and was led through a series cones to get to a station where the pony rider then had to shoot plastic cups off a table with a Nerf gun. Then the rider and leader swapped places and had to race back to the finish line. The seniors won again! The fourth and final game, called “The Blind Prospector,” was preceded by a spirited cheering contest. The game required three students from each grade, two of whom were blindfolded as “seekers,” and the third student gave them directions to find the different-colored objects that had been strewn over a large floor mat. The goal was to collect as many “gold” objects as possible in a given time. Most of the yellow items were worth one point although the squeaky chickens earned two points. The seekers tried to avoid picking up any red objects, though, because those deducted points. All of the collected items were dropped into a basket, and when time ran out the team that had collected the

most “gold” won. This time the sophomores were the champs. After all the points were totaled, the final positions were: 4th place: seniors 3rd place: sophomores 2nd place: freshmen 1st place: juniors The pep rally set out what it intended to do: to have a good time celebrating our student-athletes while raising lots of school spirit! Nice work, ALC!

by Ms. Dainty Angeles


oding is the new literacy that provides every child with a solid foundation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) thinking abilities to prepare them for 21st-century degrees and careers. To thrive in tomorrow’s society, young people must learn to design, create, and express themselves with digital technologies. Every year in December most of the ES classes join millions of students around the world to celebrate Computer Science Education Week with the Hour of Code. Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is an annual program aimed to inspire K–12 students to take an interest in computer science through 1 hour of coding activities to show that anybody can learn programming basics, which can expand to all sorts of community efforts. Last December 9–15, 2019, RIS students from PreK 3– grade 5 participated in the Hour of Code and had a

chance to learn coding and computer science in a fun way through both plugged Hour of Code activities from Code.Org and unplugged coding activities. In an effort to broaden Computer Science (CS) experiences in the ES, we have started to formally introduce CS concepts and skills to students. We do this Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


There are so many reasons and benefits to learn coding at a young age, from critical-thinking skills to creativity to future jobs. Learning to code also gives children a chance to improve their ability to solve problems. Beyond this, computer programming gives kids a challenge and helps them develop resilience as they work to ‘debug’ code, which requires them to try and try again until they succeed and produce the result they are looking for.

using Hour of Code activities from Code.Org, Tynker subscription resources, and a variety of unplugged/ plugged coding activities. These opportunities, provided throughout the year, allow all ES students to be introduced to basic programming concepts and skills. PreK and KG students experience coding through unplugged and plugged pre-reader coding activities. In grades 1 and 2, students practice coding in Tynker and Codespark on their one-to-one iPads in the classroom and during designated computer lab times. In grades 3–5, students have a comprehensive one-to-one Chromebook program, where teachers are encouraged to provide regular, set intervals of time for students to work on Tynker’s self-paced curriculum during class. These opportunities introduce students to the fundamentals of computer programming and design as they solve puzzles, play games, and create projects—such as interactive stories, animations, and mini‑games—and engage them in developing computational thinking skills. To further expand this effort, we are eagerly looking into introducing Robotics and incorporating STEM toys next year! 48

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Coding is also important to learn because computer programming teaches children to experiment and gives them the confidence to be creative. Most importantly, coding teaches children how to think. Supporting our students to learn about technology and the way computers work will surely give them an advantage in life and will set them up for a successful future. When young children have the opportunity to be more than just consumers of technology, they can create new technologies and solutions to change the world.

by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


S Math teacher Yujiro Fujiwara, new to RIS this year, is currently a PhD candidate working on his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). He has co-authored a chapter that appears in the recently published book Integrating 3D Printing into Teaching and Learning, printed with European publisher Brill | Sense. According to their website, “Brill | Sense is one of the fastest-growing publishers in Educational Research and related fields, with more than 125 new titles published annually. Brill | Sense publishes a blend

Cover image used with permission from Brill I Sense Publishers, Boston, MA, USA

of well-established and newer series of books that include coverage in some of the key areas of education, with an international scope.” The chapter, co-authored with Lee Kenneth Jones, is entitled: “Developing 21st-Century Skills through STEM Integration and Global Collaboration Using 3D Printing and CAD.” Here is the Abstract: In this chapter, we present a background for the 21st-century skills needed to prepare an innovative workforce to face the challenges of the future. We also present a rationale for integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the classroom, as well as examples of applying three-dimensional (3D) printers and computer-aided design (CAD) in a STEM-integrated project. These examples represent the work of STEM educators, who are proving that 3D printing and CAD design are indispensable tools in STEM education. The examples involved (a) motivating learners to become innovating agents of change by using 3D printing and CAD design through e-NABLE, an altruistic project, and (b) motivating students to develop global awareness through global collaboration using 3D printing and CAD technologies through the development of an RC car and quadcopter student-led-project. The chapter includes a Design-Thinking general model to consider how STEM integration may include global collaboration, 3D printers, and CAD. In sharing this accomplishment, Mr. Yujiro notes that “STEM integration and innovation in STEM curriculum is an area I am passionate about. The field for new technologies is fresh, and theorists and practitioners are still making sense of what these new technologies will bring to education in the near future. I believe it is good for RIS to ... be at the forefront and set the standard for other international schools.”

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n February 3rd, several classes in the ES celebrated 100 days of school. The 100th day of school typically allows young children an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate major milestones in their academic achievement. As part of commemorating 100 days of learning, the children took part in several fun activities that reinforce counting, number concepts, and groupings. Here are some photos of students in Ms. Jennie’s grade 2 class sharing the creative ways they used a variety of objects to show “100”!


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by the MS Thai Department


t’s not very often that you get to walk among pieces of history like the kings and queens who once graced them. This year’s 7th-grade Thai field trip was to Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand, then known as Siam, home to many legendary characters in Thai history. The main highlights of our trip included exploring Wat Mahathat and Wat Yai Chai Mongkol.

Visiting Ayutthaya was an unforgettable learning experience. We learned a lot about our ancient Kingdom, the Kings of Ayutthaya, and those leaders who dedicated themselves for the sake of our country. It was an awesome experience, and we hope that many other students found it awesome as well.” — Diamond, Gino, and Vin (Gr. 7)

But it wasn’t just a “hop-on-a-bus-and-walk-around” kind of trip. The preparation started well before that when 30 students took the lead and sacrificed their time on a Saturday with Kru. Meow, Kru. Boyd, and Kru. Tan for a pre-field trip survey visit. A full week before the actual trip, this group of guides went off to experience the trip itself to get a feel of where they would be going and what they would be doing. These student role models learned much about the trip in order to be a helping hand for the other students on the day of the 7th-grade field trip. Here’s what a few of them had to say about it: “On November 22, 2019, the main group set off. First stop? We went to Wat Phra Chao Phya Thai, also known as Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, built in 1357 by King U Thong. At Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, we spent some time in the Phra Uposatha, a main hall used to perform monastic rituals by at least 21 priests. Then we went to Phra Chedi Yai where King Naraesuan’s Prayer was discovered. Finally, we visited Wat Mahathat, built in 1388 by King Borommarachatharit, one of the most important places in Ayutthaya. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020



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by Ms. Jennie Thompson


his year, the ES included some new activities that made International Cultural Week into a truly authentic, engaging, and interactive learning experience for students. Here are some of the highlights from this special week of celebrating cultures from around the world:

• • • •

• •

Ms. Kim kicked off the week with an international song by the third graders. Mr. Dan visited ES classrooms and did a global village activity. Ms. Jessica, Ms. Breeanna, and Dr. Josh read aloud to students about different cultures and how we are the same and different. Ms. Madeleine taught about Mexican culture and children learned how to dance the Mexican Hat dance. Each grade level picked a continent to study and then researched a country within that continent and created an interactive display for students in grades K–5 to visit and learn from throughout the week. All ES students received a passport and earned stamps after “visiting” an interactive display and recording their learning. The PA made a beautiful display with flags for the children to use a photo booth.

