SUSS WILDSMarines – Youths in Local Green Project By: Ms Chia Ming Huei, Specialist, Office of Service-Learning & Community Engagement, Centre for Experiential Learning, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

How do we educate others on the importance of environmental protection? That was the question asked by members of SUSS’s WILDSMarines Community Service-Learning (CSL) group, as they seek to find ways to increase environmental awareness.

WILDSMarines is an student interest-driven community engagement project curated by the SUSS Office of Service-Learning & Community Engagement where students commit to collaborating with a local community partner for at least 12 months. Since 2018, WILDSMarines has collaborated with National Parks Board (NParks) Singapore to do mangrove restoration and education outreach.

The group comprise 19 undergraduates led by Marvin Bih Jia Jun (Year 2, Bachelor of Accountancy) who have been actively involved in outreach events organised by NParks at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR). These events include Celebrating 25 Years of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and World Migratory Bird Day in October 2018 and planting mangrove saplings in March 2019. The group prepared themselve for their service by first seeking to understand the conservation and restoration work on mangrove in Singapore: undergoing several classroom sessions to learn about the importance of coastal habitats and also undertaking field learning from experienced NParks staff.

After collaborating with National Parks Board (NParks) Singapore, the team eventually developed the idea to organise an event series Let’s go Jalan-Jalan (LGJJ).  Designed to be an interactive and experiential learning series, it reaches out connect underserved community members to a biodiversity site, namely Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.  The series is sponsored by local grassroots organisation, NorthWest Community Development Council (NWCDC).

The first LGJJ event was organised on 9 April 2019 and extended public outreach on biodiversity conservation  to the senior citizens of Woodlands’ Care Corner Family Centre, providing nature therapy throgh the rich biodiversity available in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. During the event, the WILDSMarines members and the senior participants were able to connect through activities such as clay making sessions and guided tours conducted by the team. Despite the age differences, everyone bonded through their shared interest in nature. Being in the natural environment stimulated senior participants to reminisce about their younger days when the landscape of Singapore was more forested and the students were privileged to hear the seniors share their stories throughout the walk!

Group photo with some of the seniors at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves. Most seniors are retirees and the oldest in the group is Mdm Jeleha, 81 years old.

Mingling with seniors and sharing about life stories after lunch.

For the second LGJJ event organized in 26 June 2019, WILDSMarines collaborated with another SUSS Service-Learning student, Book Nook Reading Club, who regularly mentor children served by the community organization, MENDAKI@Choa Chu Kang, offering nature outreach in hopes of fostering the importance of environmental protection from a young age.

Fun shot with the children from MENDAKI@Choa Chu Kang together with staff from Mendaki, members of S-L Project Book Nook Club and SUSS WILDSMarines.

In anticipation of their more youthful audience this time around, WILDSMarines designed an activity booklet involving more activities and games. These included Outdoor Bingo, where the children would circle on a sheet of paper what they encountered throughout the guided walk, and outdoor games which teache children the importance of recycling and reducing carbon emission.

Besides introducing new animals to the children, WILDSMarines also guided the children around the reserve, sharing the importance of conservation and how they can play a part.

Throughout the two LGJJ events, members of the WILDSMarines acted as connectors to share knowledge with community members on the importance of biodiversity. In anticipation of future LGJJ events, members are constantly seek to more innovative and interactive ways to reach out to community. In addition, they strive to learn more about the environment and to widen our knowledge of biodiversity to better pass it on to others.

WILDSMarines member Gan Jing Hui (Year 1, Bachelor of Human Resource Management), reflected: “Every organism plays a role in maintaining a balance within the mangrove. The mangrove provides the migratory birds with shelter and food. The migratory birds in turns contributes to controlling the populations of bugs and worms by feeding on them. SBNR plays an important role in continuing to provide a safe haven for the migratory birds, as such the ecosystem goes beyond SBNR. It contributes to the global ecosystem.”

Chia Rui Yang (Year 1, Bachelor of Science in Finance with Minor) shared that “I never saw Singapore as a wildlife hub, but seeing the information on how migratory birds return to the reserve year after year made me realise that wildlife conservation efforts over the years have paid off. Without the mangroves, the flora and fauna would be completely transformed, possibly creating an unsuitable feeding grounds for migratory birds. Such an outcome would be undesirable, and to the detriment of both the environment and the birds seeking refuge from the north.”

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