Resources for K-12 Education

Teachable Indonesia: Grades K-8

A dozen ways to grab your students’ attention!


General Indonesia Teaching and Learning Resources

  • TOP RESOURCE: CultureGrams–You probably already know that CultureGrams is a reliable way to access basic information about countries, including maps, images, videos, interviews, economic data and histories. To access the CultureGrams website, log in to your Seattle Public Library account and visit this page. Navigate to either the “World” or “Kids” version of the Indonesia CultureGram.
    • Suggested activity: Data literacy: Use the “Build-Your-Own Graphs and Tables” tool to generate content applicable to your classroom. Try comparing Indonesia to the US or to the countries with which it shares islands: Timor-Leste, Brunei and Malaysia. The data in the graphs and tables comes from the CIA World Fact Book.

Language resources

  • The national language of Indonesia is Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). For a brief history, see Dr George Quinn’s introduction.
  • Listen to basic phrases (with helpful illustrations) and find worksheets on the Victoria State Government website.
    • Tip: There are links to the English translations and worksheet answers at the bottom of each section page.
    • Tip: Find songs to play with follow-along lyrics by looking for the word lagu (song):


Social Media: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Indonesia is often called a “social media capital,” not because everyone is online (internet penetration is estimated to be 30%) but because nearly everyone who uses the internet also actively uses social media.
  • Lesson idea: Practice reading infographics with images from Tech in Asia.
  • Indonesia occasionally makes international headlines for one of its other social traditions: smoking. Indonesia is the only Asian country that has yet to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Cigarette advertisements are everywhere in Indonesia, including around schools: story from the Jakarta Post


Indonesian Politics: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Resources for teaching about women and presidency from Rutgers
  • Short biography of Megawati from the BBC
  • Short biography of Indonesia’s current president, Joko Widodo (Jokowi) from Britannica
  • Following on the social media theme, “taking selfies and building photo collages after voting” became a “standard practice” in the 2014 election. This short article from the Wall Street Journal contains a photo gallery of images of ink-stained fingers that Indonesians posted on Instagram after the 2014 election.


Religion: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • The five principles of Pancasila (lit: five principles) provide the philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state. These are:
    1. Belief in the one and only God
    2. Just and civilized humanity
    3. The unity of Indonesia
    4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives
    5. Social justice for all of the people of Indonesia
  • Article 29 of the Indonesian constitution reads “The State shall be based upon the belief in the One and Only God. The State guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief.”
    1. Note, that there is no reference to Islam or Allah. Indonesians are assigned one of six religions at birth: Islam (87%), Christianity (6%), Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (2%), Buddhism (1%) and Confucianism (0.2%).
  • Project idea: Design a national ID card. What information so you believe should be included on an ID, and why? What information should not be included?
    1. Notes: In addition to religion, Indonesian ID cards also include the following information: marital status, occupation, and place of birth.
    2. Questions: Why doesn’t the US have a national ID card? Using the image above, can you figure out which word means “religion”?


Spices: Teaching and Learning Resources

There are many possibilities for teaching about nutmeg due to the starring role it played in the spice trade.

  • TOP RESOURCE The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center maintains a website about Indian Ocean trade routes. For information on nutmeg and mace, choose the “medieval” map from the menu at the top of the page. Then, click on the symbol over the Maluku Islands. Next, choose the “first global era” map and compare the information. These maps can be used to gather information on trade throughout the Indonesian archipelago from prehistoric times to today.
  • Lesson idea: What is a spice?
    • The Dutch East Indies Trading Company (VOC) attempted to maintain a monopoly on their “famous four” spices: nutmeg (nut), mace (aril), cloves (flower) and cinnamon (bark). All are widely available in whole form. Compare the taste of fresh-ground to pre-ground spices.
    • Suggested book for lower grades: The Yummy Alphabet Book: Herbs, Spices, and Other Natural Flavors by Jerry Pallotta
  • Additional resources:
    • “The First Silk Roads” (810L) in unit 8.3 of the Big History Project
    • Literature on nutmeg from the Food Timeline


Tempeh: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Background from NPR and
  • Lesson idea: Ferment your own tempeh!
  • You can purchase a tempeh kit online from Budiman Food.
  • In order to do this “experiment,” you will need a kitchen to boil and drain the soybeans. The rest can be done in the classroom.
  • Assuming you don’t have access to an oven in your classroom, you will need another way to incubate your tempeh. A simple solution is to place a small ice chest full of boiling water inside a larger ice chest. Incubate your tempeh inside the larger ice chest. You can control the temperature by replenishing the boiling water and/or wrapping the large ice chest in a blanket.
  • Turn this project into a true experiment by setting up two tempeh incubators, one warmer and one cooler. Ask students to make a prediction about which tempeh will be ready first based on what they know about fungi. Assign students to monitor and maintain the temperature throughout the incubating process (you will need a simple meat thermometer).
  • In addition to science concepts (measuring temperature, creating and stabilizing heat, mold, fermentation, testing hypotheses about different conditions), this project can lead in to lessons about where food comes from, food safety, and food access.
    • Most Indonesians would rather eat meat, but can’t always afford to, whereas in the US, tempeh is considered a trendy health food, available only at specialty shops.
    • In Indonesia, tempeh production is a cottage industry and is only available for purchase fresh at the market. It should be eaten within a matter of days, or it will spoil. In the US, most tempeh is factory produced and then steam pasteurized and vacuum sealed. It can last for months on the shelf. The taste is remarkably different.
    • Most soybeans in Indonesian tempeh are grown in the United States!
  • Recipes (scroll down for traditional recipes)