ES teachers participated in a mystery country activity where daily clues were displayed on the windows of the Multipurpose Room for students to make guesses about each teacher’s favorite country. The Elizabeth Library created an international display with books from around the world. ES students learned about Loy Kratong and made kratongs with the Thai Teachers.

Around the rest of the campus, all sorts of celebrations of culture were happening, from Thai dances to a rich variety of international foods to live musical performances. As always, this week is a highlight of the school year for all members of the RIS community!

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by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


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n the last day of school before the Christmas break, all of the Middle School students and teachers gathered in Godbout Hall for the annual MS Knowledge Bowl, which is a rousing competition between house teams, which features three rounds of Jeopardy-style questions mixed in with a series of PEthemed challenges. Mr. Kevin and Mr. Aaron were the energetic emcees this year, while Ms. Maria, Ms. Rao, and Mr. Branden were the judges. They were in charge of keeping a tally of the points earned by each house team and making sure the contestants followed the rules for buzzing in, etc. Six students, two each from grades 6, 7, and 8, had been chosen to represent their respective MS House Teams for each Jeopardy-style round. For the first round, the students answered a series of challenging trivia questions, which covered topics such as Thai culture, sports, arts, and social studies. At the end of the first round, the students were given one Final Jeopardy question where they could wager up to 600 house team points! The other rounds were “Name That Tune,” “Movie Time,” and a final series of tricky questions to reveal how well students “Know Your Teacher.” In between the question rounds, students took part in fun physical challenges.

One of their favorites involved attempting to eat a donut tied to a string with their hands tied behind their backs! It was a close competition, but ultimately the Hornbills claimed victory. The final MS Knowledge Bowl House Point standings were: The Hornbills: 3,560 (making them the Semester One Champs!) Emerald Cobras: 3,500 Titanium Tigers: 2,870 Golden Gibbons: 2,660 Pink Elephants: 1,590 Black Bears: 1,500 At the end of the event, there was an Ice Bucket Challenge fundraiser for the Camillian Home. Intrepid MS teachers and administrators Mr. Brian, Mr. Dan, Ms. Claudia, Ms. Caroline, Mr. Mathias, and Mr. Jordan, braved buckets of icy water being dumped over their heads. For their good sportsmanship, they raised a total of 15,000 Thai baht, all of which goes to care for orphaned and abandoned children with special needs at the Camillian Home. What a fantastic way to wrap-up the first semester! Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Sarah A. and HS Performing Arts Students


IS proudly presented another first from the Performing Arts department this year with a fall play instead of our traditional spring musical. One of our best-received shows yet, the production of ALMOST, MAINE starred students from grades 6 through 12. This year’s production was a series of heart-warming scenes that examined the complexities of falling in and out of love in the snowy fictional town of Almost in the state of Maine in the far northeast of the US. Set during a night of an incredible display of aurora borealis in the winter sky, magical things happen to the ordinary people of the town, which changes their lives forever. We asked some of the student actors to reflect on their personal experiences of putting on this production and how they themselves may have been changed by being part of this year’s performances.


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Divi, Grade 12 How did you get involved in “Almost, Maine”? Why did you decide to audition? I decided to audition for “Almost, Maine” because I wanted to try something new and get involved with something unique for my senior year. I thought the school play would be the perfect opportunity to be part of something different and memorable for my last year in high school. I was cast as Sandrine. In the play, each act had 2 to 3 main characters and I was one of them. What is something you enjoyed about the experience? The thing I enjoyed the most about this experience was the friends I made. Through the play, I was able to meet new people and grow closer to them as well. I made a lot of connections through this experience. Another thing I enjoyed was the feeling of fulfillment at the end of the show. I’ve never felt anything like that. What is something that surprised you? I was very surprised by the audience’s reactions. I

expected the audience to be less interactive, but to be on the receiving end of their reactions and their responsiveness to the play was exciting. What was it like to perform live? How did the first performance compare to the last? The first performance was nerve-wracking and definitely not as good as the last one. The first performance allowed me to get a feel for what it was like to be on stage. I’ve been on stage for other events and don’t have stage-fright, but this experience was different. The last performance was incredibly fun. It was my best performance, but the ending of the show was also kind of sad for all of us. How do you think this experience might serve you in the future? In the future, I hope to participate in other plays and musicals. This play was the first step to experiencing that. This experience served as a confidence boost for me, as well as something that gave me resilience. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


Tanik, Grade 11

Alice, Grade 9

What is something you enjoyed about the experience? I generally enjoy acting and just getting the opportunity to be in various different situations with different people is very fun to me.

Why did you decide to audition for “Almost, Maine”? I’ve always wanted to be involved in a large theater production, but all the past productions here have been musicals. My lack of singing talent was a barrier in taking part in those musicals, but when I heard about “Almost, Maine” I immediately sprung at the opportunity to participate because being a gifted vocalist wasn’t a prerequisite.

What was it like to perform live? How did the first performance compare to the last? Since this was my second performance, I now have a finer grip on things. I knew what to do and what was going on, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous since many things can still go wrong. But most of all I was excited to show the audience the performance. How do you think this experience might serve you in the future? The play let me be more expressive. Since I am usually introverted and quiet, this experience let me express my emotions. 58

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What is something you enjoyed about the experience? I enjoyed the connections and relationships that I was able to establish with the entire cast. “Almost, Maine” gave me an opportunity to interact with so many different types of people who I may not talk to on a daily basis, but in the end, we all have one common interest: acting.

How did the first performance compare to the last? The quality of live performances varied depending on the enthusiasm of the audience watching. I never realized what a profound effect the viewers have on the show itself and on the morale of the actors and actresses. The first performance was extremely exciting and most people were quite exhilarated. However, by the last performance, the atmosphere became extremely bittersweet and sentimental. It felt like all the work we had put in for months on end had finally come to a close.


eventh-grader Siri (Mac) Chaikul, winner of the 2019 “The Voice Kids Thailand,” has been earning more awards and accolades for his singing and representation of Thailand. On January 8th, 2020, National Children’s Day, Mac was awarded a trophy in the category of “Thai children bringing a good reputation back to Thailand.” The trophy was presented to Mac by the Thai Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, and the Thai Minister of Education. In order to win this prize, Mac was required to submit many supporting materials to The Royal Thai Government Office, which required quite a lot of help from RIS staff. This documentation included proof that Mac is a student at RIS as well as confirmation that he won 1st prize at the Singapore Lyric Opera Vocal Competition and 1st place for the Judge’s Distinction Award at The American Protégé Vocal Competition at Carnegie Hall in New York. Mac is also taking part in a prestigious charity concert at the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre on February 29th, 2020. The concert is being performed to raise funds for the Raks Thai Foundation. The money it raises will be given to help feed and educate children who are less fortunate.

