By virtue of the fact
that rocky shores are rare in Singapore (the only relictual patch on the
mainland to my knowledge is at Labrador Park), the plants of this unique
habitat are similarly threatened.
bakau mangrove at
low tide at Chek Jawa
photo by Shawn Lum
Nature as Model Teacher
| sponges galore | nature as model teacher
by Shawn Lum
found in many parts of Singapore, However, mangroves of maturity and
complexity are no longer plentiful; they are all but absent from the
The coastal vegetation on the rocks at Tanjong Chek Jawa are, in my
opinion, a noteworthy feature of the area. There are few, if any,
places in Singapore where one can view this diverse and beautiful
habitat so readily.
plants could conceivably be grown in a park or garden (a form of "ex-situ"
conservation), but such measures are only sound as a conservation
strategy if remnants of the actual habitat continue to exist (or,
"in-situ" conservation), Conservation of natural heritage in the fullest
sense focuses on protecting natural habitats and supporting this effort
with other measures. An analogy to ex-situ conservation without attempting
to preserve natural areas would be for all of us to lose touch with
our cultural roots to the extent that we have to consult a book or
visit a museum to learn about the ways and the wisdom of our ancestors.
The attractive fruit of
Memecylon edule, a rare
coastal shrub, is also dispersed
by frugivorous animals
photo by Shawn Lum
In such an area I could
easily picture a field centre with lab facilities, basic equipment and classrooms,
that could help make learning exciting, interesting, relevant,and real.
The possibilities are endless! I still vividly recall my class excursions
(some 30 years ago!) to a marine classroom in Honolulu, Hawaii, only a stone's
throw from Waikiki Beach, The walks on the coral reef and an opportunity
to see this wondrous habitat ignited an interest in ecology and a need to
care for our planet that abides in me to this day.
Students from Raffles Girls School exploring the mud flats at Chek
a natural outdoor classroom
photo by Tan Beng Chiak
Jawa is a natural outdoor classroom. It is accessible and will doubtless
become more so in the future than it is today.
Moreover, one can use the area to conduct a multitude of lessons and
activities: Learning about diversity, life cycles, adaptations, and
habitats (all prominent elements of the Primary Science syllabus);
physical geography, biodiversity, mangrove ecology, resource management,
ecotourism development, and so much more.
Chek Jawa reminds me in some ways of the "Coral Reef Classroom" I used to
visit. I can vouch for the fact that students who visit the world of Chek
Jawa do not walk away without being touched by the sublime beauty of the
place, the magnificence of the flora and fauna there, and a sense of amazement
that such places exist in Singapore. This effect is not easily measured
in dollars and cents, but, then again, neither are the other "intangibles"
that comprise the ultimate objectives of education, such as core values,
a love for learning, and pride in one's nation and its heritage.
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