Heritage Discovery Trails was a programme which involved the design and execution of a series of thematic heritage trails for primary and secondary school children in the heritage site of George Town. The interactive and educational trails were designed and conducted by Arts-ED in collaboration with George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) and 12 volunteers. A centralised coordination unit was set up at GTWHI to promote and manage Heritage Discovery Trails for school students.

Taboo & Traditions (9)

Recruitment flier for Volunteers and Guides Training Programme

Recruitment flier for Volunteers and Guides Training Programme


1.1 Programme Name

Heritage Heboh Programme, Arts-ED Penang, 2006-2013

1.2 Project Title

Heritage Discovery Trails, 2011-2013

1.3 Context and Objective

The inscription of George Town, Penang as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008, attracted a large volume of adult visitors to the site. In 2009, Arts-ED, an organisation dedicated to arts, culture and heritage education began producing walking tours for school students. In 2011, George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), decided to support an expansion of educational programmes which could bring more young people into the site. Arts-ED and GTWHI joined resources to recruit and train public volunteers as community facilitators and educational tour guides. The guide training and trail development aimed to address the need to a scale up the number of walking tours for schools, the need for a wider range of tailor-made walks for different ages, and to provide pedagogical and facilitation skills to guides which would enable them to carry out interactive activities with students.

1.4 Project Description

Heritage Discovery Trails was a programme which involved the design and execution of a series of thematic heritage trails for primary and secondary school children in the heritage site of George Town. The interactive and educational trails were designed and conducted by Arts-ED in collaboration with George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) and 12 volunteers. A centralised coordination unit was set up at GTWHI to promote and manage Heritage Discovery Trails for school students.

1.5 Source Material

The heritage site had already been frequently researched and written about by academics, historians and the community, but the materials were scattered. Arts-ED collated and edited material from articles, books, and magazines to produce a comprehensive Resource Kit as a teaching and learning aid for tour guides and facilitators. The Resource Kit provided a summary of the historical development of the site as well as traced migration, settlements, and the lifestyle and legacies of settlers.

As both the site and the community were important sources of information, trainees spent a lot of time exploring and observing the site and interacting with the community to obtain more personal stories.

Supporting Archival Material:

Resource Kit_George Town Heritage Walking Trail

1.6 Producing Organisation

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) in collaboration with Arts-ED
GTWHI coordinator: Lim Chung Wei
Arts-ED coordinators: Fidel Ho Fai Fong and Chen Yoke Pin

1.7 Project Initiators


1.8 Project Instructors

Project Instructors:

Trainers: Janet Pillai and Ho Sheau Fung
External Evaluator: Mark Vossen

1.9 Participants

Participants for the heritage tours were primary and secondary students from local schools in Penang; each group of 20 students was led by one tour guide.

Primary Schools 16
Secondary Schools 17
TOTAL  No. of  Schools 33
TOTAL No. of Students 1140
TOTAL No. of Teachers 80

1.10 Events and Activities

Guide Training
May – July  2011 Recruitment and audition of adult volunteers GTWHI George Town 40 out of 120 applicants were shortlisted for volunteer training
31 July – 28 August Training Workshop

Phase 1:9 “ Understanding Heritage for specialised volunteers and guides

GTWHI George Town
29 – 30 October 2-day workshop for general heritage volunteers GTWHI George Town
Trail Development
3 September – 29 October 2011 Phase 2: “How to Design and execute heritage trails

3-new thematic trails were researched and designed

George Town 15 volunteer guides
Execution of Tours
4 October – 17 November 2011 Pilot run and assessment George Town 42 pilot trails by 12 guides, held in 3 languages
March 2012 – March 2013 An upgrade and continuation of the 2009 and 2011 trails. George Town

1.11 Promotional Material/Catalogue/Programme

Several channels were utilised to recruit adults for the volunteer training, these included emails, press releases, printed media, and distributing leaflets to arts, culture and heritage organisations, colleges and alumni associations, churches and temples, and housing organisations.

The Promotion of the tours to the student population was by way of fliers and sign up forms to school principals. The form included a write-up detailing each available trail.

