Wednesday, April 5, 2017


By Mark Hefner

5 April, 2017
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: Songkran is one of the most important Thai holidays of the year and it’s about to happen again in mid-April. Songkran is the Thai word which means “move” or “change place” and reflects the sun’s relative position in the sky. Officially, Songkran runs from April 13th to April 15th but in many cities, Songkran runs for much longer.

Thai people across the country are also moving as they travel back to their hometowns to get together with their families to celebrate Songkran. These family celebrations reinforce three major values in Thai culture: family, society, and religion. 
Families get together as younger family members pay respect to their family elders. Communities celebrate later in the day which strengthens the society.  Religion is also celebrated this time of year as families visit temples to offer food to monks and listen to Buddhist sermons.
The celebration in Chiang Mai lasts for around a week. The downtown area by the moat has one of the most famous water celebrations in all of Thailand and attracts tens of thousands of people.  Usually, there are activities around the moat with music, dancing, bubbles and a lot of water splashing.

Tourism Authority of Thailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has this to say about Songkran in Chiang Mai.

In the north, where Songkran Lanna is celebrated, it is also called the ‘Paweni Pi Mai Muang’.

The celebration begins on April 13, which is called ‘Sangkhan Long’ day. The day is considered as the last day of the year in the Northern region. In the morning, firecrackers will be lit because of the belief that evil from the past year will be chased away by the noise of the firecrackers. In the evening, a parade for Chiang Mai’s significant Buddha statue will be organized around the city. Locals and tourists join the ceremony both for fun and to make merit.

April 14 or ‘Nao’ day, it is believed that swear words and rude manner are prohibited on this particular day. Anyone who breaks the rules will have bad luck for a whole year.

April 15 either called the ‘Phya day’ or ‘beginning of the new era’. On this day locals usually start their morning early and go to a temple to make merit and listen to monks’ preachment. Later in the day locals will then go respectfully to their parents and older relatives to pour water on the hands and ask for blessing.

On the 16th of April, ‘Pak Pi’ day, people will go to pour water on the hands of the abbots from different temples.

On the 17April, ‘Pak Duen’ day, the last day of Songkran celebration here, locals will clean themselves by brushing their body to symbolize cleaning bad luck away. This tradition is unique to the North of Thailand only.

Songkran at NIS
NIS had its annual Songkran activities that started early in the morning with an observance of Buddhist faith by paying respect to the Buddhist statue in front of the school. Soon after, Buddhist monks came and teachers, staff and parents made merit with them.

After lunch, the school gathered in the auditorium for more traditional Songkran activities which included Thai dance, an explanation of Songkran by NIS Principal, Mr. Stephen Roderick,  which was followed by the important Thai Tradition, “Rod Num Dum Hua.” All the teachers and staff poured scented water over all of the students.
This was followed by “water activities” and lots of happiness. The middle and high schools played in the field by the canteen while the elementary students played in the pool. It was a great day at NIS which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. 

For safety reasons, people should always keep a few things in mind  when playing in the water. Don’t squirt water in other people’s eyes. This could damage their eyes and possibly offend them. Don’t play with water around electricity. The results can be shocking. Also, always know where your children are if you are celebrating in a large crowd. Don’t throw water at motorcycles. The speed of the motorcycle may amplify the impact of the water causing the driver to have an accident which injures them or other people nearby. 


The AAP (Mr. Mark, Mr. Paul and Mr. Steve) wishes you have a safe, relaxing and joyful Songkran holiday. We look forward to seeing our wonderful students again after the holiday.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kids and Technology

by Mark Hefner

March 9, 2017

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: Nakornpayap International School (NIS) Psychologist Mr. Tom Bell, gave the Academic Access Program’s (AAP) parents a talk on Thursday about “Kids and Technology” and its impact on their young lives.

According to Mr. Bell, kids have access to incredible amounts of technology providing vast informational resources that can be either good or bad in developing and influencing young children. TV’s, computers, mobile phones and tablets, and now wearables are ubiquitous throughout our interconnected high-speed digital world which kids are able to access in places like school busses, computer classes, at home or anytime they are not doing something else

Screen Time

One study from the USA estimates American kids spend on average 8 hours a day in front of a screen of some sorts. According to American pediatricians, more than 2 hours a day is excessive. These same pe
diatricians also warn that children under 2 years of age should not get any screen time.  “What’s wrong with excessive screen time?” Mr. Bell asks parents. Some parents feel it takes you away from the real world and the child is confused about right and wrong.

