[Please Mind The Platform Gap] Enrichment Programmes: Raffles Ecological Literacy Programme

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By Tyronne Toh (14A01A)

Does “Ecological Literacy” sound a little dry to you? Well, you’re horribly mistaken. With a multitude of field trips to places ranging from Bishan Park to the offshore Cyrene Reef (yes, there is a coral reef in Singaporean waters), you’re bound to get your feet wet.

Cyrene Reef, earlier in the year. See what I mean?
Cyrene Reef, earlier in the year. See what I mean?

With a strong emphasis placed on hands-on activities and experiential learning, Ecological Literacy (or Eco-lit in short) consistently brings us out of the conventional classroom to experience nature in all its glory. Our first trip of 2013 was to Bishan Park, then Macritchie Reservoir, but we soon progressed to places such as St. John’s Island, Ubin and Cyrene Reef, with an additional trip to Tioman in June. And although not all the trips may be to exotic destinations, such as Cyrene Reef –not many people get to visit Cyrene, and even fewer know of its existence, for the matter-, every trip is nonetheless an eye-opener; life and beauty are truly ubiquitous in nature- one simply has to take a closer look to realize this.

Hey, it’s Patrick!
Hey, it’s Patrick!

Do consider joining if you enjoy being close to nature and spending quality time with the great outdoors. For nature-lovers, it would be a dream come true; Eco-lit gifts you with numerous opportunities to get intimate with nature. For the curious skeptics, you’d likely learn to love and respect nature for all its fabulous flora and fauna. Each Eco-lit student is required to keep a journal in which sketches of encountered flora and fauna are taken down. Information regarding the animal, plant or location would later be added in. Journaling certainly makes for a great hobby too. Some of us have even taken this journal as a personal project of sorts, putting in entries from extra-curricular outings or encounters.

Of course, there are also in-house activities. Discussions on topics pertaining to the conservation of nature or pressing issues also take place, with students encouraged to voice opinions and ideas to these. Earlier in the year, we even had a guest speaker come down to share her experiences with the group. Also, we also had story-telling sessions where every member brought his or her own children’s picture book and read it to the others. Why? You’ll find out soon enough. More recently, Mr Tan Si Jie, our teacher-mentor, led the group in setting up a mini garden in the cozy backyard area of the RLI office. Herbs such as mint, chili padi, citronella and lemongrass were amongst the lot, and the garden even features its very own butterfly cabinet, which was constructed by Eco-lit students under Mr Tan’s guidance.

Despite the seemingly scientific nature of this enrichment program, there aren’t any subject pre-requisites to joining this program. Personally, I’m taking a full Arts subject combination, and have never felt left behind in this program. You might have to take down the occasional scientific name, but my lack of hard scientific background has never been an obstacle for me.

Ever thought of publishing your own book? Well, Eco-lit gives you that chance, too. Every student is encouraged to write a children’s book pertaining to nature, complete with illustrations. The book-writing process would usually take place from December to next year’s June, culminating in a book launch and possibly a story-telling session to kids- that’s where the story-telling experience comes in handy.

All in all, Eco-lit has been a ride. There are few things in the world that can ever surpass great company in the great outdoors. Hopefully, this article has cleared up some of your doubts with regards to Eco-lit; and do consider signing up for it!

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