STARTING POINT: Children and their parents listen attentively to instructors at the Blok Miring open amphitheater, where they explain the day's activities. (JP/Multa Fidrus)
Hundreds of children gathered cheerfully to learn together at Kandank Jurank Doank, a community nature "school" founded and managed by singer and TV presenter Dik Doank.
The school is located in the Elvita housing complex of Sawah Lama subdistrict in Ciputat, Tangerang, where Dik lives. It is surrounded by a perfect landscape with football and basketball courts, a library, rumah pintar (activities center) and a small music studio. Other facilities include rice fields, fish ponds, an outbound playground, railroads and Blok Miring, which has an open amphitheater.
In high spirits, the children recently sat at the Blok Miring to hear instructions from Dik Doank and friends on what to do during class.
Dik himself usually greets the students at the opening of the Sunday class: "Adik-adik (little sisters/brothers), how are you today? Welcome back to Kandank Jurank Doank -- it's great to see you again!"
He encouraged the children who were visiting the school to ask as many questions as possible about everything and anything they wanted to know about the lesson of the day.
"Today, we will learn how to make bags and pencil cases from used cardboard and soft drink cans, and after the session, you will follow a series of outbound activities in groups," Dik said. "Have you prepared scissors, glue, used cans and cardboard as we told you last week?"
"Sudah, Kakak! (Yes, big brother)" the children answered in unison.
Dik divided the students into several groups to be guided by dozens of volunteers in the day's activities.
The outbound activity involved climbing, walking across a bamboo pole in the rice field and fishing.
OVER THE POND: An outbound activities facility at the school offers children some wet fun, with a pond and a suspended bamboo pole. (JP/Multa Fidrus)
The school is open from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Sunday, and is free of charge.
Wearing play clothes and flip-flops, and carrying schoolbags containing coloring pencils, rulers and paper for class, dozens of children come enthusiastically to Kandank Jurank Doank every Sunday for the extra lessons.
One of the children, 8 year-old Bianca, looked up curiously earlier this month, when The Jakarta Post approached her and her friends with a camera in hand.
"Are you going to take pictures and write a story about us?" she asked.
Bianca, who is nicknamed "Chacha", is a student at Pondok Ranji state elementary school. She said she enjoyed learning at Kandank Jurank Doank, because she and her friends could learn things they did not at a formal school.
"We don't have to pay for everything we learn at this school, and the kakak-kakak are very kind," she told the Post, referring to the volunteer instructors as "big brothers and sisters".
Speaking with the Post while observing the children, Nurhayati Khavivah, 36, who lives in Pamulang, said she brought her 7 year-old daughter to Kandank Jurank Doank because she wanted her daughter to learn about nature and play with other children in beautiful surroundings.
"My husband and I found it difficult to find simple words to explain about nature to my curious daughter," she added.
The mother of two said all activities at the nature school were highly valuable for the children, because formal schools did not provide the interactive programs, outdoor activities or exposure to celebrities that Kandank Jurank Doank did.
Other parents also praised Dik Doank for the attention he had given to children's education through establishing the school.
Dik Doank said he had initially established a painting and music learning group for about a dozen children in the neighborhood when he moved to the complex in 1994.
Over time, the learning group developed into the Kandank Jurank Doank community school, which now has 2,500 regular students from the neighborhood and nearby subdistricts.
The children can try a number of activities at the school, from painting to crafts, from music to singing, and from football to nature walks.
"We frequently invite celebrities as star lecturers, and the lessons we present each time are adjusted to the guest star's field. If we have no guest star, I usually handle the classes myself, along with 45 crew members," Dik said.
He said the crew all worked on a volunteer basis, without pay.
"All of them are volunteers who have a concern for children's education. Through this school, we want to create a nation that does not imitate other nations, but one that has its own identity," Dik said.