Supporting Archival Materials

Flier for Volunteers and Guides Training Programme

Flier and Sign-up Form for Schools

Sample write-up of a Trail – extracted from Page 8 of Heritage Discovery Walk 2011 Report

1.12 Final Script/Final Curriculum

A module was prepared for each of the trails. Each module consisted of a content guide, visual aids for the guides, an introductory slideshow, and worksheets functioning as an interactive and reflective tool for the students. Soft and hard copies of modules for all interactive trails are available in the AEAM repository in Arts-ED.

Supporting Archival Material

Taboos and Traditions Trail – Curriculum

Taboo and Traditions Trail – Introductory Slideshow

Taboo and Traditions – Visual Aid

Taboos and Traditions – Student Worksheets [BROKEN LINK]

1.13 Multimedia Documentation

In 2011, 2 videos were made documenting the project. The first, entitled ‘Friends of George Town Heritage’ highlights the volunteer training and was presented at the project launch. The video is in English and Mandarin.

The second video entitled ‘Taboos and Traditions’ documents students being led on an interactive guided tour on the 16th of November 2011. The video is in Mandarin.

Supporting Archival Material

Friends of George Town Heritage – Video 2011

Taboos and Traditions Trail – Video 2011

1.14 Previews and Reviews

“Friends Mohd Saiful Azhar, Mohd Yusop Samsudin and Mohd Shamirul Alif, all aged 13, found the ‘Stories of Early Settlers’ tour a fun and enlightening experience, and it was their first time visiting the area.”

Journey of discovery – 40 school kids taken on a tour of George Town Heritage Sites
The Star Metro, 1st May 2012

Supporting Archival Materials

Unknown (2012, 1 May). 40 school kids taken on a tour of George Town heritage. The Star Metro, p.4.

1.15 Publications


1.16 Photographs

Soft copies of the photos are available in the AEAM repository.

1.17 Final Report/Project Evaluation:

The Heritage Discovery Trails Volunteer Training Programme was evaluated and a final report was made available to GTWHI.  At the end of 2011, the walking tours conducted with the student population were also evaluated. Individual guides conducting tours with students were also periodically assessed by experienced observers, who provided feedback and advice on the guide’s delivery.

Supporting Archival Materials


REPORT- Heritage Discovery Walks 2011


Synopsis of Story:

An example of how the interactive trails were conducted with students can be discerned from this video documentation of the Taboos and TraditionTrail with participants from a Chinese primary school (SRJK [C] Tong San) in November 2011. This trail focused on introducing students to intangible cultural heritage such as the taboos, symbolism, and local knowledge found in community practices and in some tangible items on site. The video is in Mandarin.

Supporting Archival Materials
Taboos and Traditions Trail – Video 2011


Between May and August 2009, Arts-ED collaborated with a few child-friendly professional guides to develop and execute a heritage tour for students entitled ‘Migration Settlements Walk’. This informational and interactive walk was able to accommodate class sizes of 30-40 students within a limited time frame of 3-hours which was allocated by schools. This walk was used as a prototype to develop 3 additional trails, which catered to different ages with different themes.

Guide Training
The Guide Training Curriculum was in-line with the objectives of programme; to increase human resource to scale-up walking tours for schools, to offer a wider range of tailor-made walks for different ages, and to provide pedagogical and facilitation skills to guides.

The guide training was conducted on weekends over a period of 3-months. Guides were required to undergo 2 phases of training:

Phase 1: Understanding of Heritage and the George Town site and community
Phase 2: How to Design and Execute Heritage Trails

Training in Phase 1 focused on understanding the concept of heritage, the principles underlying a World Heritage Site, and the history of the site. In addition, participants also learned simple interviewing and documentation techniques and how to cull information from communities.

Out of the 40 participants who participated in Phase 1, a total of 15 participants were selected to undergo the second phase of the training on devising and conducting trails; this selection was based on their interest and knowledge in heritage, their previous experience as a tour guide, and their language facility as the school tours needed to accommodate 3 languages: Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia, and English.

Supporting Archival Materials

Guide Training Curriculum – extracted from Page 6 and 7 of Report for Friends of George Town Heritage Training

Trail Design and Development
Phase 2 of the training focused on interpretation, storytelling techniques, understanding target audiences, and developing suitable thematic trails with relevant activities.

