Friday, 18 October 2013

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Jeremy

I had no idea what to expect. 

When Ria walked in, the first thing that caught most - if not all - of our attention was her insanely contagious laughter. By the end of the talk, I was thoroughly convinced that that not laughing whenever she laughs, is far from the realms of possibility. Moving on to the important bit. Bringing along with her a very cheerful attitude, Ria gave a fantastic presentation of the various kinds of organisms found in Chek Jawa. Simultaneously, she shared countless personal experiences, many of which left us in tears and fits of uncontrollable laughter. One joke stood out for me. "Why does the male fiddler crab have such a large pincer? Well it's the same as human beings. Why do males have large useless things as well - like sports cars?" Roars of laughter followed. In the blink of an eye, the presentation was over. It was entertaining, informational and fun. 
I wondered how the following two days would be like. 

So there I was, photo bombing Mr Loh's pictures. I'm sure I livened up his photos a lot! 

The weather was better than I could possibly wish for. Cooling, refreshing and revitalising. Perfect for a walk around Chek Jawa. In Mr Loh's group, we followed two enthusiastic tour guides into the great green unknown. With heads saturated with knowledge, they led the group through the forage teeming with life, occasionally stopping for photos to be taken, and especially interesting information to be shared. I whipped out my phone to note down as much information as possible. After all, I was going to be a tour guide in a month's time. Along the way, I asked a few questions of my own. Overflowing with passion, sincerity, respect and humility, they shed light onto my many unknowns, occasionally throwing a couple of jokes into the mix - icing on the cake. In the middle of Chek Jawa, surrounded by organisms of all sorts of shapes and sizes - I guess good leaders really exist anywhere, everywhere.

I could not have asked for better guides.

When seen in person, the sights were breathtaking and the creatures were jaw dropping - photos found on the Internet did little justice to them. 

Simply stunning. 

Finally, the moment I dreaded/ looked forward to arrived. Butterflies in my stomach, I stood in front of the group of information-hungry people, forcing out a smile - hopefully it didn't came out too awkward. The tour guide introduced himself and yours truly. I vividly recall that just a month back, I watched the two guides step up and here I was. The calm, placid looks on their faces spoke plenty of their experience in the field. Either that, or they were simply fantastic at suppressing the feelings of nervousness at making mistakes. Of course, the current tour guide I was following did amazing at engaging the audience - of all ages. I guess I still have plenty to learn in terms of interpersonal skills. Every now and then, he gladly stepped aside, passing over the audience's attention over to me. Internalizing the information of the 5 stations just the day before, I struggled slightly to share the information. Noticing this, a member of the group patted my shoulder, and said smiling, "I can tell you're working hard". I forced a smile.

Thankfully, they were really nice, driven purely by interest in the environment. A number of times, I engaged in conversations with them, asking whether or not it was their first time here. They replied gleefully every time - throwing in jokes occasionally even - lightening the mood and making my job many times easier. Despite my occasional hiccups, they also remained forgiving and understanding. Guess I was pretty lucky.

Alas, the tour had come to an end. Mentally exhausted, I joined the rest. "So how did Jeremy do?" Mr Loh asked almost immediately. Eyes widened, I looked towards the tour guide. "He was good." came the response.

I guess the EXCEL program really did widen my eyes - pun-intended - to a whole range of new things. From realizing the beauty of nature to honing my interpersonal skills, these two days were indeed well-spent. Now, all that's left is to hone these skills even further and apply them to my daily life. 

The future awaits.

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Marcus

Indoor Training

This talk was definitely an eye-opener for us as almost none of us had expected the shores of Singapore to be filled with such a great diversity of marine life. The speaker, Ms Ria Tan, was the most passionate person I’ve seen about her job. Throughout her presentation, she made everything so interesting that everyone, including those who had no interest in marine life, were constantly engaged. It was amazing to see how we’ve lived on this small island for so many years, but yet have never actually noticed that such amazing things could be found on shores so close to us. However, the talk was simply all theory, and thus we were all very excited for our first nature walk as it would be a brand new experience for us! 

Field Exposure

This was my first time actually vising Chek Jawa. The closest that I had previously gotten to Chek Jawa was when we kayaked past it during our level camp in Year 4. There was a relatively small group of people today, with a relatively large number of guides, thus we had the opportunity to not only interact with the public, but with the other guides as well. For today, I was attached to Ria’s group.

This first thing that I noticed was that handling a group of visitors was not as easy as I thought. Our group consisted of a few children, who were very active and quick at spotting various animals around them. However, once it came to the explanation by the guide, their interest level dropped, and they would tend to be easily distracted by new “discoveries”.

