Fun way for kids to learn about nature

SINGAPORE - The National Geographic Channel Young Explorer Programme is expecting more than 4,000 primary school children to sign up for it this year - almost twice last year's total.

This year's scheme, which encourages youngsters to take an interest in nature, was launched on Friday by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

He said: "The best things in life are free... the memories that you create from living, from interacting, from coming here with your family and friends."

The programme takes kids aged seven to 10 on nature trails around Singapore, such as at the Botanic Gardens and Bottle Tree Park. For 10 children specially selected after completing an activity workbook, it culminates in a nature camp in Borneo.

In its first year last year, about 2,300 pupils signed up.

At the Botanic Gardens, for instance, children walk through the rainforest area to learn about its plants and animals, such as creepers and Shorea trees - which can grow up to 80m tall.

A handful of young test subjects took part in a rainforest walk there on Friday, accompanied by teachers and parents.

Ten-year-old Alex Cheah of Pathlight School said: "My favourite part is seeing the spiderwebs."

Some of the 15 children who took part in last year's camp at the Endau Rompin National Park in Johor were also present.

Ten-year-old Pranathi Kandregula of De La Salle School recalled the camp in vivid detail: "We trekked to a waterfall and it was like a natural swimming pool. There was moss on the rocks, like a slide... I was bitten by leeches twice."

The National Geographic programme comes as the Ministry of Education (MOE) rolls out a new physical education (PE) syllabus this year for Primary 1 and 2 pupils and Secondary 1 and 2 students.

The ministry said last year that it will include outdoor education in its new PE syllabus to teach students about the environment and how to navigate, assess risks and make decisions about their own safety.

In the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning last year, MOE outdoor education specialist Susanna Ho wrote that outdoor education could help students develop an emotional bond with Singapore by creating awareness of outdoor places and boosting environmental knowledge.

"In the light of pressing global environmental concerns, it is timely and appropriate for outdoor education in Singapore to contribute to the purpose of building ecological literacy," she wrote.

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