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by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


n January 22nd, 2020, many members of our school community celebrated the Griffith Library reopening ceremony. High school and middle school students had Flex or Focus Block at the time and beyond attending the ceremony, several actually took part in it. The students, along with alumni, parents, PA reps, teachers, and administrators, formed a line from the temporary library near Godbout Pool to the newly renovated library. HS/MS Librarian, Mr. Garrett, was the emcee for the event and opened by sharing his hope that the library would once again become the center of the school. Then he introduced Mr. Dan, Head of School, who said a few words to begin the ceremony before Fr. Apisit gave a blessing prayer. He began by thanking the many people who helped with the renovations and went on to give thanks for “the blessing that this library has already been and will continue to be for many thousands of students, staff, faculty, and parents… We pray that this will be a place where exciting new insights are gained, where both knowledge and wisdom are nurtured. May this be a place for generations to come, where people are enabled to rise to the challenge of daring


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to be wise.” As Fr. Apasit sprinkled the interior of the library with holy water to complete the blessing, two of our talented alumni from the Class of ‘96, Ms. Debbie Klongtruadroke and Mr. Michael Sawatsewi, sang a moving rendition of “The Rest Is Still Unwritten.” While they sang, the original “RRS” yearbook and several other older RIS yearbooks were passed from personto-person along the human chain from the temporary library to the new space.

Once the yearbooks had been collected, Mr. Garrett announced that the library was officially open. As soon as he mentioned that there was food inside, a flood of students swelled across the new threshold to explore the space and locate the refreshments. As people entered, they were treated to a slideshow display of facts and details from the library’s history along with the clear sweet voice of seventh-grader Siri (Mac) Chaikul singing “A Million Dreams.” Attendees enjoyed the light bites and exploring the beautiful new space, which includes glass-walled air-conditioned study rooms that students can sign out to use for schoolwork, group projects, and club meetings.

Special thanks to Mr. Garrett, who played a significant role in the intentional design and successful implementation of the library renovations, for his work putting the program together. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


HS Admin and Teachers

HS Science Lab Updates


ur high school biology, chemistry, and environmental science labs not only got an aesthetic facelift recently, but the learning opportunities and extension spaces were significantly improved as well. Lockers and concrete have been replaced with windows and light, allowing passersby to watch future doctors, dentists, chemists, and environmentalists at work. Updated lab tables and storage spaces allow for groups of two or three students to complete experiments independently. Tables roll to the lab benches for more space during these experiments and then back into a classroom formation for instruction and discussion. Light, comfortable, stackable, and aesthetically pleasing chairs, very kindly donated by Mr. Chanchai Puengchanchaikul and Pioneer Furniture Co. Ltd., allow for even more flexible and safe learning. New safety features also include eyewash stations and a fume hood. One unique aspect of the new labs was the creation of both independent and long-term laboratory spaces.


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Now students working in our higher-level science courses, such as IB Environment Science, IB Biology Higher Level, and AP Biology, have the ability to set up experiments that can be left to develop over several days or weeks. Some examples of these include finding the best soil conditions for growing rice or investigating the effect of various conditions on microbial and algal growth. The new laboratories are equipped with everything required for students to perform microbial

research. Teachers in the neighboring rooms are able to monitor these students’ safety while continuing to run their own classes without disruption. “Our teachers were involved in the design of these spaces, as much as possible,” shared Ross Kuhl, head of

the science department. “I love having the independent working space for my students,” added Dr. Alan Rizzo, biology and forensics teacher. Ms. Mendy agreed, “Our students will become the scientific leaders of tomorrow. Providing them with a terrific space to learn and grow in is very important.”

MS/HS Audio and Video Recording Studios


IS students in grades 6–12 now have access to a great new space that empowers them to produce and share their creative interests and ideas. Classes, small groups, and individuals are using our new audio and video recording studios, located on the 2nd floor of the middle school building, to create podcasts, weekly announcement videos, and much more. Use the QR codes below to watch a 360-degree interactive tour of the new A/V Production Suite and check out one of their great productions, an episode of an ELD Science podcast, which features students Kim, Seohee, Patthum, and Thanapath (Ob-on).

360° Interactive A/V Production Suite Tour

HS ELD Science Podcast episode

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by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


n keeping with our Heart Principle of Phoenix— leading happy and healthy lives—RIS was proud to be one of the sponsors of the Suan Phueng Bangkok Run. The event took place on a swelteringly hot Saturday afternoon in late November marked the opening of the Srinakarin-Rom Klao Road—a 12-km long stretch of highway linking Hua Mak Road with Rom Klao Road. This new road is intended to help ease traffic congestion in Bang Kapi, Saphan Sung, Lat Krabang, and other surrounding areas. According to the Bangkok Post, “The six-lane reinforced concrete road has the capacity to handle 200,000 cars per day.” Sornsak Somwattana, Chief Executive of Nirvana Daii Plc, said that “This new road has the potential to create immense value as it is parallel with Ramkhamhaeng Road and the motorway linking Srinakarin, Kanchanaphisek, and Rom Klao roads… The road cuts past many existing communities and links to Suvarnabhumi airport.” The run attracted thousands of participants, partly because celebrity rock star and Nike Ambassador Pi Toon, of the group Bodyslam, was going to run. As part of our sponsorship package, RIS was given 50 free


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tickets for runners to participate and all of those slots were taken. Our runners comprised members from a whole cross-section of the RIS community, including students—several of whom were on the RIS crosscountry team, parents, teachers, staff members and their spouses. There were two race options: a 5K and a 10.5K. Of our runners, who ranged in age from 10 to 56, a little more than half opted to do the 5K, while 24 of them challenged themselves to tackle the longer 10.5K. It was so unseasonably hot that afternoon that the organizers decided to push back the start of the race by an hour so the runners wouldn’t be exerting themselves during the hottest part of the day. Two lanes of the new 3-lane road were closed to traffic, giving the runners a 2.5K stretch that started and ended at Perfect Masterpiece Krungthep Kreetha and included the 950-meter long bridge over Kanchanaphisek Road. Before the run, racers and their families enjoyed samples and giveaways from the race sponsors in the waiting area, which included local and national businesses and other international schools. The RIS

booth ended up being one the busiest! We gathered a long line of people waiting to play our beanbag toss for their chance to win one of three prizes: an RIS water bottle, an RIS t-shirt, or one of the coveted RIS teddy bears. While people were waiting to play, several of our student runners helped by handing out RIS fans. There was lots of excitement when Toon Bodyslam showed up and the race finally began. Our runners represented RIS very well, and there were even a few personal best race times. All participants received a race shirt and a medal to commemorate the day, and the waiting area filled up once again, this time with tired and sweaty but happy runners taking photos and collecting sponsors’ food and goodies. After the run, as part of the road opening celebration, there was a tree-planting ceremony, which included a speech by the Bangkok Metropolitan governor who then opened the road sign and helped to plant trees in honor of the coronation of King Rama X. The event wrapped up with an awards presentation ceremony where male, female, and age-category winners received trophies. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


o kick off the Chinese New Year, the RIS community celebrated with several events around school, including a cooking demonstration in the middle school, Chinese delicacies prepared by Chinese parents in the HS breezeway, and photo-ops with dancing lions and dragons in the ES playground and MS courtyard. The special day culminated with a lively and beautifully orchestrated all-school assembly, featuring student performances from each section, a professional troupe of drummers, an exciting dragon dance, and candythrowing lions!