It was interesting to see how the guides were still able to capture their attention while allowing them to stay active, by getting the children involved in the explanation process as well. For example, one of the guides asked a young girl to first stand on two legs, and then on one, to show that standing on two legs was more stable than standing on one leg. From this, he could illustrate why mangrove trees had to spread their roots so widely in order to maintain stability.

Lastly, a skill that I learnt, that I feel would be very applicable to our daily lives, was how to effectively point out new “discoveries”. At the start, when we discovered an animal and tried to point it out to others, all we could do when they asked for its location was to point and say, “There!” That was really ineffective as most of the animals were extremely small and of the same colour as mud, and hence the children had a lot of trouble finding the animals. After a while, Ria realised what we were doing, and taught us the proper way to point things out. We had to look for more prominent objects around the animal, and roughly describe its size, so that others would know what they are supposed to be searching for. For example, she taught us to say, “You’re looking for something about the size of a 50-cent coin, on the right of that yellow leaf.” That made communication between us and the other a lot easier.

On-the-job Training

At the start of today’s walk, all of us on the OJT were definitely nervous as it was our first time having to introduce certain stations and we were afraid of how it would turn out to be. We also spent some time questioning each other to see if we were still able to remember the content that we’ve read. However, these worries turned out to be uncalled for.

We were visited by about 5 wild boars before the walk!

My main takeaway from today was that although it is important to have basic knowledge about the subject, what really makes a tour successful is how we interact with the public, instead of how much information is delivered to them. I realised that just a small amount of basic knowledge is sufficient to successfully engage the public, especially when the subject is something that interests them. For example, after the costal walk, the children were especially excited to finally be able to spot mudskippers. However, I was unable to present all the details about the mudskipper as it would end up boring the public. Thus, I learn that for the first time we spot something, we could first attract their attention by just telling them some basic and facts about it. The rest of the facts actually do not need to be presented, or could be kept and presented later if the same thing was spotted again. Breaking up information into different parts would help to capture the visitors’ attention better.

I also think that it is really meaningful for us and visitors to draw out their thoughts after visiting Chek Jawa, so that they would be able to play a part in protecting the environment there as well. Here’s a photo of a happy Darius after his first visit to Chek Jawa!

It really isn’t an easy task to guide a large group of people, especially in an unfamiliar environment. However, just through these few short trips, we have definitely learnt a lot of new knowledge and skills, and had a lot of fun as well! And I hope that maybe some time during the holidays, we would have the time and chance to be a part of this programme again. :)

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Yu Chong

Indoor Training
I was given 2 choices, the community exposure programme and the environmental programme. The difference was simple the former is about people, the latter is about nature, right? WRONG. I noticed how important people skills are in the first talk by Ms Ria Tan, she talks about the naked truth to succeed in guiding, that is knowing when and what to say to different visitors. The information was not the important part, since that can be done with memorization and with only the information equipped will almost certainly not make you an interesting guide. To be honest, I did not have any doubts in joining the environmental exposure programme because I have been fascinated with nature since as long as I can remember, but knowing that the community programme had more interaction made me feel a little let down since I wanted to do that as well, but I kind of got the best of both worlds by choosing the greener path. 

Ms Ria Tan talked about all the possible species of wildlife that can be seen at chek jawa, I would be lying if I said I knew Singapore had such great biodiversity, sometimes I just doze off during talks since my attention span is not the longest but never once did I feel the need to close my eyes during the 2 hour long talk, and what's more is that I did not have a great rest the night before. Despite all the surprising facts I learnt about chek jawa, it was Ms Tan's charisma that really caught me off guard, it is difficult to not want to listen to her, and that was what kind of a guide I wanted to be. 

First Trip
I have been to Pulau Ubin before, numerous times in fact. Every time I arrive at the island, I get a different experience, this was no exception. It was a leisurely day as we were not expected to do any actual guiding but all those who were there were very excited. Mr Loh himself gave some introduction of the trail and the surrounding environment, I seriously admire his passion for the environment, I know I definitely will not get out of my bed at midnight just to see rare animals on an island separated from you by a 20 minute boat ride. Then I realised the naked hermit crabs are no joke, they are so passionate about the cause expecting nothing in return, that made me wonder if someday I would be able to do the same. 

During this first trip, I learnt how to interact with kids, not that I don't know how before, but specifically how to make them pay attention and absorb information from you. Packaging of content is very important, so our experienced guide made use of as many stories as possible, since they are not interested in the science behind the creatures why force feed them with it? Just make the experience fun for them, if this made them love nature they will be keen to find out about it themselves in the future. 

In the end, we were made to draw the most memorable moment in the trip, I drew the sight of a pack of wild boars in the forest, though not related to chek jawa, I found them to be equally interesting. 