Mr. Bell says interaction and play is extremely important to a child’s development. Scientist have conducted brain scans of children as they sit listening to a lecture in a classroom, which resulted in very little brain activity. However, when taken outside to play, brain activity increases dramatically. Highly active brains help increase intelligence, social skills, attention span and overall development as well as imagination, which is important to a child’s development.

Mr. Bell also pointed out a possible link between the rise of ubiquitous screen time and short attention spans. In the year 2,000, the average American had an attention span of 12 seconds while now it is down to 5 seconds. This begs the question, is there a screen time connection?

Not all screen time is bad though. Interactive educational programs are less harmful than passive (watching only) programs are. These programs prompt children for some type of response. Many of these programs, cartoon like in design, are fun for the children who do not realize they are actually learning as they play.

Viewable Content

Equally important to screen time is the content a child views on a screen. Watching aggressive content increases likely hood children will be aggressive while watching nonaggressive and educational content can help to develop the child.

For example, Marvel Comic’s “Logan”, which was released to theatres last week, was viewed by some of the Elementary students at NIS even though it was rated “R” (restricted). Some imaginative children could possibly confuse the real world from what they see coming out of Hollywood and emulate what they see on TV, which in turn sometimes creates problems for the child and those around them.

Research possibly supporting a similar imitative argument was done
with a “Bobo Doll”. A Bobo Doll is a play toy that bounces back when it is pushed or hit. An adult came out and modeled “nice” behavior, while children watched. Children later came out and imitated that behavior. A more aggressive adult came later and played very aggressively with the doll. The children copied this behavior.

Mr. Bell also mentioned that the ease of finding pornography on the internet is also a great concern. This content, easily accessible to children, gives false expectations to developing children who should be restricted from its access. Parents need to monitor their children’s internet activity to ensure they are not accessing pornography and/or similar content during the developmental stages of their lives.

There are software programs, such as “Dinner Time” or “Net Nanny” which can help limit a child’s access to content they should not be viewing. Parents needing help finding this material are welcome to contact Mr. Mark in the AAP or Mr. Tom Bell at NIS who will assist you in finding these programs. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Heat and Smog Return to Chiang Mai

by Mark Hefner

3 March, 2017

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: The Thai summer is almost here and temperatures will rise. It is important for everyone to stay properly hydrated. This means you need to drink about 6 to 8, eight ounce glasses of water a day. Each person is different so the recommended amount may not be the same for everyone.

Along with the heat, this time of year in Chiang Mai has dangerous smog levels which we do monitor. The Smog in Chiang Mai is mostly created by the burning of farms in the region. Often the fire gets out of control and climbs nearby mountains to burn entire hillsides resulting in an incredible
amount of smoke in the region. The combination of sunlight, smoke from the fires,  and other man-made air-borne pollutants create ground-level ozone which irritates the eyes and may cause respiratory distress.

If the smog is at dangerous levels, we will suspend outdoor activities such as P.E. The current smog level is in Chiang Mai can be checked at the following website According to today smog readings P.E. is cancelled.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Teachers of the Academic Access Program

by Mark Hefner

22 February, 2017

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: The Academic Access Program (AAP) is a strong ESL supported US Common Core State Standard (CCSS) course for children aged 5 to 11 with limited English abilities. The AAP increases their English abilities and in order to integrate them into the mainstream international program at Nakornpayap International School (NIS). The filtering of students by the AAP allows the mainstream international school at NIS to teach higher quality classes.

Mr. Mark Hefner, from the United States, is the AAP Coordinator.  The diversity Mr. Hefner brings to the AAP ranges from his various assignments in his 20 years in the US Army to his international graduate education and experience here in Thailand. 

As a soldier, Mr. Hefner worked on US Army Nuclear Weapons, the Patriot Missile System and was an US Army Recruiter. Later, while studying for a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business management and administration, Mr. Hefner worked Payap University’s International Marketing Department, the International College and was the Director of the Language Enhancement Center. 