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According to the Chinese zodiac, the year 2020 is the Year of the Rat. explains that “In terms of yin and yang, the Rat is yang and represents the beginning of a new day. In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus.” It also states that children born in the Year of the Rat are considered to be “clever, quick thinking, and successful, although they are content with living a quiet and peaceful life.” High school students Pisa and Poupee were the emcees for the assembly. They explained that Chinese New Year

is one of the biggest festivals celebrated around the world, a time of reunions for families that feature vibrant traditions and the color red. One of the anticipated traditions is on Chinese New Year Eve when people receive lucky money in red envelopes from their elders. The first stage performance was from the elementary school and featured eight 2nd-grade boys dancing to an energetic rendition of “A Blessing Into the New Year.” This was followed by the middle school’s performance, which featured 8th-grade girls in beautiful costumes dancing to a traditional Taiwanese folk song about beautiful mountains and rivers. The high school dancers performed to a song whose title translates to “Jasmine Flower,” a popular Chinese folk song dating back to the 18th century. The dancers wore elegant pink and white costumes, and the dance incorporated large fans that looked like jasmine petals. After the student performances, we were treated to the thrilling lion and dragon dance with a troupe of dancers that was sponsored by RIS Chinese parents. The dance’s origins are from the story of a monster who would ambush Chinese villages every 365 days. The villagers

eventually discovered that the monster was afraid of loud noises and the color red, which is why Chinese New Year celebrations involve wearing red, setting off loud firecrackers, and lion and dragon dances. Their performance opened with a spirited and expressive drumming display. The drums and tambourines then summoned the dragon on stage who followed a twirling light “lollipop” all around the stage, even stepping over its own body at times. This was followed by the muchanticipated lions: three colorful lion dancers, complete with expressive moveable eyelashes and ears. Before the lions began to throw candy to the crowd, they were joined by a fourth lion, whose head and body were covered in color-changing LED lights. The candy caused an eager surge of squealing students to rush towards the stage. The lions then headed into the crowd, much to the kids’ delight, where they handed out more candy and were “fed” red envelopes by RIS faculty and administrators. Pisa and Poupee wrapped up the show by thanking the Mandarin dept, Ms. Vivian, Ms. Emarin, Ms. Supen, Kru Lek, and all of the parents and performers who were involved. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


n Friday, November 8th through Sunday, November 10th, RIS was honored to host nine other international schools for the 2019 SEASAC Division 2 Football Championships: NIST (Falcons), Stamford American International School (Lions), Mont’Kiara International School (Tigers), Harrow International School (Lions), British School Jakarta (Bulldogs), Australian International School (Sharks), Shrewsbury International School (Storms), and International School of Yangon (Chinthes), and Saigon South International School (Dragons). Our talented Athletic Department team created a Google website to house all of the pertinent information for players, coaches, and supporters, including details about our campus as well as the schedule, updated pool standings, and tournament results. The homepage opened with this welcoming message from our Head of School, Mr. Dan: “We are thrilled to be hosting the 2019 SEASAC Div II Football Championships... I’m excited about the tradition of support that our school provides to all visiting teams and look forward to providing a venue that promotes excellence in competition, teamwork, and friendship.”


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The event began early on Friday morning with a rousing opening ceremony and a parade of all of the teams in their school team uniforms with their coaches. Each team was announced by our Athletic Director, Mr. Todd, before being proudly led into Godbout Hall by representatives from their respective “adopted” elementary school classrooms. Throughout the day on Friday, the SEASAC football teams had the opportunity to visit their affiliated ES classrooms.

Each SEASAC team was provided with a designated area in Godbout Hall to rest and relax in the air conditioning between games. The coaches also had their own hospitality room where they could rest and stay cool between matches. The spectators, parents, student-athletes, and coaches were invited to buy coffee and food in our Travis and Thomas Coffee shops, and the Athletic Department had also arranged for several food trucks to be on campus. In addition, a buffet lunch was arranged in Godbout Hall for the student-athletes and coaches. Twelve boys’ and girls’ football matches were played all day Friday to determine which teams would play against each other in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, which took place on Saturday. The RIS girls’ team made it to the playoffs on Sunday morning, as did the RIS boys’ team. The boys went all the way to the final championship game and ultimately secured second place. The RIS girls’ team won the award for the best sportsmanship. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Ms. Elisia Brodeur


lways a highly anticipated event, the annual HS Knowledge Bowl took place toward the end of Spirit Week and was therefore appropriately and unequivocally fully of high school spirit. Per tradition, the stage was set with impressively creative and elaborately decorated booths that reflected the theme for each Class, which were:

Freshmen: Disney

Sophomores: Mangosteen and Morlam

Juniors: Pink and Black

Seniors: Crazy Rich Asians + Red Carpet

The Knowledge Bowl opened with the teacher reps for each grade entering from the back of Godbout Hall, decked out in costumes to reflect their Class’s theme. Each group of teachers performed some snazzy moves with unabashed flair, which fired up the audience.

seemed to do its best to outdo the last. They all featured large groups of students in meticulously coordinated costumes who put on brilliant, well-rehearsed, and carefully choreographed dance numbers. These kids sure know how to make an entrance and generated a great reaction from their peers, who were a lively audience, displaying their class pride with noisemakers, pom-poms, large signs, flags, and plenty of squeals and shouts.

After making sure the score could be tracked in realtime, Mr. Shirly read the teachers questions in several categories, namely cartoons, RIS, and general trivia. The judges, Ms. Sara, Mr. Nathan, and Mr. Jeff, made sure that all of their answers were valid and accurate. The teacher round was followed by the student parade, whose performances introduced the student knowledge bowl reps for each grade. Every entrance, from Freshmen through Seniors, was spectacular and each 70

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After the students were settled in their booths and had tested the new buzzer system, which was designed and created by Seniors Titan and Pang Pond, Mr. Garrett explained the rules of the Knowledge Bowl point system, which deducts points for incorrect answers. The student reps then set about answering the first round

of questions. Written by HS teachers, these challenging academic questions covered literature, science, math, and social science. Sadly, the central unit of the new buzzer system fried, even though Titan and Pang Pond had spent more than 40 hours working on and testing it, and the teams had to switch to an alternate online buzz-in system, which not only didn’t activate custom lights or mp3 soundbites that reflected the Class themes (e.g., a Disney chime or Thai music) but presented its own problems. However, the disappointment and continued issues with the buzzer system didn’t dampen the students’ energy, and the students went on to answer tough questions about movies & TV, music, sports, and current events.

Despite some controversy over a few of the answers, in the end, the Sophomores blew away the competition to take the title of Knowledge Bowl Champs. The final scores were: Freshmen: 400 Sophomores: 2,750 Juniors: - 750 Seniors: 1,350 Overall, it was a dynamic afternoon that reflected the true spirit of RIS in so many ways: academic prowess, creativity, athleticism, cooperation, encouragement and support, tenacity, community, and problem-solving. A true demonstration of the Principles of Phoenix in action!

