Teens' book teaches kids about wildlife

Tang Fan Xi Straits Times 5 Jun 17;

Hershie the Hermit Crab was created by a group of four teenagers from Raffles Institution for a book to educate young children about Singapore's intertidal wildlife.

And the story of Hershie's quest for a new shell in the book A Crab, A Shell And A Little Help came to life all over Singapore the week before last as part of the Biodiversity Week for Schools, an event organised by the National Parks Board (NParks).

A workshop for pre-schoolers, Playtime with Hershie the Hermit Crab, was conducted across 224 pre-schools from May 22 to 28.

The book project began in 2015 and ended last year as part of the Raffles Ecological Literacy Programme by Ms Han Rae Ann, Mr Bertrand Yan and Ms Natasha Hoong, all now 19, and illustrated by Ms Renee Chua, also 19, then a H2 Art student.

Students who take part in the programme at Raffles Institution embark on field trips to different places rich in biodiversity, such as Sisters' Islands and Tioman Island. The team was inspired to make their book marine-themed through these field trips.

After their graduation last year, Ms Han and Ms Chua went on to take part in the making of a video and the development of an interactive activity book with stickers and colouring activities with NParks for the workshop.

Along the way, themes such as the impact of pollution on marine wildlife were introduced as Hershie encounters different animals.

In one such encounter, Hershie meets Timmy the sea turtle, who is eating a plastic bag that it thinks is a jellyfish.

It is the first time NParks is partnering a school to develop an activity book for a workshop specially for pre-schoolers during Biodiversity Week for Schools.

On the book A Crab, A Shell And A Little Help, Ms Han said: "It was a challenging process, especially since we had to juggle both our studies and this project last year, which was also our A-levels year. We didn't realise the actual impact of our work until we actually saw it ourselves."

Their project proved to be even more fulfilling when NParks incorporated their story into Biodiversity Week for Schools this year.

After attending one of the workshops which was conducted at My First Skool at Block 329, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, on May 23, Ms Chua said: "We thought that the impact of our storybook would be limited to its distribution to primary schools. But now, seeing the children enjoy our story and the interactive activity book we designed is especially rewarding."

Ms Cheryl Tan, 36, principal of the pre-school, pointed out that teaching children about the importance of conservation is crucial so that "they know how to play their part even as children".

The pre-school has been seeking to inculcate the importance of conservation among its pupils through teaching them about the 3Rs - reduce, reuse, recycle - and weekly gardening sessions at its own garden.

English lead teacher Shanthinayagi, 48 , said she is heartened to see her pupils' growing grasp of the concept of environmental conservation.

"Seeing them ask more questions and hearing from parents how they have taken such knowledge home is a huge satisfaction as it proves that they truly understand the importance of conservation," said the teacher.

The teachers and pupils at My First Skool also took part in Green Wave, another activity under the Biodiversity Week for Schools, where they planted a belinjau tree in their garden.

The young ones were eager to help. When asked how they felt, one of them - Olivia Ho, six - said with a chuckle: "I am very happy because I never got to plant trees before!"

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