The trails were designed primarily to provide students with information and appreciation of George Town’s multicultural heritage. Accurate information dispensed by guides was considered as important as hands-on activities for experiential learning. Community interaction was also built into the trails, which also encouraged interdisciplinary understanding of history, geography, art and culture.

Each of the trails introduced the intimate relationship between the built and living heritage legacies of the different settler groups. For example, students learnt stories of how and why settlers migrated, how their architecture was determined by crafting skills, geography, and cultural needs, as well as how trees were transplanted from their homeland for symbolic or functional value.

Trails began off-site with a slideshow which introduced students to the concept of heritage, while providing a historical context to the site they will visit. The on-site section of the trail incorporated two components; a guided tour and hands-on activities outlined in a worksheet.

Each volunteer guide provided background information on a building or artefact, after which students were encouraged to explore the site, interview the community to obtain more information, take photos, or enter information into their worksheets. Upon returning to their workstations, facilitators checked students’ worksheets and data collection, and conducted group reflection exercises.

The informational cum active learning approach used in the trail was designed to inspire students to:

• ask critical questions
• think systemically
• use their senses
• understand culture from an interdisciplinary perspective

Three thematic educational trails were developed by Arts-ED in collaboration with 12 trained volunteer guides. Each trail was custom-made for a different age group of students. The trails for primary children were shorter and centred around the GTWHI office, while the trail for the secondary students was longer and covered a larger area of the heritage site. The trails were:

• Stories of Early Settlers 2011
• Secret Society Trail 2011 
• Taboos & Traditions 2011 
• Migration History and Settlements of George Town (upgraded from a 2009 tour)

Supporting Archival Materials

Description of the 4 Heritage Trails, extracted from Heritage Discovery Walk 2011 Report (page 4)

Promotion and Execution of Trails
A centralised co-ordination unit was set up at GTWHI to promote and manage Heritage Discovery Trails for school students. This meant a dedicated officer from GTWHI handled promotion and the coordination of school visits to the site, scheduling, and the payment of guides.

Once the trails were developed, the coordination unit obtained permission from the State Education Department for schools to participate in the walking tours. The trails were then promoted to all schools in Penang Island, with approximately 30 schools agreeing to participate. Schools paid a token sum for the walks and this payment was channelled to the guides. In just over 3-months the programme managed to reach a total of 1140 students.

The execution of the walks over the first 3-months in 2011 (approx. 60 walks) were treated as a pilot test of the newly developed trails. In 2012, the 2009 trail entitled ‘Migration Settlements Walk’ was also upgraded and renamed ‘Cultural Heritage Trail: Migration History and Settlements of George Town’. An introductory slideshow on George Town was created in 3 languages and used as a prelude to the trails, in order to provide students with a historical context. Improved versions of all 4 trails were offered to schools in Penang between March 2012 and March 2013.

Evaluation was a critical part of this programme as it was set-up to be a sustainable long-term educational programme. The pilot tours conducted in 2011 were evaluated and the contents of the trails were upgraded.

Guides who conducted the tours with students were also periodically assessed by experienced observers who provided them with feedback on their presentation skills as well as content and participant management. It was discovered that while the best candidates for conducting student tours are professional guides, with strength in conveying information, but they still lacked skills in facilitating interactive activities.

The programme has since been outsourced to Arts-ED who continues to provide this service to the student population but the number of walks has reduced due to the organisations inability to provide a dedicated coordinating unit. An interesting development is that the guides who designed the walks feel a sense of ownership and still conduct the walks free of charge today (2019).

Supporting Archival Materials

Evaluator Report on Guide Training – extracted from Page 12 and 13 of Report for Friends of George Town Heritage Training

Guide Training Curriculum – extracted from Page 6 and 7 of Report for Friends of George Town Heritage Training



Paul Clement Gerarts
Participated in Heritage Discovery Trails 2011-2013, co-designing and conducting The Early Settlers trail from age 64 to 66 years old.  Has since designed and conducted
 several heritage walks in both George Town, Penang and Kuching, Sarawak.

I was very much interested in George Town’s Heritage and wanted to learn more. It became even more interesting when I was selected for the guide-training, which allowed me to get an even better knowledge of the communities that were covered by the trail. Moreover the project teached me how to make interactive trails that could capture the interest of students. Although, I also did the trail with an adult friend who was as enthusiast over the interaction as the students were!