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Interview by Michael Sawatsewi


lumna Bharati Lachmandas studied at RIS for eleven years, starting off at the former Soi Ruamrudee campus before graduating at Minburi with the Class of 1995. She continued her studies at Thammasat University, and although she had pursued a bachelor’s degree in finance and banking, recent years have found her on a new path. Mother to a now 11-year-old daughter, Bharati noticed that while children today struggle with a myriad of issues, parents do as well. When facing her own adversities in life, Bharati initially felt she lacked the skills to bounce back. Until she discovered positive psychology, that is. Inspired by her own journey and discoveries, Bharati furthered her education in the field of positive psychology when an opportunity presented itself. Repurposed and reinvigorated, she became Coach Bharati, a certified professional in the field of positive psychology. As a coach, Bharati works with a range of clients, from teenagers through to adults in their 40s, using appropriate intervention tools on various topics ranging from limiting negative self-talk to overcoming anxiety, frustration, and procrastination, for example. Recently, we were fortunate enough to chat with Coach Bharati about her time at RIS, today’s life challenges and, of course, the power of positivity. What is positive psychology exactly? Positive psychology incorporates concepts of strength, gratitude, and emotional intelligence, among others, into our daily lives and empowers us to be more resourceful in attaining our goals. In layman’s terms, it is the scientific study of what makes life fulfilling and worth living. While traditional psychology focuses on pathology and the disease model, positive psychology focuses on the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive. It asks, “What factors promote human flourishing?” How would you compare the world today to when you were in school? Things are so different today—the environment we


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live in, the deteriorating economic situation across the globe, the way we connect with each other, the prevalent level of stress or pressure… All these factors lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicides, and so forth. They have a big impact on our mental health. Today’s world is also so fastpaced with all the technological advances. Although they’ve been really beneficial, it also becomes so difficult to switch off. As a result, there’s a need for practices like cultivating mindfulness. What challenges do children face today that perhaps they didn’t years ago? In the big picture, numerous factors contribute to the overall mental health and well-being of those within a school community. Universities have become more difficult to get into, so students—especially at high school and IB levels—have to always be on top of their game in academics and in extracurricular activities. The anxiety, pressure, frustration, and tension can be too much to handle for some. Then there is the issue of peer pressure; some children aren’t mentally strong enough to stand their ground. Although young people today are aware of a lot more at a much younger age compared to [our generation], they don’t always have the tools to cope with the various adversities in life. The emphasis in schools has always been on academics, but times have changed. It is critical that young people are exposed to overall well-being concepts that build the foundation of their life skill set. What emotional skills do you feel need more emphasis? Resilience is a big one. People have a tougher time getting back on their feet. People today need to be tougher, mentally, to live in the world with all its challenges. In addition to building resilience, other concepts in positive psychology coaching, such as emotional intelligence, are skills that will help our children flourish in life. In this generation of instant gratification (and sometimes a sense of entitlement), virtues like gratitude, optimism, and hope are

sometimes locked away and need to be addressed to rise to the surface. What does a one-on-one session with Coach Bharati usually entail? Each session is approximately an hour and usually happens on a weekly basis. We begin with a brief discussion about what’s been going on in the past week. This is the ‘Connecting’ phase. I build a rapport with the client to create a safe space for them to express their feelings. Once the client identifies the topic he/she would like to work on for the session, we dive deeper into it and explore the heart of the issue. As a coach, it is critical to look beyond the complaint—it’s not always what it seems to be on the surface. I coach around the cause of it, not necessarily the complaint itself. Once established, we move to the ‘Clarifying’ phase where I ask questions to help the client reflect on what’s been going on. It is here that the client gains clarity, perspective, and deeper insight. The last phase, ‘Create,’ is where I ask questions to help move the client forward in setting up systems, structures, or pathways to achieve their goal. Thanks to the initial phase, the client can transition smoothly into a more resourceful frame of mind toward the end of a session. Not all sessions are structured like this. In some, the different phases intertwine. Coaching is a flexible methodology, and the conversation drives the session. It’s also critical to note that, as a coach, I do not decide what a client should do. My role is to guide the client to make the best decision possible for his or herself, based on what they want. Empowerment comes from clarity, reflection, ‘aha!’ moments, insights, and realizations on their part. Do you do workshops? Yes, I do. The time frame depends on the content. A workshop-style session can run from one to three hours and can be more casual as opposed to formal training sessions. Workshop sessions are interactive, with questions raised and discussed as they come up. We engage in activities and exercises that incorporate the tools discussed. You have given talks to parents of high school students on building resilience and mental toughness to support their children. How has the feedback been? The response has been quite good. In my opinion, there is still a stigma attached to asking for help when

it comes to mental health. This could also be because of our Asian culture. It is critical, however, that we break this stigma. We have no qualms about reaching out to a personal trainer when it comes to our physical health, so why is there such apprehension when it applies to our mental health? The world we live in is way more complicated than the world we grew up in, and we need to embrace the changes gracefully. How has feedback from your fellow RISians been on your new path? It’s been 25 years since I graduated from RIS, and I’m still in touch with close friends from the Class of 1995 as well as a few others from different years. Those are bonds that will never break, and everyone has been very supportive and encouraging. From helping to spread the word about my business to recommending potential clients or organizations, they have helped me branch out and grow—not only professionally but also personally. What do you remember best about your time at RIS? My favorite year was my senior year as I knew it was the crossroads at which one chapter in my life—that I knew for so long—was ending and a new one was beginning. My rites of passage—the senior lounge, the field trip to Club Aldiana, student council involvement, graduation—are memories that I cherish. RIS provided a safe space for me to grow into the person that I have become today. Its nurturing environment and supportive administrators, teachers, and staff provided security and comfort and created a culture in which we students were given the opportunity to grow and discover ourselves on a personal and an academic level. A lot of great quotes are shared on your Facebook page, Coach Bharati. Care to share any to inspire our readers? Sure. Here are some of my favorites: “Failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” “If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.” “It’s not about the setback. It’s about the comeback!” “You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Just take the next step.” “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

For more information on coaching sessions or workshops, contact Coach Bharati at 081-551-3955, email her at, or visit her at page at Facebook. com/CoachBharati. Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Michael Sawatsewi


t the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Thailand “produced a flawless week of hockey,” as described by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Having won all six of their games, the national men’s ice hockey team of Thailand went on to take the gold on December 8, 2019, after beating Singapore 8-0 in the final showdown. One of the Thai team’s star players, Thai-Japanese athlete Hideki Nagayama, has been playing ice hockey since he was in sixth grade. He also happens to be a former student of RIS. (Hideki would’ve graduated with the Class of 2015 had he not left at 17 for the opportunity to play junior hockey abroad.) Hideki is also one of the most spirited advocates for ice hockey in the country. Fresh off a recent trip to Japan to help promote ice hockey to young players, Hideki took a moment to chat with us about his time at RIS, the growing popularity of ice hockey in Thailand, and his team’s SEA Games triumph. Congratulations on taking the gold at the SEA Games! What does this victory mean to you and what’s next? 
 It’s been a great experience for me for sure! Next, we’re focusing on the upcoming 2020 IIHF World Championship Division III in Cape Town, South Africa, from the 20th to the 23rd of April.
 We just need to keep maintaining ourselves and continue proving to the country that we are the best team in Southeast Asia! This year I became an alternate captain, but for the past two years I was fortunate

enough to be team captain and experience how to lead a whole team and how to lead by example. As a team, we have to have the same mindset and be willing to make sacrifices and think about the team first. Of all sports, especially living in Thailand, how did you even get into ice hockey? 
 I was just ice skating with my sister after school. It was just one of those days, and then a hockey player there asked me if I would be interested in trying hockey. What is it that you love most about playing ice hockey? I think being on the ice makes the sport itself different from any other sport. It’s one of the fastest [sports] in the world, and I love how fast-paced the game can get. It’s a contact sport, so all the players have to be constantly focused during the game; otherwise, we could easily get hurt. At 17, you left Thailand to play junior hockey in Canada and then Europe. Could you tell us about your time there? I was in Canada for a year and a half, then I moved to Sweden for a year. I spent another two years in Denmark, followed by a year in Germany. I returned to Thailand around April of last year. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned [from the experience abroad] is how to be responsible, both on and off the ice. I also had to be able to adjust to each country’s culture and people. Each country has its own culture. You can’t expect the people to adjust to you since you’re in their country after all.


