Introducing Indonesia, subtitled Bhinenneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) published by Scholastic, comprised a 16-page booklet, a teaching poster, and an essay contest. The booklet contained eight reproducible pages, presenting firsthand historical accounts, economic and geographical information, and hands-on activities (batik and map creation) with background information about Indonesia. The teaching poster (reproduced as the front page of the booklet) was a 4 color drawing by an Indonesian artist containing modern and ancient images of Indonesia such as the komodo dragon, rice paddies, a mosque, the Palapa satellite, an oil and gas tanker, an orangutan, and a wayang kulit puppet. Inside the booklet was a key to the images as well as lesson plans based on Marco Polo’s visit to Sumatra, the explosion of the Krakatau volcano, the remarkable change in Indonesia’s export profile from 17% non-oil to 68% in less than 10 years, and the importance of rubber to the US auto market and rice to Indonesia’s. Through this program Indonesia would finally be known for the beauty and richness of its land, people, and cultures as well as its economic importance to the American economy. (Click Here to View the Booklet Online)
80,000 teachers were sent the materials and at least 65,000 used them with approximately 1 million students in grades 7-12. We later learned that a class at the famous Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., attended by President Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, employed them.
The motivation for American teachers to use the materials was the contest. Students were challenged to submit an essay –300 words or less—on why an understanding of Indonesia is important to the people of the United States. If a student in their class won, the teacher would accompany the student and their parents on a 14-day visit to Indonesia, culminating in a stay in Bali.
6 students from across the United States (New York, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Florida, Missouri) were chosen as winners. Tony Agus Ardie, Chairman of the US Committee of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, had the brilliant idea that Indonesia was too big to cover as one group, but dividing them into three for the first week — and asking everyone to share their experiences when they gathered again in Jakarta later– would maximize the experience. After meeting in Singapore, 2 students and their parents were escorted to Sulawesi (Manado), 2 to West Sumatra (Padang), and 2 to North Sumatra (Medan). In Jakarta, the whole group attended the August 17 ceremonies at the Presidential Palace, met with President Suharto (left) and Vice President Sudharmono, and attended a reception hosted by US Ambassador Stapleton Roy that included the program’s patron, Hartarto, Minister of Industry and Trade Other highlights of the trip included: Tangkuban Prahu, a volcano above Bandung; the tea estates at Puncak; a 45 minute hike through the jungle to the Bahorok orangutan rehabilitation center in North Sumatra; the Bunakan underwater sea gardens in Manado; a meeting with Prince Prabukusumo at the kraton in Jogjakarta; a visit to IPTN, Indonesia’s world-class aircraft manufacturer; learning local dances in Padang; and viewing the kecak dance in Ubud.
Everywhere the students went they visited high schools and met their counterparts, sharing their common experiences, exchanging addresses, learning to experience new foods like the durian, as well as religions (Islam and Hindusim). Tony assigned KIKAS members as escorts throughout the time the group was in Indonesia and these included former Consul Generals, Ministers and senior executives. Motorcycle escorts eased travel along crowded streets. Tony made everyone feel like a celebrity. The passion he had for America and for sharing his Indonesia with Americans was plain to see.
For several years following the group’s return, AICC arranged for a booth at the National Conference of Social Studies, enthusiastically manned by the Scholastic Ambassadors themselves: teachers who had been on the trip. Another 10,000 US teachers and curriculum coordinators stopped by to pick up the Introducing Indonesia booklet and hear from their peers why they had to include Indonesia in their social studies and geography lessons.