Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Teachers' Workshop at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park

Education...is painful, continual and difficult work to be done in kindness, by watching, by warning,... by praise, but above all -- by example.
~ John Ruskin

Environmental education has always been one of the main pillars and objectives of the Malaysian Nature Society. For decades, we have conducted and facilitated environmental stewardship programmes and coordinated Nature Clubs for schools, usually on a shoestring budget, usually almost entirely run by our ragtag team of highly dedicated volunteers.

The Kelab Pencinta Alam (KPA) Teachers' Workshop is usually an annual affair (although we were not able to organise one last year) held at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park for 30 - 40 teachers from national schools and facilitated entirely by MNS Selangor volunteers. The Kuala Selangor Nature Park is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society, so it is the most cost-effective place for us to conduct activities. Having it in a nature park instead of a school/urban setting is more conducive to conducting activities such as water pollution monitoring, birdwatching, setting up camp and basic nature guiding. Interest group coordinators and committee members are given one to two-hour slots each to conduct workshops on particular issues and topics to guide schoolteachers in organising nature and environment-related activities for school Nature Clubs and in incorporating environmental issues and lessons into the standard curriculum. For years, I have been facilitating the Green Living workshop and conducting the ice-breaking activities for the annual Teachers' Workshop.

This year, the workshop was held on the weekend of 12 - 13 April 2014. I got my slides and preparations ready and made an offer on Facebook for any of my friends to join me on a daytrip to the nature park and its surrounding natural attractions. My friends Nicole and Delphine jumped at the opportunity with glee. And so we trundled along to the Nature Park bright and early on Saturday morning with a bag full of snacks,  sunblock, mosquito repellent and drinking water.

Teachers' Workshop @ the Kuala Selangor Nature Park: Photodump

The fragrant flower clusters of the Cassia fistula.

Getting Nic and Del to pose under the Lagerstroemia blooms.

I love the Bukit Melawati tram ride! Sure, it's not the greenest of vehicles, but what the heck, it's just a 15-minute ride.

My bestie Nic and me, riding the tram.

Guardian of the Bukit Melawati cannons. ;)

Just chillin' on Monkey Street.

Just chillin' up in the trees and foraging for food... best life possible for a monkey.

Tween silver leaf monkey and his mama.

Del: "Stop poking around in my bag, we have no food in there"

Gentle sweet Mama Silver Leaf Monkey and her gorgeous baby.

Me: "So, you come around here often?"

Nic: "Just chillin' with our monkey friends. "

Monkeys roaming happy and free.

Meanwhile, back at the Nature Park conference room:
Here are our volunteers/facilitators Pasu and Steven mucking around with the snake tongs and hook. Steven, who is our Herpetofauna coordinator, will demonstrate how to use the snake tongs and hook. However, I suspect that for most of the teachers attending his workshop, their first response when they see a snake is to scream and run, not to reach for the tongs even if they did have a pair handy.

"Let me in! I am late for the workshop!"

Conducting my workshop on Green Living programmes, competitions and activities for schools, followed by a brainstorming session. The teachers came up with some really creative ideas. I want schools to conduct environmental education programmes that encourage students to be proactive and be problem-solvers. I want to see schools move away from the tried-and-tested formula of poster and colouring contests that are a test of artistic ability, and essay and oratory competitions that reward the most verbose and articulate students. To solve environmental problems, we need original, innovative ideas. We need to reward and reinforce problem-solving skills. We need to let students lead with as little intervention and instruction as possible. We need genuine passion for the environment. And I believe these values need to be inculcated in the younger generation at home and in school, as early as possible. 

Our Nature Guides coordinator / volunteer Pasu providing the safety briefing prior to the Nature Walk.

Ketapang (Sea Almond) trees.

A termite mound taller than I am.

A root doughnut from Mother Nature!

Pasu demonstrating how to get a decent lather out of the green Acacia seed pods.

I am the Nature Walk sweeper, in more ways than one!

What a picturesque nature trail! Just so grateful and happy to be here again, surrounded by the trees and wildlife that I love, and volunteers and friends who share my passion and values.

Teachers watching birds at the lakeside bird hide.

Our extraordinary volunteer, Valle, who also happens to be a schoolteacher, watching the birds watching her.

Nic and Del's mangrove boardwalk poses.

The cheerful sweeper with her increasingly heavy bag of rubbish. ;)

Eat your heart out, Ukraine Tunnel of Love and Japanese Bamboo Forest! We have our own picturesque, Buzzfeed-worthy forest pics, too!

Spot the Giant Mudskipper!

The fruit of the Nipah / Attap palm (Nypa fruticans). Yummers. I tried to harvest this but couldn't, because I didn't have my knife with me (shock, horror! CO78 without a knife! What is the world coming to?)

A grey heron (Ardea cinera) surveying his kingdom.

Nicole ordered this yummy mango ice dessert at the Ice Station Café across the street from the nature park. The girl who took our orders was so efficient and obliging that I gave her an RM5 tip for her troubles. I highly recommend this dessert bar -- the food isn't exceptional but the service is. I come here every year!


The Kuala Selangor Nature Park has been under the management of the Malaysian Nature Society since 1987. For more information, please contact:
Kuala Selangor Nature Park (KSNP)
Email: ksnaturepark@yahoo.com
Tel : (603) 3289 2294
Fax : (603) 3289 4311


Bookface said...

AHA! Does the cassia fistula tree develop long, bean-like seed pods, dark brown in colour? If so, thank you for helping me to identify the tree that I've been admiring all over Phnom Penh!

I also loved your photo of the nipah palm fruit. What an unusual looking fruit! If you'd had your knife with you (ahem!) what would you have done with the fruit? Is it edible?

Great post. :-)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Hi Amanda! So good of you to come over! Thank you!
Yes, Cassia fistula / Golden Rain / Popcorn Flower is the one with the long bean pods and the drooping clusters of flowers and beans. Remember the huge bicolor squirrels we saw in Jugra? I believe they were feeding on the beans and/or flowers of the Cassia fistula then.
The nipah/attap fruit is added to ais kacang and similar desserts. It's the white translucent chewy jelly-like palm fruit you get in your dessert. I'd just have to shuck off the skin and cook them in a little syrup if I managed to harvest them.