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I just finished up my first HN Hockey Clinic project, the Kushiro Challenge Project, where I brought 33 kids to Kushiro, Hokkaido, in Japan for exhibition games against one of the best youth teams there. The whole point of the project was to let both parents and players witness a higher level of hockey playing and to share an experience [that could] help them improve and take their game to the next level. I would say it went really well, and I got positive feedback from the parents, too! When I see a kid’s willingness to learn something new, I feel I’ve done my job!

Ice hockey is still considered a minority sport here. What kind of challenges have you and your teammates faced in order to play ice hockey in Thailand professionally? There is no professional league in Thailand, so most of the national team players work [other jobs] too. You really have to do your best to balance responsibilities for both national team events and your own work life. How often do you train? When there’s no tournament, I usually go to the gym every day, except on the weekends, and ice sessions three to four times a week. However, when training camps begin, we’re in the gym or on the ice pretty much all the time. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the ice? I model as a side job. I play the piano and guitar as well. There can be days where the stress from playing ice hockey knocks you down on your knees. It’s always nice to just take a break from hockey and find something else to do and recharge for a little. You also founded the HN Hockey Clinic. How has interest in ice hockey grown in Thailand over the last few years?
 It’s really amazing to see how hockey has grown here these past couple of years. Lots of young kids have started to play. I’ve even seen a couple of current RIS students, which has been great! The ice hockey community in Thailand will just keep getting bigger and bigger from now on.

What advice would you give young people looking to be professional athletes? Or their parents? Parents tend to forget how much they might be pressuring their kids. It doesn’t matter what sport they’re playing. Sometimes parents need to put themselves into a child’s position and be mindful of what would make them lose their passion for a sport. I was lucky enough that my parents never complained to me about anything regarding the games. I would tell parents to just encourage your kids and tell kids to always try to enjoy it. Every time I get to be on the ice, it’s just pure happiness for me.
 What’s your favorite memory of RIS? That would probably be lunch breaks and interacting with my school friends. Just being able to get hockey off my mind for a short time was really great. And I still keep in touch with tons of RIS friends! I try to catch up with them as much as possible whenever I have the chance.

Visit the HN Hockey Clinic page at HNHockeyClinic for more information on upcoming projects. Follow Hideki on Instagram @hidekinagayama Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


by Michael Sawatsewi


o Ariya Bunyapamai is an alumnus of RIS from the Class of 2008. Now based in Zürich, Switzerland, Po is living the dream and traveling the world as an accomplished photographer. At just 29, he has already been to and collaborated with well-known businesses and brands in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Although Po specializes in food photography for restaurants and magazines, his portfolio—not to mention his gorgeous Instagram feed—attests to an adeptness at product studio photography and lifestyle shoots as well. Known professionally simply as Po Bunya, he is constantly on the move on assignment but, luckily for us, is currently back in Bangkok. We were able to catch up with Po for a chat when he reminisced about RIS, talked of his travels, gave sage advice on photography, and shared news of his upcoming solo exhibition. What are some of your favorite memories from RIS? Well, I actually met my wife [RIS alumna Mandy Boontanrart] in Mr. James Pop’s homeroom in fifth grade. We sat at direct opposite ends of the classroom, but she still left an impression! My favorite parts of RIS were the field trips, especially the ones to Kanchanaburi in 9th and 12th grades, because we went for days and almost everyone from the grade was there. They were the best! Having lived abroad, I can also look back and say our cafeteria food was really good!

 Did you take pictures in RIS? That’s a funny story. At the end of fifth grade, we were given a list of electives to choose from for sixth grade that we had to rank from one to nine—one being the


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most desired. I don’t remember even noticing it being on the list, but when my sixth-grade class schedule came I was assigned photography with Mr. Sam Lor for the first semester. I remember complaining to my mom about the class being useless. All there was to do was press a button, so I thought. Why would someone need to go to class for a semester for that? Boy, was I so wrong! [laughs] How did you land in photography as a career?
 I consider myself very lucky; my passion found me. You know, I dropped photography during my undergraduate studies and chose to study Product Design [while at Pratt Institute, New York.] I couldn’t see how photography could make me any money. However, six years ago, a fellow RIS underclassmen—Nep Punwatanawit, RIS Class of 2009—was interning at a food company and contacted me to create new photos for a website revamp. (He said he remembered I was really into photography in high school and wondered

if I still was.) The resulting photographs were so good! I think it was the combination of being under pressure and having external expectations that helped me create good work that was so much better than the stuff I was photographing for myself. From then on, I knew the only way to improve was to take on even more assignments. I have to thank Nep because if he hadn’t reached out to me that day, I don’t know what I would be doing today. Because my first portfolio piece was food, my work and client base naturally went in that direction. In hindsight, food photography was a good fit because I have an affinity for composition. I also like to cook. Aside from food, what are your favorite things to photograph? I like photographing people. Portraiture is fascinating to me because it captures the mood between the subject and the photographer. Five professional photographers could photograph the same model in the same studio for an hour, and the facial expressions and emotion between each photographer’s set would not be the same. A portrait shows how I make the subject feel in that instant, and that emotion lives on forever in that photograph. What’s your favorite camera or device to shoot with? I shoot a lot with my Olympus E-M5 Mark II. I use it for my personal work as well as most of my food photography. It’s light, the lenses are small, and the camera is just so intuitive. I love it! However, I would like to add that phone cameras these days are so good! With the exception of needing a proper camera for a specific application or a really huge print, my iPhone 8 Plus camera has been excellent, and I’ve even used photos from it in exhibitions and prints.

 Your social media shows how well-traveled you are. What have been some of your favorite places to shoot? Hands down, Cuba. It was such a rich country, then communism destroyed the economy and impoverished everyone. You can see remnants of such grandeur amidst the crumbling streetscape. There is no place like it, and the visual beauty plus dereliction creates such a unique atmosphere. At the same time, Cuba feels very safe, and the locals are so friendly. The capital, sort of frozen in time, gives the vibe of a very worldly, cosmopolitan village. And I say village because, even with two million

inhabitants, Havana still retains the chillness of a much smaller-sized city. It is also very difficult and expensive to use the internet in Cuba, so it is liberating when I am there with a group of friends and no one is playing on their smartphone! We’re all hanging out. It’s all these juxtapositions, both visual and cultural, that makes Cuba such a special place in the world for me.

 Ahhh… hence the theme for your upcoming exhibition. Tell us more about La Familia Cubana. This exhibition combines my love of portraiture with my love of Cuba. I was sent there on assignment with Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


a good friend of mine in 2016, and we ended up staying an extra week to explore. We’d wake up at dawn and walk the streets, meeting locals, trying to absorb as much culture as we could. I hope this exhibition imparts our sense of excitement and energy during our time there. You’re now based in Zurich. What’s your favorite thing about Switzerland? The nature. It’s so pristine. The river downtown is so clear in the summer. I swim in it at least twice a week. Public transportation is so good that I don’t have to drive or get stuck in traffic. Everything is efficient. I can get from airplane seat to my home front door—and vice versa— in less than 50 minutes. Perfect for a frequent flyer. However, the food is quite boring so I come to Thailand three to four times a year to take on assignments and also to pig out on delicious food.

this has sort of been my way of giving back to the photography community in Thailand. 