South African native, Mr. Paul Kleinschmidt, has been teaching English for 7 years in Thailand. Mr. Kleinschmidt has a creative background that started in South Africa by designing interactive educational exhibit for museums and science centers for MTE Studios. This initial educational focus at MTE Studios eventually prompted Mr. Kleinschmidt to earn a CELTA certificate start teaching. 

The AAP is expanding and by March 2017, there will be 15 students. We expect approximately 30 students to apply by August. Class size will be limited to ten students in each class with one teacher and a support teacher.

For more information or to sign up check out the NIS website at

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Measure of Academic Progress (MAP): How does it work

by Mark Hefner

16 February, 2017

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: The Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) is a computer adaptive test that show exactly which academic skills and concepts a student has acquired.

Computer adaptive means the test questions automatically adjust in complexity to the answers provided by the student. For example, the MAP test adapts to a students correct answers by increasing the difficulty of the test questions.

Every item on a MAP test is anchored to a vertically aligned equal interval scale called a RIT scale. RIT is short for Rasch Unit. This creates a unit of academic measurement that covers all grade.

The MAP test is taken in the fall, winter and end of the school year. This allows educators to identify early areas of academic development in their students that may need more attention.

In the United States, the MAP test is given to 10.2 million students from 49 states in 6,000 school districts studying in 23,500 public schools. The test is given 3 times a year  at the beginning, the middle and the end of the academic calendar.

From the 10.2 million students tested in the United States, a sample of the results from 72,000 to 153,000 students are taken from 1,000 of the MAP tested American schools. From this sample, average results are produced which schools and districts are able to use to evaluate how well they are doing compared to other schools in the United States.

The chart below was created to compare MAP scores against the age of the student and their grade. The averages are from the fall, 2016, MAP test in reading, math and language usage conducted in the United States.  

The chart works by finding a students age in the right vertical column. Move horizontally left across the page until the age intersects the purple line in front of the green, red and black column. These vertical columns are the reading, math and language scores for the listed grades that run horizontally below the vertical columns. The top of the columns reflect for the age and grade, the average scores .which run vertically on the left axis. 

For more information about the MAP, go to their website at or contact the AAP Coordinator, Mr. Mark Hefner, at

(Click the link above to download this chart)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Understanding Your Child's RAZ Level

by Mark Hefner

15 February, 2017

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: Reading A-Z, or RAZ, is part of the Learning A-Z platform designed to increase literacy in primary aged school children. The RAZ method has been in use for more than a decade around the world and has grown to 170,000 members. RAZ has won numerous awards for it's innovative design to include Parents' Choice Recommended Award, Global Learning Initiative Award, and a Teacher's choice award. With more than 2,500 leveled readers, RAZ is one of the most sought after reading programs on the market.

The Nakornpayap International School (NIS) Academic Access Program (AAP) also uses RAZ to increase the literacy of our students. The AAP's unique multi-aged classrooms benefit from RAZ because it allows each student to progress individually and at a pace that's comfortable to their abilities.

RAZ ability specific leveled readers can be correlated to the age and grade of the individual student. As the chart shows below, the proper level for a student's age and grade can be easily found by located the students age on the left vertical axis. Then move horizontally across the page to the right until you reach a set of blue vertical bars. A red line intersecting that particular set of blue bars indicates the grade level (right vertical axis) and reading level (bottom horizontal axis) for the student.

For example, a 6 year old student should be in the first grade at a RAZ  level between E and J. Reading at level B would indicate the student is reading at a kindergarten level.

For more information about RAZ go to their website at or contact the AAP Coordinator, Mr. Mark Hefner, at

(click above to download the chart)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

AAP After School

AAP After School

by Mark Hefner

14 February, 2017
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: Academic Access Program (AAP) students are now able to get additional help after school from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day. The after school program started on 14 January, 2017, and is open to all AAP students. Best of all, it's free!

Five AAP students took advantage of this opportunity and studied between 1 to 2 hours extra on the first day. Students studied reading and spelling with the AAP Coordinator and 2 high school students who were volunteering to earn community service hours as part of their educational requirements to graduate. Students are also able to to study math, science or social studies in the after school program.

For more information contact the AAP Coordinator at or stop by room A206 at Nakornpayap International School.