OJT (On-the-Job-Training)
This was after promos, a time where all the academic rigour of JC1 was past. Another trip to Ubin would have great effects in calming my spirits. Having learnt my lessons, both about the cruelty of nature and the effective way to guide, I set off knowing I will make this mission a success and return safely with minimal number of bites. The weather was rather unfavourable but not enough to dampen our spirits. With a morning rain I thought most would arrive late and/or sleepy but no I was WRONG, AGAIN. 

I was glad to be joined by similarly enthusiastic guests as well, I was assigned to guide a group together with Sylvia. I wanted kids to join our group but unfortunately what I learnt before could not be put to use as there were NONE.  Nevertheless I regurgitated what I have in my head about chek jawa, since children were absent I did not have to go through the trouble of packaging everything into little stories. It was really enjoyable to have the guests so keen on learning about nature, we even went into a little discussion about how evolution brought about the huge claws on the fiddler's crab. 

One incident that I would have probably never experience ever in my life was seeing a bottle adrift at sea, WITH A MESSAGE INSIDE. I quickly borrowed Sylvia's umbrella trying to scoop it out of the sea but to no avail, and I almost lost her umbrella too. I was sorely disappointed not to be able to get it. Nothing in the world could have effectively measured my curiosity on what was written on the note. 

Overall, this journey had been one of discovery, about nature, about people. I'm glad to have chosen what I chose, no regret, never ever. I have new insights on how to interact with people, how to appreciate the nature, a new found respect for the naked hermit crabs, a also found great deal of comfort knowing that a vulnerable place like chek jawa have a flock of guardian angels protecting it and even knew more about my friends. I've always thought of Sylvia to be dominant and a little scary to approach but it turns out she's a little shy and is a very kind and encouraging person, giving much needed assurance of my guiding abilities. I wish her all the best for her own OJT next month. I'm pretty sure everyone else got to know their guiding partners better after the trip as well. Those who came definitely understood Mr Loh a little better as well (:

One last awesome group photo, Jeremy is getting philosophical again. 

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Nikki

Perhaps the environmental exposure program was not what caught my interest initially. Memories of a shore walk some years back reminded me of the unpleasant feeling of walking in the inter-tidal areas with shoes dripping wet, not to mention the threat of stonefish lying around. However, what the trips to Chek Jawa gave me was a completely different, indubitably much more enjoyable experience. Not merely just the fact that we were walking on an elevated walkway instead of the shore itself, but also that experiencing nature in its most genuine form (given what you can find locally at least) and interacting with other like-minded nature lovers to share our pools of knowledge.

It has been said that the way one treats seemingly less significant creatures, such as animals and insects in the wild, will reflect in a way how he deals with his equals. It was through this exposure that I realized how inexplicable the beauty of nature is, especially since Chek Jawa holds one of the most diverse ecosystems Singapore has on her land, and one of the last of such places to be found. Preserving the place would be of utmost importance, I feel, such that the appreciation of wild life found can be an experience shared with younger and future generations. There definitely is a way to meet the needs of our current generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to similarly meet their own. The clearing of Chek Jawa in order to make way for residential developments is, thus, in my opinion, would probably be a wrong signal that it is perfectly fine to clear nature to meet our needs at the expense of future generations.

We were greeted by the sights of unique wildlife, such as the insect above which had part of its limbs in white – certainly something not easily found in mainland Singapore.

Other animals like that of the wild boar, shield bugs and other birds were also eye-opening sightings. For the second trip to Chek Jawa, the few of us were involved in On-The-Job training. Initially the thought of this did frighten me, given that I was not too comfortable with talking to a large group of strangers. Thankfully, the group of people that I got to interact with were open-minded and did not give me any difficulties at all in communicating with them. Some made it very easy for me to share with them about the environment in Chek Jawa by asking several questions.

In addition, the experienced guide in the group was approachable and I could clarify any doubts I had to answer to the others in the group who inquired. The most important takeaway that I brought home from the OJT trip was probably to be humble and not hesitate in learning from the group that I was guiding, since a huge proportion was older than me, and consequently full of more life experience. Though I was in the position of a nature guide-in-training, there were many parts of my knowledge of Chek Jawa which was inadequate and thus could learn a lot from the group, in particular those who were passionate nature lovers and knew much more than I did.

On a whole, the trip to Chek Jawa had taught me not only to appreciate the little things in the world, which would reflect our attitudes towards greater things, and to willingly humble myself to learn from others even when we are seemingly in the position of a leader.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Community Exposure reflections (Block Party on 23 Aug '13)

As a "rather privileged" citizen in Singapore, I have been living my own life, not interacting with the full spectrum of Singaporeans. ExCEL is an eye-opener for me, because although I might have imagined the existence of people living in different conditions, ExCEL brought me into contact with them.