 Any advice for budding photographers? Shoot what you love and keep refining your skill set. Show it to people. But, most importantly, show your work to people who have more experience in the industry you want to get into. It is important, however, to keep in mind that not every single piece of advice is truth. Keep an open mind, and take in suggestions and critique while maintaining your own standpoint. When your work is good enough, having paying clients is an eventuality.

All photos courtesy of Po Bunya. For more on Bangkok Dark Equipment Co., visit Check out more of Po’s photos on his official website: www. or follow him on Instagram @pobunya.

Well, glad you’re here now. What else have you been working on while in Bangkok? I have a side business, Bangkok Darkroom Equipment Co., that imports used, high-quality darkroom equipment from Europe. Traditional equipment in good condition is difficult to find in this day and age, and I love printing black-and-white photos the traditional way. I find the process and isolation a meditative process. So far, this venture has received phenomenal reception in the Thai darkroom community. Doing


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any RIS alumni from the 1960s to the early 1990s have fond memories of RIS’ original campus in Soi Ruam Rudi 5. Since the school moved to Minburi in 1992, that original site has obviously changed tremendously. Our alumni of yesteryear have always been a nostalgic bunch, so we decided to share recent pictures of the former campus site to our online alumni community (, triggering a wave of reminiscence. Here are a few of our favorite thoughts and anecdotes from alumni in response to the present-day pictures. Front of the former RIS campus in Soi Ruam Rudi 5 today. (RIS was also known as Ruam Rudi School in the 60s and 70s.) Beside the Soi 5 alleyway is the apartment building Monet House. Holy Redeemer Church still remains, relatively unchanged over the decades. “Wow! I wish we had a comparison picture!” —Brandi Grondonam, 80s-90s alumna “It was at this school/church parking lot that I honed my soccer playing and coaching skills. I developed my love of the game and started a career as a player and a coach!” —Dang Nophodol Pibulvech, 60s-70s alumnus “Our football practice area in ’73 to ’74. Really miss those younger days!” —Woody Hem, 70s alumnus “Monet House has always been the residence of the Sirisamphan family, proprietors of Little Home Bakery.

They lived in the Penthouse. The downstairs apartments were rented out.” —Mrs. Mars Sawatsewi, retired teacher “Now in these pictures, I can see that they raised the whole parking lot. The steps are gone now. It must have been because of the water levels during the monsoon season.” —Eric Spindler, 60s-70s alumnus

Exterior and interior of Holy Redeemer Church today “This is still a classic timeless church unique in its design. Nice renovation and preservations! I still remember the story from Fr. Harold Thiel in Seattle when he shared the advent of this church design.” —Caroline Tamayo, 60s-70s alumna “So bright! I miss the days where I’d go in there and just sit quietly to contemplate.” —Howard Chiu, 80s alumnus

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“Fond memories! If only those pillars could talk. So many rendezvous behind those pillars!” —Cat Bowrey, 80s alumna “Love this church—a great meditation place during lunch for me! Cool and dark!” [laughs] —Shiau-In Lin, 80s alumnus “I think I told this to [fellow alumna] Gloria Bryant Love a while back. I was not Catholic, so I didn’t really

The parking lot exit of Holy Redeemer Church leads to what was referred to back in the day as “the corner store” in Soi Ruam Rudi 5. It was a popular after-school hangout for many generations of RRS and RIS students.

“I remember walking to the top of the soi to Wireless Road. As a kid, it was a really long walk! Now it’s just a quick stroll.” —Andrew Cornelio, 80s alumnus


understand everything [they] did but she had gone to confession. I waited for her outside with a few others but I don’t remember who. From left to right, I was standing between the third and fourth pillars when she came skipping out of the church, threw her arms in the air and laughing she said, ‘I’m clean! I’m clean!’ I laughed so hard and so did she, and then we just wandered off to somewhere. That memory is crystal clear in my mind.” —Marsha Westbrook, 60s-70s alumna

“There was a chicken and rice store in the alley to the left of the corner store!” —Mark S. Tang, 80s alumnus “Fried rice with omelet and Sriracha sauce… before it went viral! …but definitely the jukebox!” —Star Anise, 70s alumna

“I used to have lunch there and walk through the alley to the Polo Club” —Mrs. Davinder Phool, former teacher

“I remember buying Japanese comic books in Thai from one of the magazine stores. I also bought all the yummy snacks––fried bananas; fried taros; roti and condensed milk; various combinations of Indian nuts and grains; cassava in sweet syrup; and, of course, all the Thai Ice tea and coffee drinks! ” —Daranee Kongsinporn, 80s alumna

“The street vendors after school! I still miss the yam woon sen (squid vermicelli salad)!” —Carol Boosaba, 90s alumna

“The corner store is still there! I sometimes still go to the corner store for noodles after Sunday mass.” —Lalana Lauren Santos, 70s alumna

“Namtok (Thai meat salad) and the jukebox!” —Cat Bowrey

“Still having noodles here!” —Saefei Chiu, 80s-90s alumna

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“Our place of education and learning the meaning of life and social interactions that make us who we are today! Memories! Full of wonderful sweet memories that have come and gone that can never be replicated!” —Pon Suwan, 70s alumnus “Good memories indeed. Thanks for sharing!” —Kirida Bhaopichitr, 80s alumna

The new Redeemer Hall. Gone are the former Redeemer Hall, cafeteria, and quadrangle areas, yet the memories remain.

“Oh, how I wish we could go back to those old days, even just for a day!” —Senta Angela Anwar, 60s-70s alumna

The inside of present-day Redeemer Hall is where the cafeteria and walkway to the quadrangle were. Tributes to Redemptorist Fathers who have passed away adorn the hallway, and many of them, as alumni will remember, are also a huge part of RIS history and family. “Many masses with Father Godbout and Father Cotant.” —Jennifer Tia O’Brien, 80s-90s alumna “I’m showing this photograph [of Father Ray Brennan of the Father Ray Foundation] to my mother and she has a story to tell about Father. There was a column called Fanny’s of Evanston that was published in the Chicago Tribune, and she would regularly report about his life in Thailand. My mother’s mother would regularly read it and cut the articles out to send to my mother. She saved them! Father Brennan must’ve originally been from the Chicago area or Evanston. Interestingly, my mother lives in Evanston now.” —Gina Lyden Masland, 60s-70s alumna “I miss Father Griffith. He was always so loving!” —Maria Celeste Garcia, 90s alumna

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1. Congratulations to Class of 1994’s Pek Pongpaet, whose computer software company Impekable is featured on Inc. magazine’s list of 5,000 Fastest-Growing Privately-Held Companies in America. Impekable is a UI design and mobile development studio based in San Jose, California. It’s now the second year in a row the company has been featured. “Reflecting on our journey, we never could have imagined we would be serving some of the 82

