Walking with Nature at SOTA Day 2: Forests with Vilma!

It was a blast meeting the 47 participants who came for Day 2 of our nature guiding workshop! Thank you everyone for sharing your stories and contributing ideas to our discussion! 

Cheers again! Our group photo!

Sadly, November was down with a fever but Pei Yan gamely took over the role of the facilitator! We had our largest group ever, many of whom came the day before mixed in with some new faces, including 16 SOTA members!

Dr Vilma was our special guest speaker, who gave an enriching and exciting talk on our Singapore forests! She started with an introduction to the different layers of tropical forests and the various plants and animals that can be found within each layer. She showed us many beautiful close up shots of local fauna, contributed by our dedicated nature enthusiasts! 

Animals play an important role in maintaining our forests through pollination and dispersal! Durian lovers, do you know you would not be able to eat your favourite durians without bats? That's right, bats help to pollinate the creamy, sweet smelling durian flowers that bloom at night!

Vilma is one of the main advocates petitioning against the LTA's proposal to build the Cross Island Line (CRL) through MacRitchie Reservoir, and she shared with us her thoughts on efforts to convince government officials to reroute the CRL. She showed us that anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

Chloe also shared more about the LoveMacRitchie Forest campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of the rich biodiversity in MacRitchie Forest through guided walks and outreach on social media. Watch their music video here!

I found Vilma's final message to be very meaningful: Kids hold the future of our forests in their hearts and hands. We have to get the younger generation to appreciate our forests, so that we can pass the baton of stewardship on to them when their time comes! Thus we are very glad to be holding this workshop at SOTA, in partnership with The Green Beans!

During the break, participants checked out the cool stuff we have put up at the back: books, brochures, stickers, forest seeds, and a pair of caterpillars which Gene found!

The second half of the workshop began with Ria leading the activity "Dealing with unknown critters and other tricky situations". Each group was given time to discuss top three ways to deal with an unknown critter, when they could not find any interesting things, and guiding do's and don'ts. Their answers were shared with the rest on Google Docs.

The participants deep in discussion!

The last activity was my favourite, "Dealing with 'difficult' visitors". Once again, spot on impersonations left everyone in stitches at the end of each performance! The participants still managed to convey important messages through all the fun and laughter! 

Group 1: Photographer dad in the family complains there is nothing interesting to photograph. Dad (James) was unhappy that he had yet to see any flying colugos in MacRitchie forest, after a friend's recommendation. Vanitha (the guide) politely managed his expectations, while diverting his family's (Zhi Yan, Vanessa, Feranda) attention to looking for little critters on the forest floor. 

Message: There is always something interesting if you look deep enough.

Group 2: Young child in a family very noisy: share with the family about the sounds of the forest. Ah Boy (Gene) was distracted and restless during a walk, so Pei Yan (the guide) got him to keep quiet by listening to the kingfisher's cackling call!

Message: If you keep quiet you can hear the sound of the forest.

Group 6: Grandma, parents, young kids: they find a mushroom. When a family (Joanne, Gina, Rachel) first saw the mushroom (Pearlynn) growing beside the broadwalk, they wanted to pluck it and bring it home for cooking! Luckily, Adriel (the guide) convinced them not do so by telling them about the importance of mushrooms in the forest habitat!

Message: Keep to the broadwalk and do not pick up or collect stuff in nature reserves.

Group 7: Teenage school children complain about humidity: share why this is important for the forest. As two teenage kids (Natascha, Valarie) were complaining about the humidity in the forest, Daniel (the guide) got them to appreciate the benefits of humidity to the forest, and then quickly brought them to a cooler place!

Message: Even things we do not like can be beneficial.

Group 5: “Smart Alec” dad keeps talking about snakes and asking “where are the snakes?” Dad (Samuel) wanted to see snakes and kept interrupting Le Min (the guide) about the snakes. Le Min gently acknowledged the fact, then got him to share what he knows about snakes with the rest of the family (Michelle, Ryhan, Zhiyi, Cuifen)!

Message: Acknowledge the person and get the visitors involved!

Group 3: Young child points out a leaf in leaf litter, mum scolds her and say it’s dirty rubbish. Mum (Hong Yi) scolded Ah Boy (Jedrek) for the seemingly childish observation, but Adriane (the guide) pointed out the importance of the leaf (Ing Sind) decomposing and providing nutrients for the plants (Becky, Mei Bao) in the forest!

Message: There is value in all the small things.

Group 4: A nice family who seem to understand English better than they speak English: they find a snake. Jun Hien (the guide) was desperately ineffective when the family (Jeanne, Joanna, Qing) saw a snake (Wai Hong). The girls attempted to take a selfie with the snake, and accidentally killed it in the process! This was a negative demonstration, of course!

Message: The guide must keep calm!

Group 8: Dad and daughter quietly collecting leaves in a small bag. Dad (John) and daughter (Vrunda) were spotted by Albert (the guide) collecting leaves for Vrunda's art project. Albert kindly told them that it is illegal to collect things from the nature reserve, and recommended them to take from the dead leaf piles left by roadside sweepers. Dad and daughter also learnt about how leaf litter plays a role in nutrient cycling in the forest!

Message: Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.

We would like to thank Vilma for the inspiring talk, The Green Beans for allowing us to use their wonderful classrooms, and the sporting participants for your creative and humourous role-plays! We hope you guys had fun learning and sharing with each other! Also thanks to November, Ria, Pei Yan and Kai for organising and facilitating the workshop!

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