To be honest, I did not actually have any expectations of ExCEL prior to the session, because I really did not know what to expect. However, going down there, and actually meeting these people has made me want to know more about them. I did not have the chance to really interact with them closely, but what I had observed was a myriad of circumstances and backstories unknown to me, all playing a part in their interactions with each other. I saw a woman basking in the atmosphere of the block party, others who asked me kindly for extra goodies to give to their grandchildren, and some who were there for reasons beyond me, neither participating nor looking like they were enjoying themselves. I saw event helpers who were there purely through the good in their heart, and others who look like they enjoy socialising with one another. None of these observations could allow me to place judgements on them though, as they were just one-off happenings that could, in itself, have their own backstory.

I hope that future sessions in ExCEL will bring me closer to people, allowing me to better understand them, and perhaps even allowing me to help them if they need it.


Even though this is just a short half-day event, I have learnt a lot from this experience. Despite Singapore being a relatively affluent country, there is still a percentage of low income families and less fortunate group of elderly.  

Something that Mr Marc Lim has left a very deep impression in me. He mentioned that Singapore is the first and only country that managed to develop from a third world to a first world country in a single generation. The elderly are the ones who made this development possible and yet, they are the ones being marginalised.

It made me realise that Singapore has under-appreciated this group of people who has worked so hard for the country. We are ignorant of their efforts and have taken their presence for granted. We ought to be more grateful for their efforts and help to improve their standard of living . Even though our efforts may seem minute, it definitely had a significant impact on their lives.    

This activity has also allowed me to  understand that we are very fortunate and we should always count our blessing and be appreciative of what we have. In addition, we should offer help to the less fortunate wherever possible.


Although I've had experience interacting with the elderly, it was quite some time ago, and this time, low income families were involved. It reminded me of what it is like for these less privileged group of society, who is very much in need of our help and should not be forgotten as the country progresses.

What struck me most was a short interaction with an elderly lady. I think that it was a pity that I could not speak dialect well when she had asked us for help. Initially, we simply assumed what she needed because we did not understand her dialect well enough. I felt a little helpless, though Clarissa did step in to help. I think that we all should learn to connect with these elderly more, so that we understand them better. It is only when we know what they really need that we can actually help them because blindly guessing would not be of any good to them.

I feel that perhaps I'm living in a too sheltered environment, where my friends and myself are from the same background. I really hope that at the end of this excel community journey, I will get to know people from the community and their problems, and truely understand the problems they are facing.


We started the evening with a sharing by Mr Marc Lim, regarding the characteristics of the residents in the district. Even though I knew that some residents there were not well-to-do, the statistics presented by Mr Lim and Mr Chan were quite insightful. Knowing the socio-economic status of the people certainly allowed me to empathise with them better.

Following that, we attended a block party organized for the residents in lieu of National Day. Since I had attended similar events before, I did not take away anything unexpected but it was still a good reminder nonetheless; a good reminder that there are many other less-privileged people in Singapore. Furthermore, until Mr Lim shared, it never came across to me that it was through this celebration that they hoped that the residents would reflect about the country. I feel that it is indeed a good platform to do so.

I wish I had interacted more with the residents though, to find out more about their background as well as their lives. It is through these interactions that we will have a deeper understanding of their circumstances and how we can help. Hence, I hope the future activities will provide a better opportunity for interaction, so that I can gain a variety of perspectives.


The first session of the community EXCEL program was definitely a fruitful one. All of us had a chance to learn more about the less fortunate in Singapore and how we as individuals can help them. Personally, I am really thankful for the opportunity provided by the council to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to Singaporeans who may have been neglected by the society. Being a leader is not just about giving orders and being authoritative, it is also about emphathizing with others, putting ourselves in the shoes of others. And I think this is exactly the purpose of this community EXCEL program - to teach us the meaning of empathy. The Block Party also allowed me to gain different perspectives from different people – the grassroot leaders, church ministries and even the residents themselves. I think this is the first step to empathizing with people as we get to understand each individual/organization’s point of view, concerns or problems. I have learnt quite a fair bit from this session and I really look forward to MPS in the future. Once again, I’m really thankful to have this opportunity. :)

-Chen Si

In the past, I always believed in the strongest of the fittest. One’s success is determined by one’s hard work. That view of mine has changed slowly over the time. I still think that hardwork is a crucial factor of success. However, EXCEL opened me to the idea that one’s environment contributes a lot to one’s success (let’s just use income to measure success). The idea of adaptability is also reinforced in my mind. Hence, we cannot be too quick to judge those that are low-income. It is important to step into their shoes and throw away all preconceived views. We owe our success to these pioneers. However, I find it hard to do this but with time I believe it will be easier.  I hope that there will be more platforms to interact with the residents. The majority of our time was spent on chit chatting or usage of smart phones. I hope that by the end of the journey I will have the ability to communicate with people of different lifestyles, better understanding of the workings of our society and be able to positively impact the people I talk to in any way possible


I have always been keen to study the socio-economic political environment I am in, and form my personal view on how the society functions. Gaining better knowledge of the people occupying the various rungs on the social ladder is part of my attempt to fulfil the above objective. That is what I hope I will take away from the programme, and I would say the first session was a good start of my immersion in that particular community.

