Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunshine and smiles at the Eco Kids Junior Day Camp

It had rained all week, but the sun had been kind to us on Saturday, December 5, the morning of the Eco Kids Junior Day Camp at our Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Urban Nature Centre in Jalan Kelantan.

Fair weather greeted us when we arrived at our Urban Nature Centre.

Sometime in October, I had proposed the idea of a free-of-charge Eco Kids Day Camp for children aged 4 - 8, as they are often inadvertently excluded from MNS' more challenging activities. I worked out the preparations and requested the assistance of trustworthy volunteers in coordinating the Camp.

Volunteers John and Brian spruce up Heritage Trail a day before the Camp. "Anything for the little dears", teases Nature Guide Ashleigh.

(Photo credits: Ashleigh)

We were able to keep the project zero-cost and zero-waste by requesting that participants bring their own lunch, drinks, mosquito repellent, and basic art equipment such as palettes and brushes. There was no necessity for packed lunches, goodie bags and disposable packaging. Nature isn't supposed to be a Happy Meal With A Free Toy Inside! It was also a good way of leading by example, and teaching the children that when we put the Planet first, everyone wins! 31 children registered for the Camp and turned up at our gates bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with parents in tow.

Children can be makeshift tables when there are indemnity forms to be signed! Judging by the way Tobey Isaac is giggling, the pen must have tickled!
(Photo credits: Cindy Chen)

Hadif leaned away as his mother, Tiara, applied mosquito repellent on his arms prior to the Nature Walk. I first met Tiara during an island holiday in Pulau Tinggi in 2001 and we have kept in touch since. I was delighted when Tiara decided to sign up for a Malaysian Nature Society membership and enroll Hadif in our Camp.
(Photo credits: Cindy Chen)

Pasupathy Jayaraj, more fondly known as Pasu, our engaging Nature Guide, explains jungle ecology to the children during their guided walk through Heritage Trail, which forms part of Federal Hill. Green lungs such as Federal Hill form buffer zones that encourage urban biodiversity, create opportunities for nature recreation and provide ecological services such as improving air, water and soil quality.
(Photo credits: Cindy Chen)

Nature Guide Ashleigh looks every part the Mountain Man as he explains wilderness survival techniques to the fascinated children and parents.

Cerys can't wait to begin her trail walk.

The Green Living Guessing Game piqued the children's curiosity, sharpened their sense of smell, touch and hearing and created opportunity for discussion on the environmental implications of each object.

Where does this object come from? Is it man-made? Can it be easily recycled or composted? What can you reuse it for? What is it a good alternative for?

(Photo credits: Cindy Chen)

"You said I can't say it out loud, but I sure can act it out!"
(Photo credits: Cindy Chen)

The children took only minutes to warm up to each other and became friends with each other by the end of the first game.

Aloysius tries spinning a top made of a 'kas' seed and bamboo skewer. The toys made out of natural materials fascinated the children the most.

Lara complains, "I can't see!", while Matthew responds: "That's the whole point!"

Tiara helped me out with blindfolding the children. As is appropriate with International Volunteer Day, the parents provided valuable help.

Lillian whips out a piece of iguana skin for the children to feel, and to provide an interactive lesson on why reptiles like snakes and lizards shed their skin.

The art project proved a little too challenging for the children. For that, I apologise. I should have chosen an easier project. I guess we all learn through trial and error.

The children created 'spray paint art' using unwanted plastic combs and old toothbrushes dipped in poster paints.

Time for an active game! The children hunt for paper caterpillars in a game that teaches them about insect camouflage and protective colouration. Some of the children took my advice to ‘pretend you are a bird’ literally and actually chirped and flapped their arms as they went about in search of prey.

The children were supposed to bring their caterpillars back to me for comparison, but two little girls decided to make a 'nest' out of pebbles to keep their caterpillars safe in.