Indonesian Folk Tales: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • This Indonesian folk tale about Kancil the mouse deer and Pelan the snail (pelan means slow), is retold by Nathan Kumar Scott in The Great Race, illustrated by Jagdish Chitara. Kancil the mouse deer is a trickster character about who there are many stories from Malaysia as well as Indonesia. Two of those stories can be found in Scott’s other books, Mangoes and Bananas and The Sacred Banana Leaf. The art in each of the three books is done by a different illustrator in their native South Asian styles.
    • Book review from Saffron Tree
    • Note: You will also see Kancil spelled “Kantjil” an “Kanchil”
  • Lesson idea: Fables and Trickster Tales from around the World ideas from Edsitement.
  • Teaching inspiration from Indospire
  • Cinderella tales are found throughout the Old World. The Gift of the Crocodile by Judy Sierra tells a Cinderella story set in Halmahera, the island in the Malukus where cloves originated.


Gamelan: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • TOP RESOURCE Explore gamelan sounds and instruments online: This interactive website from The Museum of International Folk Art provides easy-to-digest information about gamelan and wayang kulit. This link takes you to the instrument page, but you are encouraged to click around!
  • Watch performances on YouTube: For recommended videos, songs, and a few lesson ideas, visit the Fun Music Company
  • Eager for a live performance? Check out Seattle’s Gamelan Pacifica.
  • “Virtual Gamelans”
    • Apps: Search the IOS or Android app store for “Virtual Javanese Gamelan”. This app allows the user to touch instruments to generate unique sounds.
  • CultureGram Videos: CultureGram also has a concise series of videos about gamelan! Log in to the CultureGram website (you can access it through the Seattle Public Library website at this page). Then, navigate to the “video gallery”: Home > World Edition > Asia >  Indonesia >  Video Gallery. You will find this series of videos: Gamelan Instruments (6:49), Gamelan Orchestra (2:41), Becoming a Musician (3:33), Bronze Instruments (2:35), etc


Komodo Dragons: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Try enriching a lesson about reptiles, endangered species, or conservation with Kraken-ka The Komodo Dragon a contemporary folk tale by Jodi Parry Belknap, Tamara Montgomery and Joseph Dodd (Illustrator), professors in the Drama Department at the University of Hawaii. In it, Naga teaches Kraken-ka, the first Komodo dragon, a lesson about self-control. The accompanying CD includes templates for creating wayang kulit-style puppets to accompany the story, as well as lessons about Komodo dragon food chains and diets. These lessons can be supplemented with one of several science books about Komodo dragons. Another picture book that can be used to pique students’ interest is Komodo! by Peter Sis.

10-Wallace Line

Evolution: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Alas, there is no children’s book about Alfred Russel Wallace, the Victorian explorer who developed the theory of evolution at around the same time as Darwin.
  • Instead of publishing his theory, Wallace traveled throughout what is today Indonesia. His observations are collected in The Annotated Malay Archipelago and formed the basis for what is today known as the Wallace Line, the deep ocean trench that separates the Australian continental shelf from the Asian continental shelf. Wallace had no understanding of plate tectonics, but deduced this line from the differences between the flora and fauna on either side. For an elementary explanation of the Wallace Line see The Day the World Exploded: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa by Simon Winchester (pgs 38-41) and Little People and a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by Linda Goldenberg (pgs 31-33).
  • For a short explanation of Wallace and Darwin, check out Charles Darwin and the Mystery of Mysteries by Niles Eldredge and Susan Pearson (pgs 108-116)
  • Map of the Wallace Line from Wikipedia 
  • Lesson idea: While intended for grades 7-8, this lesson from NOAA may serve as inspiration for lower grades. It was developed in conjunction with a joint USA-Indonesia exploratory probe of some of the waters along the Wallace Line.
  • Newsela Article: People catch more sickness from monkeys where forests are cut down” (Grade level: 3+):


Homo floresiensis: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Little People and a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by Linda Goldenberg covers the homo floresienses controversy at a middle school reading level. It explains advanced concepts such as evolution, DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating, as well as the nature of the political and scientific disputes over the fossils, which were discovered in 2003. For a shorter introduction to the debate, see these articles form the Bradshaw Foundation and the Smithsonian Magazine.  For an update from 2014, see this article from the Bradshaw Foundation.
  • Discussion questions: What motivated prehistoric humans to sail off into the unknown to search for new islands? How can we know from where people migrated and when? There are clues in present-day languages!


Krakatoa and the Ring of Fire: Teaching and Learning Resources

  • Krakatoa (aka Krakatau) was an island volcano located between Java and Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. It erupted in 1883, killing somewhere between 36,000 and 120,000 people.
  • Although written for elementary readers, The Day the World Exploded: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa by Simon Winchester contains a treasure trove of information about Krakatoa. It is an illustrated adaptation of the author’s bestselling Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded (which was written for an adult audience). The stories and primary sources in this book could add a cultural and/or historical dimension to your volcano science lesson.
  • There is no shortage of online resources about Krakatoa, the Ring of Fire, volcanoes, and plate tectonics. Here is a short video about Krakatoa to get you started:

 PDF version

PDF: Teachable Indonesia: 12 ways to grab your students’ attention