Prior to that, I have attended a similar event which included performances for the elderlies. Although I found the programmes of that night familiar to what I have experienced, there were still an abundance of learning points to be picked up from my observations of the people: the organisers, the participants alike. 

Firstly I will talk about the audience. Most of them are senior citizens. At first glance, I sensed something different about them. I must admit that this can be a predisposed opinion, formulated unconsciously in my mind after Mr Lim had introduced to us the social problems of the neighbourhood. But when I looked into their eyes, and tried to feel what emotions are governing their mind at the moment, I thought many of them lacked “energy” in the look of their eye---not physical energy, but the vibrancy of spirit. Yes, we would say senior citizens are generally less active than younger people, but definitely in those elderlies I detected a stark difference from some others I have met in my life whose actions all seem radiant with energy. 

This view was challenged when I saw them stand up to sing patriotic songs and wave the flags. My initial interpretation classified that as a display of patriotism and enthusiasm (although they sang without much expression on their face). However, further analysis reminded me that the possibility also exists that it was the karaoake-like atmosphere that could have served as the main motivation for their passionate response. So are they the people who see life as purposeless, and are merely going for these events to dispel the loneliness, or still have the feelings for the community and life?

Both hypothesises are simplistic, and still largely unfounded. I would seek to vindicate each of them further in later time spent in the community.

-Bo Ning

Albeit having only spent a day with the residents, my perspective of Singaporeans has been broadened. I used to think that advancing from a third world to a first world country means that all Singaporeans are getting more affluent. However, I was proven wrong upon learning that there are still Singaporeans stuck in the cycle of poverty. I am now more aware of the socioeconomic landscape in Singapore, and that there is a group of Singaporeans whom need help. I wish I could have helped them emotionally. I understand that many elderly living in the area are unhappy as they are living in one room flats where it is mandatory for them to have a flat mate for each rented unit. The block party could have brought some joy to the elderly, but my heart sank when it dawned upon me that they would be returning to their lives when the party ended. Such short lived happiness is merely temporary and I wish that I could bring joy to the elderly so they could live the rest of their lives happily. I did not have the chance to interact much with the residents either, although I would like to listen to their life stories and in turn provide companionship to the elderly too. At the end of the entire journey, I hope to be able to empathize with others and to learn more about the residents. Being exposed to something totally out of my comfort zone, I also hope to attain the ability of adapting to my surroundings and thinking critically of events going on around me. More importantly, I hope to make an impact on the residents' lives to let them know that they are not forgotten by society amidst the nation's progress.


I imagined the program to be home visiting to know the living conditions of the people. To my surprise, we are needed to help out in the block celebration of National Day Parade. Besides the duty assigned to us, a few of us actually attended to this elderly who had trouble walking, but wanted to queue for the free snacks available. It was regretful that I could not understand her at first as she was speaking in dialect. But later found out that she could speak some Mandarin.

It's really important for the leader to know the language/dialect his/her people speak to communicates effectively. The MP indeed knows her audience, as she gave her speech in both English and Chinese, in which she said in Chinese first so as to capture her audience's attention. She's indeed people leader.


I wish I could have talked to more residents who participated in the event.

I talked to a few of the residents briefly and I learnt more about their backgrounds based on observation and the brief conversations that I had with them. The residents, especially children and elderly, are very happy to take part in the celebration and watch the performances because they rarely get a chance to do so. 

However, unlike the children who cheered and went around to explore the food booths, the elderly would not show their joy physically, they rarely put a smile on their faces.

I think this is because of the dull and repetitive routines in their everyday life that deprived them of opportunities to celebrate, smile and laugh. Slowly and unknowingly, they are used to putting on an emotionless facial expression.

Hence, I wished I had interacted with them, not just listen to their stories but also share mine with them to picture a more colourful life for them.

I hope I would be able to empathize more with people who are not as fortunate as me.

I also hope that I would be able to be more out-spoken after interacting with the residents.


Environmental Exposure Reflection by Songshan

“What exactly does this small island has to offer to the nature?” is the guiding question in my mind when I heard about the EXCEL environmental programme. As a kid, I would spend hours under the sun observing how spiders make web and ants carry food. Such little things around me intrigue me the most and that is why I chose the EXCEL environmental programme – to rediscover Chek Jawa, for all the little and not-so-little things.