I remember a walk about the specific Penang spices, a workshop on photography and a guided tour of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion as an example of conducting a guided heritage trail. As we had 2 different communities: Chinese of Khoo Kongsi and Achenese Malay of the Acheh Mosque, we finally came up with 2 different interactive stories which allowed students to go back in time and get an understanding of what the early settlers of George Town experienced. For each community we designed a booklet with questions and tasks. At the end of each site visit, the students also had to draw in small groups a floorplan of the site and stick several icon’s on particular places. At the end of the trail, they had to compare the 2 floorplans and the different icons to appreciate that although the communities were quite different, they had similar structures and concerns for the wellbeing of their respective communities. 

With immediate responses and interaction from the students, we could adapt our presentations and grow further in our trail. The allotted time of 3 hours maximum, meant that we had to stick rigorously to our timing and it was hard work to keep them going and supervise their exercises. [The main two skills I learnt were] how to properly manage a group on a heritage trail and a structured way to design heritage trails.

I am convinced that the importance of the communities’ heritage is necessarily brought to youngsters in a way that they appreciate and can absorb. It should give them a base and appreciation to protect their heritage in the future.

I am in a special position that – as an expatriate – I am not belonging to any community here. Thanks to projects like this, I have been able to get involved and I hope that in the future I can still participate in any community projects that I am capable of helping with.


Josephine Chan
Participated in Heritage Discovery Trails 2011-2013, as a volunteer guide at the age of 42

I joined the project because I wanted to have more exposure on our heritage sites, culture, and traditions. There were guided tours, specific workshops on tangible and intangible heritage, cross culture/mixed culture, settlements, facilitation process, etc. We would brainstorm with group mates on objectives and learning outcomes of the heritage trail project, conduct background research on taboos and traditions – which then later became traditional customs, went on-site to establish the trail, identify suitable spots for explanation, developed activity worksheets for participants, props/visual aids/ ppt slides for the guides to use, developed the script for volunteer guides to use to, and important points to highlight. This was to ensure consistency of the guides’ storytelling process on the traditional customs. After this phase, we onducted a pilot study to test out the trail. Feedback given by both children and facilitators were taken into consideration and the trail/script were amended accordingly.

It was very stressful but rewarding when actually conducting the trail that we developed. The written flow and timing of the trail enabled cross-training of volunteers from other trails. So felt proud about it. Was also happy to see the response from the participants when taking them on the traditional customs trail. Everyone had fun but most importantly, they become more aware about these traditional customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. I most remember the tough love from Janet Pillai during our journey of becoming a volunteer guide! Hehehe… Seriously, really loved all the interesting and informative workshops given during the Volunteer Guide programme.

I picked up the storytelling and facilitation skills, and learnt that you need to have a passion in whatever you’re assigned to do. The job will then be done well and you will not get bored with it. Always have a give and take attitude, be open to constructive criticisms, and there’s always room for improvement.  

The number of trails conducted for school children has definitely created more awareness on traditional customs and local heritage sites. Interviews conducted by participants with the local community are confidence booster for the participants while keeping the local community engaged.  Would definitely like to be involved again in the community when time permits.


Fidel Ho
Participated in Heritage Discovery Trails 2011-2013, as a trail designer and heritage guide from the age of 47 to 49 years old.

I was interested in heritage and enjoyed working with school children, and was very excited to design our own trail too. During the process, we were given sites visits and training and a lot of brain storming sessions to developed the trails. It was a very fulfilling and we had a lot of “job satisfaction” as we were given a chance to develop our own trail with guidance from Arts-Ed. Was grateful to learn about our own culture and history. 

What I remember most is that a lot of hard work and commitment was needed, clashes of different ideas. a lot of trail runs and agony of “back to square one” was unavoidable part of the process. In the end there is no such thing as a “perfect trail”. But I learnt to understand what would interest the school students, and develop something that appeals to young people. Also, I learnt how to write a lesson plan. I am now able to work with young people and people from different age groups.

I also learnt that a lot of people cannot or refuse to accept the truth of what really happened in the past. Through this project, a lot of school children had the the chance to learn history and heritage in a fun way. The community involved also felt proud that their culture and heritage were being appreciated and were able to contribute to be part of the learning process of the young generation.

I hope to be more involved in the community in the future.