Monday, 9 September 2013

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Songshan

“What exactly does this small island has to offer to the nature?” is the guiding question in my mind when I heard about the EXCEL environmental programme. As a kid, I would spend hours under the sun observing how spiders make web and ants carry food. Such little things around me intrigue me the most and that is why I chose the EXCEL environmental programme – to rediscover Chek Jawa, for all the little and not-so-little things.

Indoor Training

Do you know what a stonefish look like? Of course, by the name I bet you can already tell that they look like stones. However, spotting them is not as easy as it sounds and one can take up to 15 mins to find a stonefish in a marine life brochure, which is exactly what I did after I first stepped into the indoor training.

During the talk given by Ria, who is a very experienced guide and also our teacher for this EXCEL programme, we were given a lesson on how to become a good guide. I remembered an important point: being good does not necessarily mean that one has to have an incredible amount of knowledge on wild lives (of course this would be a huge bonus for guides), the key is CONNECTION. No matter how knowledgeable a guide can be, it will not matter if he/she cannot connect with the audience. This brings us to the importance of communication in our lives. Proper communication is so vital that we will not be able to survive without it in any environment, and this is even so for leaders around the world. As leader of an organisation, one needs to have the ability to influence others positively, which derives from the ability to carry out proper communication.

Observatory Trip

The second stage of the programme requires me to be present in an actual tour in Chek Jawa with an experienced guide to observe firsthand how to carry out a well-carried out tour (no pun intended here!)

On the boat to Pulau Ubin, I learnt something very useful – to navigate and know exactly I am in the ocean. Well actually its simple, look at the sun and you will be able to know directions. Look at the surrounding and you will be able to know your current location. I always thought that Malaysia is very far from Singapore but it is really just a swim away!

For the tour, I was grouped together with Ria and my fellow councillor, Raphael. It is Raphael’s OJT but my observatory trip, but the first guided tour in Chek Jawa for both of us. We were equally amazed by the rich bio-diversity of Chek Jawa and culture of Pulau Ubin. We were also surprised to see the enthusiasm in the tour group, especially from the younger ones in the group. Ria taught us how to guide people even if we have minimum knowledge about the place, and as I have mentioned it above, the key lies in connection. She is very good at encouraging people and motivating them after an interesting find. At the end of the day, I realised that in order to truly captivate people, we do not only need proper communication, we need understanding. Only when we understand our common goal, in this case, to discover Chek Jawa, will we then be able to devote ourselves and, subsequently, others into achieving our goal.


Who knows we can find the existence of “Student Welfare Department” in Chek Jawa!

OJT Trip

This trip is truly memorable. I thought I would just come to Chek Jawa and do the same things as I have done in my observatory trip, but it was a completely new and astonishing experience! The biggest change from the last trip is that I will now take on a role of a “proper” guide, instead of just being a “side kick”. Despite having done similar talking before in other occasions such as school tours, I was still a little uneasy having to guide groups through Chek Jawa.



We were greeted by them—baby spiders!!

This time I was paired up with Daniel. The good thing is that I became comfortable talking to my group after just minutes into the guide! I suppose guiding is not that scary after all, and indeed as soon as you start talking, you will feel as easy. THE KEY IS CONNECTION REMEMBER? In my group is mainly made up of families so there are both parents and kids that we have to cater to. From this, I realised just how important it is to cater to different people differently. If we are able to recognise the traits of certain groups of people we will be able to better understand them and see things from their perspective. For example in the trip, we have to encourage and motivate the kids on interesting finds because this is what keeps them going, however for adults we will need another approach – to tell them about the information required. This approach is especially useful in school, since we also need to cater to different groups when we are doing events and initiatives.


What a well camouflaged crab!

The most important lesson I’ve learnt from this entire programme is that no matter what we do, we all start small. Progressively, after tasting failures and successes along the way, we will be able to truly appreciate what we have done, be it for others or for self. Isn’t this what life’s about too?

What a wonderful world!


Once in a lifetime chance of seeing Jellyfish! (Okay I exaggerated a little, perhaps once in a year?)

(Moderator: Apologies for this backdated post)

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