Indoor Training

Do you know what a stonefish look like? Of course, by the name I bet you can already tell that they look like stones. However, spotting them is not as easy as it sounds and one can take up to 15 mins to find a stonefish in a marine life brochure, which is exactly what I did after I first stepped into the indoor training.

During the talk given by Ria, who is a very experienced guide and also our teacher for this EXCEL programme, we were given a lesson on how to become a good guide. I remembered an important point: being good does not necessarily mean that one has to have an incredible amount of knowledge on wild lives (of course this would be a huge bonus for guides), the key is CONNECTION. No matter how knowledgeable a guide can be, it will not matter if he/she cannot connect with the audience. This brings us to the importance of communication in our lives. Proper communication is so vital that we will not be able to survive without it in any environment, and this is even so for leaders around the world. As leader of an organisation, one needs to have the ability to influence others positively, which derives from the ability to carry out proper communication.

Observatory Trip

The second stage of the programme requires me to be present in an actual tour in Chek Jawa with an experienced guide to observe firsthand how to carry out a well-carried out tour (no pun intended here!)

On the boat to Pulau Ubin, I learnt something very useful – to navigate and know exactly I am in the ocean. Well actually its simple, look at the sun and you will be able to know directions. Look at the surrounding and you will be able to know your current location. I always thought that Malaysia is very far from Singapore but it is really just a swim away!

For the tour, I was grouped together with Ria and my fellow councillor, Raphael. It is Raphael’s OJT but my observatory trip, but the first guided tour in Chek Jawa for both of us. We were equally amazed by the rich bio-diversity of Chek Jawa and culture of Pulau Ubin. We were also surprised to see the enthusiasm in the tour group, especially from the younger ones in the group. Ria taught us how to guide people even if we have minimum knowledge about the place, and as I have mentioned it above, the key lies in connection. She is very good at encouraging people and motivating them after an interesting find. At the end of the day, I realised that in order to truly captivate people, we do not only need proper communication, we need understanding. Only when we understand our common goal, in this case, to discover Chek Jawa, will we then be able to devote ourselves and, subsequently, others into achieving our goal.

Who knows we can find the existence of “Student Welfare Department” in Chek Jawa!

OJT Trip

This trip is truly memorable. I thought I would just come to Chek Jawa and do the same things as I have done in my observatory trip, but it was a completely new and astonishing experience! The biggest change from the last trip is that I will now take on a role of a “proper” guide, instead of just being a “side kick”. Despite having done similar talking before in other occasions such as school tours, I was still a little uneasy having to guide groups through Chek Jawa.

We were greeted by them—baby spiders!!

This time I was paired up with Daniel. The good thing is that I became comfortable talking to my group after just minutes into the guide! I suppose guiding is not that scary after all, and indeed as soon as you start talking, you will feel as easy. THE KEY IS CONNECTION REMEMBER? In my group is mainly made up of families so there are both parents and kids that we have to cater to. From this, I realised just how important it is to cater to different people differently. If we are able to recognise the traits of certain groups of people we will be able to better understand them and see things from their perspective. For example in the trip, we have to encourage and motivate the kids on interesting finds because this is what keeps them going, however for adults we will need another approach – to tell them about the information required. This approach is especially useful in school, since we also need to cater to different groups when we are doing events and initiatives.

What a well camouflaged crab!

The most important lesson I’ve learnt from this entire programme is that no matter what we do, we all start small. Progressively, after tasting failures and successes along the way, we will be able to truly appreciate what we have done, be it for others or for self. Isn’t this what life’s about too?

What a wonderful world!

Once in a lifetime chance of seeing Jellyfish! (Okay I exaggerated a little, perhaps once in a year?)

(Moderator: Apologies for this backdated post)

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Ming Quan

At the very start of the EXCEL programme, we were all given 2 choices to choose from: either the environmental exposure programme or the community exposure programme. I was quite torn between both programmes as both programmes had appealed greatly to me. I wanted to learn more about the life’s of fellow Singaporeans through the Meet the People’s session offered by the community exposure programme. At the same time, I haven’t been to Chek Jawa before and wanted to learn more about the environment and Chek Jawa through the environmental exposure programme. Well, I eventually answered the call of nature (haha) and chose the environmental exposure programme because I thought it was more attractive.

During the indoor training conducted by Miss Ria Tan, we were given handouts and to keep us engaged, we were tasked to find the menacing stonefish. Although it was a simple task to do, I soon realized that it was one of the many ways that Miss Ria Tan attempted to engage and capture our attention. The presentation she made covered a lot on how the trip would be like, what we could expect from it, how the trips were conducted and tips on how to conduct such guided tours. Throughout the entire course of the presentation, Miss Ria Tan was totally enthusiastic and I can see how passionate she actually was about taking care about our environment. Her love for the environment was what drove her to join the Naked Hermit Crabs and volunteer her services and teach others more about the environment. I’ve learnt quite a bit from her just through the presentation, that there are many ways to engage the attention of people and that we should be passionate and enjoy what we do rather than moan and complain and see the downside of everything.

