This talk was definitely an eye-opener for us as almost none of us had expected the shores of Singapore to be filled with such a great diversity of marine life. The speaker, Ms Ria Tan, was the most passionate person I’ve seen about her job. Throughout her presentation, she made everything so interesting that everyone, including those who had no interest in marine life, were constantly engaged. It was amazing to see how we’ve lived on this small island for so many years, but yet have never actually noticed that such amazing things could be found on shores so close to us. However, the talk was simply all theory, and thus we were all very excited for our first nature walk as it would be a brand new experience for us!
This was my first time actually vising Chek Jawa. The closest that I had previously gotten to Chek Jawa was when we kayaked past it during our level camp in Year 4. There was a relatively small group of people today, with a relatively large number of guides, thus we had the opportunity to not only interact with the public, but with the other guides as well. For today, I was attached to Ria’s group.
This first thing that I noticed was that handling a group of visitors was not as easy as I thought. Our group consisted of a few children, who were very active and quick at spotting various animals around them. However, once it came to the explanation by the guide, their interest level dropped, and they would tend to be easily distracted by new “discoveries”.
It was interesting to see how the guides were still able to capture their attention while allowing them to stay active, by getting the children involved in the explanation process as well. For example, one of the guides asked a young girl to first stand on two legs, and then on one, to show that standing on two legs was more stable than standing on one leg. From this, he could illustrate why mangrove trees had to spread their roots so widely in order to maintain stability.
Lastly, a skill that I learnt, that I feel would be very applicable to our daily lives, was how to effectively point out new “discoveries”. At the start, when we discovered an animal and tried to point it out to others, all we could do when they asked for its location was to point and say, “There!” That was really ineffective as most of the animals were extremely small and of the same colour as mud, and hence the children had a lot of trouble finding the animals. After a while, Ria realised what we were doing, and taught us the proper way to point things out. We had to look for more prominent objects around the animal, and roughly describe its size, so that others would know what they are supposed to be searching for. For example, she taught us to say, “You’re looking for something about the size of a 50-cent coin, on the right of that yellow leaf.” That made communication between us and the other a lot easier.
At the start of today’s walk, all of us on the OJT were definitely nervous as it was our first time having to introduce certain stations and we were afraid of how it would turn out to be. We also spent some time questioning each other to see if we were still able to remember the content that we’ve read. However, these worries turned out to be uncalled for.
We were visited by about 5 wild boars before the walk!
My main takeaway from today was that although it is important to have basic knowledge about the subject, what really makes a tour successful is how we interact with the public, instead of how much information is delivered to them. I realised that just a small amount of basic knowledge is sufficient to successfully engage the public, especially when the subject is something that interests them. For example, after the costal walk, the children were especially excited to finally be able to spot mudskippers. However, I was unable to present all the details about the mudskipper as it would end up boring the public. Thus, I learn that for the first time we spot something, we could first attract their attention by just telling them some basic and facts about it. The rest of the facts actually do not need to be presented, or could be kept and presented later if the same thing was spotted again. Breaking up information into different parts would help to capture the visitors’ attention better.
I also think that it is really meaningful for us and visitors to draw out their thoughts after visiting Chek Jawa, so that they would be able to play a part in protecting the environment there as well. Here’s a photo of a happy Darius after his first visit to Chek Jawa!
It really isn’t an easy task to guide a large group of people, especially in an unfamiliar environment. However, just through these few short trips, we have definitely learnt a lot of new knowledge and skills, and had a lot of fun as well! And I hope that maybe some time during the holidays, we would have the time and chance to be a part of this programme again. :)