By LEON WAMIANG
THE Port Moresby Nature Park provided seemingly endless surprises and delight for the Malolo International School preparatory pupils on their field trip last month.
The expedition to the iconic wildlife destination enhanced the pupils’ lives and knowledge in many ways. It made learning more joyful, tangible, authentic and meaningful. It connected children to the larger world around them and it used their natural capacity for wonder as a foundation for inquiry and learning. The natural setting enabled them to use and develop all of their senses and exercise their imagination in a more relaxed interpersonal environment.
The field trip experience develops and enhances awareness and appreciation of the environment. It enables the children to make informed decisions and to act in environmentally-responsible ways. They develop sound knowledge and understanding of the environment through an integrated approach that emphasises the importance of natural, built and social environments.
Interdependence of living things
According to Port Moresby Nature Park’s education officer, Shirley Mogi, the aim is to provide an education that assists students to understand the elements in their environment, the interdependence of living things and the impacts that humans have upon environments.
“In all our educational programmes, we are putting in all the effort of going far beyond our own personal beliefs and understanding about the nature of science to research and investigate today’s scientific developments, in order to promote how indigenous knowledge and practices blend with contemporary scientific knowledge, skills and values.
“As education officers, we play an important role in ensuring students understand that contemporary scientific knowledge is actually hybrid knowledge, meaning all cultures have contributed to the development and acceptance of these knowledge, skills and values.
“Children have different learning styles and developmental needs. To make the field trip effective and developmentally appropriate for younger children we designed it differently from the older children. The setup, materials, activities and schedules of the field trip correspond to the development level of children.
“With guidance, the children explore and discover the world of nature on their own terms and at their own pace. They engage in inquiry, hands-on experimentation and problem solving and learn how to care for other living things.
“To make the field trip successful we provided many opportunities for joyful interaction with nature to help children develop a desire in learning more about the world around them.
“By planning activities and a schedule that are developmentally appropriate for young children, we are using such field trips to the wildlife as a way to foster children’s’ curiosity while helping them understand and appreciate the larger community of life which they are a part of.
“Curiosity, imagination and dreaming are all healthy for children. Teaching these skills earlier to them, the aim and objective of these processes translate to visual art,” Mogi added.
Mogi mentioned the field trips kept children’s sense of wonder and curiosity alive, and extended their learning back in the classroom by providing resources that can help them further, explore the topics, which caught their attention during the field trip. ‘
Children can also draw or write about the things they found most fascinating during the field trip, or create their own nature centre, botanic garden, and other type of destination that they have visited, out of building blocks.
“We are using the environment itself as the basis and context to bring the students’ learning closer to nature. This will help them to respect and protect the environment of PNG, of which they are a part, now and in the future,” Mogi said.
Educating about the environment encourages people to take action to initiate positive change in attitudes and personal lifestyles. It builds upon the experiences and knowledge developed in and about the environment and assists them to promote a sustainable use of their environment.
Sustainability is a buzzword that we hear frequently these days. The word is used to draw attention to the problems associated with some of today’s development activities. It is believed those activities may not last long enough for future generations to enjoy a lifestyle at least as good as that enjoyed by us today.
At a crossroad
Currently, the country is at a crossroad. People can choose to continue to undertake development that is not sustainable and damage the environment. At times people place heavy demands on the few resources available. The risk of these practices means that the environment can be damaged without people realising the long-term effects.
There is tremendous pressure for developments; people are looking for higher living standards, including health services, better educational and employment opportunities for our young people, particularly those for whom families have made major sacrifices to enable them to have a good education. There is also pressure from outside as our international partners in trade are also encouraging changes that will enable us to become more efficient and effective in the modern economic sense. This is done to enable us to derive the maximum benefit from our resources and efforts.
All these pressures for change are impacting the traditional life of Papua New Guineans, whether it is the management of our forests and marine resources or in the way village communities operate their micro economies.
Port Moresby Nature Park’s education officer, Noami Levi says that that study of the environment also guides students to appreciate, respect and value their natural environment. It gives them the skills and knowledge to identify problems and issues and to take action to sustain the manageable use of resources.
“We provide realistic activities both indoor and outdoor to enable children to experience the nature and provide explanations for various phenomena around them and the environment.
“There are different types of lessons and activities that we offer for them to learn and do during the field trip.
“We have the props and textile, a lesson where we feature the different types of animal skins, feathers and bones.
“Other thought-provoking sessions are animal classification and animal encounter, an activity where almost every child who arrives for the field trip at the park loves.
“Younger generations need to understand that sustainable development depends upon a healthy environment. They need to make informed decisions and be motivated to act upon them if the environment in PNG is to retain its richness, diversity and health,” Levi said.
The natural environment of the country is as diverse as its cultures. It is rich in natural resources that support economic development, such as abundant forests and large reserves of minerals like gold, copper, oil and gas. Marine resources are also plentiful and diverse, including tuna, barramundi, prawns and lobsters.
These resources must be used wisely for the benefit of the whole community now and in the future.
Malolo International School teacher Jill Ali, says that the environment of PNG is currently under threat from rapid population expansion and misuse of resources.
“It is good for the younger generations to develop caring attitudes and show concern for all living things in their environment.
“They should have a sense of empowerment about their ability to act to protect their environment.
“The environments of Papua New Guinea are remarkably diverse and rich in animal and plant species. Some of the species of forests and coral reefs are among the richest in the world.
“These diverse environments, which include forests, grasslands, mangroves, swamp and coastal marine environments support all forms of life, including people.
“People are dependent upon their environment for food, shelter, water and air. Their traditional lifestyles and spiritual beliefs are often built around their environment.”
Ali says that it is very important that students observe things in the environment and sort them into groups. They draw conclusions from what they see, and work out what effects changing one thing in their environment might have on other things. They increasingly understand how applying these skills can lead to rewarding and sustainable management of resources. They also develop practical skills that are needed in these activities.
“By starting with simple, practical activities in their local environment and then building on their skills and knowledge, students begin to learn that there are better ways of managing their environment.
“It helps children to understand that the place in which they live is closely related to their values and their long-term standard of living.
“This is very important at a time when the environment in PNG is being permanently damaged for short-term benefits.”
By LEON WAMIANG