Volunteering is a rewarding pastime, as Pasu will no doubt tell you! Pasu is the recipient of the 2007 MNS Branch Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions as a volunteer and is an extraordinary trainer of nature guides. I guess you can retire a teacher from active service, but you can never truly take the teacher out of them! Pasu was a former school headmistress but now devotes her time mostly to nature guiding and Malaysian Nature Society activities.

I had initially started the Eco Kids programme for the MNS Selangor Branch as a value-added programme in 2006 to keep the Society relevant for families, but it has since evolved into a programme encompassing the following beliefs:
i. That nature is for everyone, not just the physically fit among us;
ii. That nobody is too young to learn about and practice environmental conservation;
iii. That a love for our natural environment requires more than just exposure to flora and fauna,
and children should be equipped with basic knowledge about conservation practices such as the 3Rs (reducing, reusing and recycling) and water and energy conservation; and
iv. That young voices should be heard.

I would like to thank the following volunteers for their invaluable help in making the Eco Kids Junior Day Camp a success. All shortcomings and failings remain my sole responsibility:
Ashleigh, Pasu, Brian, John, Li Li, Li-Kim, Ili Fatimah, Lillian, Maye and Hashimi.

Many Thanks and A Happy International Volunteer Day to all.


mum said...

so this is what i (and my firstborn) missed...

almost felt like we were part of the whole thing though -- this post was SO MEATY(very non vegetarian of me, what?);-)

when the baby grows up a bit -- then we'll all attend (i am telling myself this aloud)

a wonderful effort, as always.
am running off to vote, now

mum said...

i cant seem to vote?
its still pending...
ok lah will come back then.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Mum-In-Malaysia, voting has been approved, so please do drop by again!

Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry your son couldn't make it. We are always trying to introduce nature appreciation to more children, especially those who have previously had too little exposure to nature. 4 years old is about the right age to get started.

Pat said...

Lovely post, E. You look so happy and alive in that pix of you!

Voted for you ;)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks, Pat! Alive? Exhausted, more like! The kids were really funny. The things they come up with, ha ha!

mNadeshiko said...

yup. i really agree on that. their point of view is very interesting.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Hi Ili! Thanks for being such a big help. Was trying to find photos of you but couldn't find any. :o( Next Fri, then! I have the list of 80 kids. Will email it to you if you need it, otherwise I'll use the list to check and label presents.

Anonymous said...

excellent post ee lynn. God gave us the sunshine but you and the other volunteers certainly help put the smiles on each child that day.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Anonymous at 5.46 a.m.,
Thank you! Are you one of the parents or volunteers, please?

wiccanlilly said...

Hi Ee Lynn, thanks for being the brainchild behind this :-)

Am glad Willow was able to "participate" with her molted skin. Hehehe....

Thanks for getting a shot of my belly. Gosh... it looks really big.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Wish I was there too! Hmmm...would love to play with caterpillars. Are they ticklish? purrr...
BTW, my Mama said she was a member of MNS way back in late 80s/early 90s. Loved the AGMs held in CH, Boh Tea Plantations. Those were the days, she said. purrr..meow!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Hi Lillian! You looked great, lah! Glowing Mum-To-Be. An inspiration to people everywhere who think that volunteering and charity work are things they do only after retirement or when the children have grown up and left home.

It's always good to have you around, you always manage to engage the audience so well. A born emcee, ha ha!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Kitties In Sydney, are you sure you won't be afraid of caterpillars?

Does your Mama mean the Boh Tea Plantations MNS Nature Education Centre? Those wooden barracks way up in Cameron Highlands, with gas cylinders for hot water? I love that place, for Gunung Cantek if not for anything else. But it is so deathly cold there at night! The walls are thin, the insects are plump and the morning mist hits you like a big white opaque curtain! Brill!

Unknown said...

What a great learning situation with sturdy people like the volunteers to lend a hand. Well done!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Hi there, Keats! Thanks for coming over! Would you like me to keep you informed of future activities, in case you are able to come help out with the storytelling and crafts?

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