My first on the job training was on the 8th September. I could still remember how the day started with me and Yu Lian meeting Mr Loh to at Pasir Ris before heading to Changi Point ferry terminal to meet up with Miss Ria Tan and the others. I have never been to Chek Jawa before and I was quite pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the surroundings there. I was paired up with Mr Loh and Daniel and grouped with a group of 3 families if my memory doesn’t fail me. The trip started with some facts about the history of Chek Jawa, on how it was meant to be reclaimed before some Joseph guy came around and decided to save it from reclamation. We then headed along the boardwalk towards the Jejawi Tower. I was quite amused by how Mr Loh attempted to capture the attention of the young kids and get them to participate in finding the ever elusive mudskippers and the crabs. He was real patient with the kids, much more patient then I have ever seen him and I was quite surprised by this other side of Mr Loh that I have never seen before. His constant encouragement to the young kids made me realize that encouragement is the best way to get people to cooperate. I also learnt that different people require different methods to get their attention to be engaged and this is definitely vital in our SC journey, where we must learn how to engage the attention of our fellow peers. We spotted several interesting creatures such as the mudskippers and the fiddler crabs.

A fiddler crab climbing back into its ‘home’

For the actual guiding trip, Mr Loh was heartless confident enough to leave me with a group of grown teenagers whom I have found immense difficulties in communicating with and capturing their attention. As the guiding trip went on, I realized that it was not really that difficult to be a guide. The people would just believe anything you tell them, so long as they see something. I was able to capture the attention of the rowdy teenagers with finds such as fiddler crabs, mudskippers, bees and several plants along the way. I finally completed the guided tour and I must definitely say I have learnt quite a fair bit more. We were rewarded at the end of the day with the sight of a wild boar!

I have learnt much from these 2 trips and I want to thank the Naked Hermit Crabs for taking us in and teaching us so much about the beauty of everything that surrounds us. I’m really grateful for this memorable chance that they have presented me with.

(Moderator: Apologies for this backdated post)

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Yu Lian

Murderous mosquitoes, freaky flies, mud, high humidity, searing sun: not the most ideal setting you want your weekend environment to be like. And yes this was what I had to enjoy on 2 weekends during my trip to Chek Jawa. 

Nevertheless, I certainly remember the numerous tiny organisms that I certainly would have overlooked if I did not embark on this journey. I really enjoyed getting closer to the nature and its little wonders and I definitely learned much more about the environment.

Indoor Training:

I tried my best to remember all the pointers that were given to us during the indoor training but who knew that just guiding people around is not a simple task. No you must not be discouraging in your words, especially when people are trying their best to answer to your questions and be enthusiastic; no you can't exactly mention what you did not see if not you will disappoint them, and the list goes on and on and on.

Oh and be extremely patronising. Ok scrape that, I meant be extremely encouraging and nice because this is the way where we can get people to be more enthusiastic and happy during the trip. Let me give you an example.

Black pepper crab: Eh red, is that human over there called Mr Low?
Red chilli crab: good try! You're extremely close! He's called Mr Loh but MANY people always accidentally spell it wrongly because Loh and Low sound alike. But good try!

Outdoor Training:

Following the indoor training, we had the guided broad-walk tour, where we are the guided! Basically other than trying to drown myself in mosquito repellent, it really was very cool to see for the first time the whole of Chek Jawa. To be frank I thought Chek Jawa was an island on its own somewhere far away. Close enough, close enough. And wow, Chek Jawa is pretty. And rich with mosquitoes. But other than that, really you see many plants that grow your attap chee (though I am not a big fan).


and oh rubber. Like seriously, you see rubber sap hardened to form something like rubber.


Then I saw so many stuff. Mudskippers ranging from XS to L. Crabs from XXXXXS to XS (I think the huge ones are avoiding us). The tiny dots on the photo are ALL FIDDLER CRABS. Now please don't think that you can just come here to take them home and keep them.


Really, what I have learned is to really appreciate the nature much more. I mean have we ever bothered trying to care more about the nature? When we are exposed to advertisements telling us to not litter, blah all the litter will destroy marine life and stuff, yeah totally effective. 

But when you really see an awesome view at Chek Jawa, and suddenly your photo is ruined because you noticed the extremely annoying piece of litter that happens to appear in the foreground. I mean ok besides that you realised that it really just destroys their habitat. It's like putting a giant trash bag beside your HDB flat, SO STOP LITTERING. Go help pick litter now!


