This past week I had the unique opportunity to volunteer with the Ecoteer Perhentian Eco Education project in Malaysia. I am a strong believer that education plays a huge role in long-term conservation. Therefore, this was the perfect opportunity to inspire the next generation of conservationists on the Perhentians.
So, it was National Science Week in Malaysia. I felt particularly lucky to be able to participate in such an important event in Malaysia’s calendar. The week was dedicated to exploring the wonders of science, technology, and innovation to inspire children to look at the world in a different way. The students of the SK Palau Perhentian primary school learnt about conservation, biology, chemistry and more, through interactive activities. It was humbling to witness volunteers from various Ecoteer projects come together to share their conservation knowledge with the kids. I was eager to join in and make a difference.
Science week started off with a bang!
The first event of science week involved the school’s very own science fair. Both myself and the children were very excited, if not a bit apprehensive, of what the day would hold. The school transformed the main hall into a frenzy of stalls as the children immersed themselves into the fascinating world of marine biology.
My first challenge of the week was the language barrier. I overcame this problem by using colorful boards and pictures to teach the kids interesting marine facts. However, I found it’s the knowledge learnt through games that really sticks! Interactive games included naming our turtle by guessing the number of “turtle eggs” in a jar, and matching up picture cards of environmental problems and solutions. It was wonderful to see the pure joy on the children’s faces when they got a pair correct.
The fun didn’t end there, as the chemistry department showed the kids explosive chemical reactions using the Ecoteer volunteers as… willing guinea pigs!
Although being understood wasn’t easy at first, I found that regardless of language, all children love to learn if inspired in the right way.
The clear blue sea surrounding the Perhentian Island became the perfect classroom for the next activity in Science Week. The Perhentian Marine Research Station introduced the kids to eco-snorkeling; experiencing the marine world whilst reducing their negative impact. As a snorkeling beginner, I was equally as willing to learn the sustainable way to enjoy this activity. The group discussed the threats to the rapidly vanishing coral reefs, and suggested active solutions to the issues. The lesson provided the children with an insight into how they can enjoy nature in a responsible way, such as limiting the use of plastic to save the environment. The theory was then put into practice with a fun and educational snorkeling session.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
I was shocked to learn that in many parts of Malaysia waste is still disposed of in landfill sites. Waste accumulation has a significant negative impact in the world, releasing greenhouse gasses and toxic chemicals into the environment. Therefore, introducing children to recycling must be a priority to help the environment and reduce the use of raw materials.
I worked with fellow Eco Education volunteers assisting the kids in painting their very own glass, paper and plastic recycling bins for their school. The next day the children and I participated in an active beach clean. Hopefully I helped the kids further understand the waste around the island they call home. After collecting the rubbish, the students learnt to separate waste into various groups. With my help the island is definitely going green!
What can you expect as a volunteer?
The one aspect of the experience that surprised me was how diverse each day was. I am used to a daily routine so the prospect of losing that strict scheduling was a bit daunting. However, I kept an open mind and ended up looking forward to the spontaneity of the day.
Although tiring and sometimes challenging, this week taught me that anything is possible with a bit of enthusiasm and teamwork. Biology is my favourite subject, so I hope the children’s journey into the wonders of science doesn’t stop there! As cheesy as it sounds children really are the future, and I feel privileged to have played my part in helping inspire the next generation of conservationists.
If you are passionate about teaching, long to immerse yourself in a bright and colourful culture, and make a difference in the local community, then click here!