On 25th July 2018, 36 students from K1 and K2 classes of Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool went on a learning journey at the River Safari in Mandai under the guidance of five teachers. During the visit, the little ones saw rare creatures, such as archerfish, manatees, alligators, giant otters, giant catfish, and electric eels, for the first time in their life.
It was a wet and rainy day, but the inclement weather did not affect the joyful mood of the children. Since most of the exhibitions at the River Safari are indoors, they went on with their experiential learning activity despite the rain. The activity was conducted as part of the Wow Wild Learn Programme.
Three teachers from the Great Love PreSchool had attended a training held by Wildlife Reserves Singapore to master basic knowledge about wildlife prior to this outing. After the training, the teachers used their creativity to plan the itinerary for the River Safari tour, before taking the children out to explore the park.
“We found the giant otter!”
The curious children asked, as they gazed into the “giant otter zone” through thick glass panels, searching for the otters. When they spotted the rare creatures, they were overwhelmed with curiosity and fascinated at the same time.
“These creatures belong to the largest otter species in the world, with a body length of 1.9 m. They are even longer and bigger than you,” said teacher Chen Jia Yu, who was also the tour guide of the day. She actively interacted with the kids, explaining to them the unique features of each animal.
“How many otters do you see? Remember to jot it down,” reminded the teacher.
The little ones, with their blue backpacks on their backs, were each holding a pencil and a booklet specially made by their teachers for this activity. The booklet contained their homework assignment.
This get-close-to-nature outdoor learning activity is part of the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” series of activities designed by Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool. In addition to learning the Chinese Language, the students were instilled a love for animals during the excursion. By visiting the land and marine species at the River Safari, the little ones learned to care for animals and to respect life; they were also encouraged to take up a vegetarian diet.
Teacher Chen Jia Yu revealed that the highlight of the lesson that day was the manatee, because manatees are herbivores that feed on water plants. Chen further added, “We will tell the children that manatees are vegetarians. Not only are there human beings who are vegetarians, there are also animals that only eat a plant-based diet.”
She hoped that the experience of coming into contact with animals would inspire the kids to love and care for animals and not to kill them (for food).
To encourage vegetarianism and inspire its young students to love animals and protect Mother Earth, Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool launched the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” programme on 22nd June 2018. There are only animals living on this planet. As soon as the children arrived at the planet in their spaceship, they became part of the community there and stayed with the animals for 90 days. During this period, they would befriend the creatures and only take vegetarian meals until the programme is over.
The “Wow Wild Learn Programme” is a joint initiative by the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning and Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Launched in 2016, the initiative aims to encourage preschool Chinese teachers to guide their students to learn Chinese in their daily lives and through outdoor lessons, using lively and interactive methods. This is the first year Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool takes part in the programme.