Sunday, 6 April 2008

Nature Day Camp for the National Dyslexia Foundation

Was up by 0600 hours on Saturday as I had somehow been persuaded and cajoled into helping out with a Nature Day Camp at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) for 77 children from the National Dyslexia Association.

These are not underprivileged children like the ones I am used to working with, and most are from families of means, so it means these children are not as used to being in the Great Outdoors as the children I have worked with. Most of these kids have just dyslexia or dyspraxia, although there were at least 5 slow learners in the Junior Group that I was to assist with.

Suzanne and Najwa, our MNS Enviro Education staff, had arranged for the Senior Group (ages 10 – 14) to do the Canopy Walk and Scavenger Hunt, while the Junior Group (ages 5 – 10) were to do the Jungle Walk and Stream Ecology. Both groups were to do the Blind Trail and Paper Recycling after lunch.

The funny thing I learned about fear and phobias is that children who have never had any prior encounters with leeches, or better yet, have never heard of leeches before, have no fear of them. They were intrigued when Suzanne picked one off her arm and showed it to them, but not really afraid. The only exceptions were those who have been scared into submission by stories of ‘bloodsucking worms’ told by parents who were initially reluctant to let their offspring join the Day Camp.

We did a short jungle walk and pointed out a dusky leaf monkey, creepers, bamboos, certain tree specie and crown shyness patterns to the children before we arrived at the second stream for their stream ecology lesson. My job, besides being a sweeper and pack mule, was to assist and guide the children and explain and repeat information to the slower ones. At the stream, I had to corral the children to make sure they did not wander off into deeper waters and I had to teach them how to collect fishes, shrimps and other small animals in their nets without killing their catch. Some of the children were more interested in throwing fistfuls of river dirt at one another. They executed enough mud-slinging to qualify as Democrats.

We released the animals back into the stream after the session and led our charges back onto the hiking trail to remove the leeches from their feet and legs. Most children were not unduly alarmed, although those who had fear of blood or of any invertebrate in general were hyperventilating with terror and had to be restrained and calmed.

The Junior Group had their lunch of fried rice, chicken nuggets and fries and I commented on the lack of vegetables and healthier options to the organisers. As the teachers and remaining adults were able to handle the post-lunch Blind Trail and Paper Recycling sessions, I asked to be excused as I had a very hectic weekend schedule.

Went back to the parental home before the parents reached home from Penang, gave Amber a bath, cleaned the house, did the laundry and sorted out the recyclables. The parents got home around 1730 hours. I took Amber on a car ride and a walk before it rained, had dinner with the family and spent the rest of the evening reviewing documents and sorting out my vouchers and receipts for income tax assessment.

This here soldier is tired out from having to wake up early on a Saturday. Whiskey Echo Lima -- Out.

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