People and Places


Living on the coastlands:
The case of the Sama-Bajau in the Coral Triangle

This lesson examines how rice agriculture becomes central to the development of communities in lowland South-East Asia. It uses the case of the Kingdom of Bagan, in the dry plains of nowadays Myanmar, as an example The lesson highlights the relationship religion and agriculture.

Subject History / Social Studies
Topic Living on the coastlands: The case of the Sama-Bajau in
the Coral Triangle
Key idea Across time, people respond to the varied natural environment of a region in multiple ways which shape their worldviews and way of life.
Key concepts Environment, highlands, lowlands, coastlands
People, worldviews, way of life
Commonalities and diversities
Level Lower secondary
No. of periods / lessons 1 period  (1 period is approximately 50 minutes)
Facilities needed A/V equipment and Internet access to play the video clips (or hard copy with similar content)
Paper and pens
Sources and handouts for distribution
Prerequisite knowledge  No prerequisite knowledge required

Learning objectives
By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to:

  1. Identify the geographic region known as
    the Coral Triangle, and where that territory
    overlaps with diverse groups of sea nomads.
  2. List key features and the significance of
    features of homes along coastlands and
    those on the sea.
  3. Link the way houses are built and the way
    of life in a community to the environment
  1. Examine maps to identify the regions where
    diverse groups of sea nomads live.
  2. Interpret sources to compare and contrast
    living along coastlands and living on the
  1. Demonstrate awareness of how people
    respond in multiple ways to the
    environment, which can influence their
    way of life.
  2. Cooperate in groups to complete task at


Download the lesson plan for details on the talks and activities suggested below.

1. Hook

Students watch a short video or photographs of Sama-Bajau people and guess who they are.

2. Teacher talk

The Coral Triangle is a region located between the Pacific and Indian Ocean with a very rich biodiversity. Sea nomads have inhabited this area for centuries, living in close symbiosis with the sea. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the Orang Laut played a special role in the development of Southeast Asian port cities. Nowadays they relay on traditional fishing and environmental changes are impacting on their living conditions.

3. Source (map) analysis

In groups, students analyze various maps of the Coral Triangle.

4. Group work: Taking perspectives

Two groups  compare the characteristics of living in a house on the coast and living in a boat.

5. Reflection

Students reflect on how living at sea influence people’s way of life.
Students and teacher conclude that our way of life (housing) is shaped by the
environment we live in.