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world’s most well-known brands including Nike, Google, and Adobe,” says Pek. “Many of these companies also entrust us with their customers and consider us partners. I am forever grateful for everyone who was part of the journey, past and present, who helped create the amazing workplace that Impekable is today.” • 2. Their Majesties King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida welcomed His Holiness Pope Francis on Thursday, November 21, 2019. Serving as the interpreter was a Royal Thai Embassy Counsellor, our very own alumna Nicky Nilobol Pimdee from the Class of 1994! Fittingly, Nicky described the experience as “way more than a lifetime honor!” • 3. RIS alumni from the 1990s to the 2010s represented Ruamrudee at the Inter-School Basketball Tournament on November 23, 2019, and took second place! Other participating schools in this alumni-only tournament included BPS, EIS, ICS, NIVA, and host school NIST. Congratulations to our alumni ballers! Go, Phoenix! • 4. Four RIS alumni were selected as Obama Foundation Leaders (Asia-Pacific Program), a one-year leadership development and community engagement program seeking to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region. The Fab Four include Class of 2000’s Aliza Napartivaumnuay (Socialgiver); Class of 2005’s Aim Amarit Charoenphan (HUBBA, Techsauce), and Class of 2006’s Chaya Chansmitmas (BigPay, Fintech) and Earn Aukrit Unahalekhaka (Ricult). Congrats to these amazing four for their continued achievements. It’s worth noting that almost half of the leaders selected from Thailand are from RIS! • 5. In a special episode of the popular YouTube vlog Life of Bow, Class of 1996 alumnus and RIS parent Louis Wattana Chuttong takes a tour of his former school and visits with old friends. Life of Bow regularly features wife Bow and son Dakar, but dad takes the spotlight this time ‘round! The clip has now garnered half a million views on YouTube. • 6. RIS alumni attended a charity concert dinner event at Vinifera on December 15, 2019, in support of Fr. Joe Maier’s HDF Mercy Centre. Also present were RIS faculty, past and present, as well as current RIS elementary students. The event was organized by Class of 2005’s Erich Parpart and featured a performance from renowned soprano Sophie Tanapura. • 7. There have been so many RIS alumni couples since 1957, and we’re delighted to wish a lifetime of love and happiness to another happy pair! Congratulations to Birdie Chaturon Boonma (Class of 2008) & Arti Gulati (Class of 2007)! The pair even took part of their pre-wedding photos back on campus in tribute to “where it all began”—complete in throwback school uniforms! • 8. The Class of 1999 celebrated their 20-year reunion with a casual get-together at The Irish Pub (Four Points by Sukhumvit), on December 21, 2019. The ‘99ers even brought along their senior yearbook and took before-and-after portraits of themselves individually alongside their senior photos. • 9. Class of 1985’s Herbert Vongpusanachai has returned to Thailand as managing director for DHL Express Thailand. He is also head of Indochina, which covers Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. Herbert was previously managing director for DHL Express Singapore in 2008 and had been managing director of DHL Express Hong Kong and Macau since 2016. “I am delighted to return and am committed to maintaining DHL Express’s solid position as a leading international logistics partner for local businesses,” he says. “I am fully ready to enable business growth for our customers, from SMEs to global and multinational corporations.” Congratulations and welcome home, Herbert! • 10. In collaboration with Rotary BKK, the Class of 1997 are proud to share the completion of their second water purification plant built at Ban Huay Nam Phu school in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, 100 kilometers south of Hua Hin. Their first project, which was completed in 2018, was a class project to commemorate their 20-year graduation anniversary. “We find no better way to celebrate the precious education we received at RIS than by serving schools in rural Thailand,” says RIS alumnus and class valedictorian Dr. Sidharth Mahapatra. “These plants are open to not only the families of the schools but also to villagers from all surrounding villages, enabling them to afford a basic commodity, free of charge. While the first project was contributed to by all class members, the current pool of donors consists of a core group within our class.” (Group of donors, RIS alumni: Dinesh Agarwal, Souvir Bhuta, Ameya Kaveeshwar, Sidharth Mahapatra, Vivek Mahapatra, Nitin Modi, Kumar Samtani, and Hitesh Thakur) • 11. Thailand Tatler’s Society 2020 cover lady is none other than Class of 1994’s Pam Pranapda Phornprapha. “[Pam] could be a poster girl for working mums the world over,” describes the esteemed publication. “Despite a privileged upbringing she has cultivated a single-minded determination to succeed on her own terms, whether taking on multiple senior executive roles in various industries—including the male-dominated auto industry—running a burgeoning fashion business, advocating for women’s rights (as a driving force behind the gender-equality summit Dragonfly360), or as a doting single mother to her young son.” • 12. Popular English teacher, comedian, and Class of 1996 alumnus Chris Wright makes his much-anticipated return to the stand-up comedy stage with his first show in seven years, Chris Unseen Reboot, on Saturday, March 21, 2020, at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre. Tickets are on sale now. • 13. Well-wishes and congratulations to Class of 1982’s Rose Busadee Santipitaks who will be leaving Thailand shortly to become the Thai ambassador to Australia! Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


RIS Photo of the Day: 20/02/20 Today our PreK 3-1 class created their own mailbox, which has been set up right outside their classroom for anyone to send them letters or cards. Please stop by and write them something! This is another great way to help our younger children with literacy and an opportunity to practice their writing skills.

RIS Photo of the Day: 14/02/20 This week our HS students celebrated Spirit Week with the following themes: Squad Day; Character Day (favorite character from any cartoon, movie, or book); Grade Pride Day (class colors); and Status Day (outfit colors based on current relationship status — red/pink for dating/in love, yellow for it’s complicated, green for single, blue/gray for bitter). Spirit Week encourages our students to dress up based on themes to show support for their grade and earn grade points, and it’s a great way to build school pride! #spiritweek #RISrocks #RuamrudeeBKK

RIS Photo of the Day: 31/01/20 Today our grade 1 to 5 students participated in the annual ES Games Day on Godbout Field. Activities and games included mini soccer, slip n’ slide, tag, water relay races, and tug of war, all of which gave our children the opportunity to showcase their strength, fitness, agility, and reaction time, as well as build team spirit and encourage positive leadership. But most importantly, our students had a lot of fun! Special thanks to everyone who helped and contributed to making this games day a success!


Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020

RIS Photo of the Day: 17/01/20 Our students celebrated Teacher Appreciation Day with a wai kru ceremony, which is a Thai ritual where students pay respect to their teachers, express their gratitude, and formalize the student–teacher relationship. On this very special occasion, students are encouraged to show respect and thanks by offering flower garlands. Also part of the ceremony was the reciting of a prayer for teachers to recognize their hard work and for having taught their students well. #wanwaikru #RIScares

RIS Photo of the Day: 16/01/20 Congratulations to Kitisit (Por Por) Thangsumphant in grade 6 who was recently invited for the third time as a guest conductor with the Siam Sinfonietta for the New Year Concert 2020 (a youth orchestra founded in 2010 by Thai-American composer Somtow Sucharitkul, Thai conductor Trisdee na Patalung, and the Bangkok Opera Foundation). In 2012, the orchestra won first place at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in the symphony orchestra category in Vienna, Austria. Por Por also just passed the ABRSM Grade 5 Violin exam in December. Well done! #RISrocks Por Por at the New Year Concert 2020: h t t p s : / / w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / s o m t o w / videos/10157601 720813070/

RIS Photo of the Day: 11/12/19 Huge thanks to our wonderful Parent Auxiliary for the encouraging words and delicious treats for our high school students as they start their final exams. Your thoughtfulness makes all of the hard work and studying worthwhile!

Ad Astra Volume 29 February 2020


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