Oh and another thing that I would take my hats off to nature is that MOTHER EARTH IS SO RESILIENT. I mean really, you see barnacles growing at the side of the pillars and different creatures that you find there using every single man-made feature that was introduced by us humans and made it part of their home, their surrounding. While I dare not say they didn't whine because I really can't communicate with sea creatures (unlike Percy Jackson from my favourite book series), they definitely took it to stride as they changed to suit the environment. And we humans should stop whining about every single thing that changes in life and move on! Or well if you going home then move back or something.

And finally, we moved on to the...

Basically while I was extremely shy to guide them, I refrained from giving information that I am not 100% sure. There were only adults in my group, which is good and bad at the same time. Adults are nice and cooperative but not enthusiastic, while kids are enthusiastic but extremely agile and hyper.

One thing about guiding is that you really must know your content well and how you will actually engage the audience and capture their attention. Nope I didn't exactly do very well though, but I just hope that Chek Jawa's beauty was enough to dazzle them. Luckily with Mr Loh's help as the guide, he managed to fend off some weird questions and difficult times during the guiding.

Overall, it definitely was an extremely enriching experience for me, my eyes and my mind. Lovely experience admiring at the little wonders in our life.

(Moderator: Apologies for this backdated post)

Environmental Exposure Reflection by Ruo Ting

The Environmental Exposure Programme was one of the things that I look forward in council as it gives us a rare opportunity to barge into the highly knowledge-based nature circle.

Being much of a outdoor person, I am naturally drawn to being given the chance to learn from experienced nature guides as well as getting a taste of being a guide myself.

Our environmental exposure programme started from an air-conditioned room with Ms. Ria Tan. All of us enjoyed the short sharing that she gave us. The zeal in she has in her work is in itself a great inspiration to people who were given a chance to interact with her.

My first trip was in November, halfway through our Project Work schedule. I was accompanied by several other Student Councillors on the trip, having much fun learning alongside them. :) When we arrived at the pavilion, Mr Loh then drew us to a nest of weaver ants and shared with us the ingenuity of their method of weaving nests.

I was given the chance of following Ms Ria Tan on my first trip. She took opportunities to share with me stash of tips and tricks of interacting with audience and engaging tour members. She is able to match herself to the level of the audience, from young children to adults and engage in talks that will appeal to all of them.

As Ms Ria Tan is highly familiar with Chek Jawa, she was able to know what to look out for at each point in the boardwalk, allowing her tour members to have many interesting sightings along the way.

It was also a lucky day for everyone as there is a large number of jellyfish along the boardwalk at the sea! (picture credit: Mr Loh)

 My heart was won over by a little boy named Dalvin, who is my best friend at the trip that day!

 Here is a group photo of all 4 of us that day and dalvin in it as well! :) (photo credits: Mr Loh)

There was quite a break till the next time I was at the guided tour :) On that day, there was such a large group of audience to the point where Ley Kun has to turn down people who signed up later. There were a number of guides who gave up the chance of being at NPark’s volunteer appreciation day to continue giving guided tours to interested members of the public. This is a true portrayal of selflessness.

They were also rewarded for the sacrifice as we were greeted by Hornbill’s cries (which was of course not identified by me) the moment we arrived at Chek Jawa. We caught the hornbill taking over the nest box to be his new home, where he will house his bride and children. We were also welcomed by a few wild boars at very close distance. The guides also shared with me about the generations of wild boars and about how they swam across the straits to be in Singapore. We must never underestimate the possibility of nature.

Ley Kun assigned me to tag along Ivan’s group for my OJT. It was a large group compared to the last time I was with Ms Ria Tan. I benefited from the sheer amount of knowledge from Ivan. He was able to engage his audience with many stories and interesting scientific knowledge :) I was also able to share about some of the knowledge I have gained through reading and the previous trip with the audience as well. As the group was quite big, I could catch up with group members who are either going too fast or lagging behind to interact with them. Although I wasn’t given specific stations to guide at, it was still a great trip where I could put my past knowledge into use and share with the tour members.

The tour members were very excited by each sighting they had, enjoying the nature and bonding with their family members. This is one of the gifts of nature which we should protect and preserve for the generations to come.

At the end of each trip, the children were all engaged in documenting their experiences through art and colouring :) It is always very heartwarming to see that even the youngest of tour members have gained something from the trip.

The environmental exposure programme allowed me to see a world that I would never been able to see on my own and expanded my perspectives.  It is not easy to keep up with a non profit programme, up keeping blogs, documenting environmental related data and happening without out a true passion and belief in the significance of the work you are doing. It is the kind of passion and belief that I am still lacking of. 

The environmental exposure was a great feast of knowledge, experience and of course, crabs. Of which, the last point can only be understood by people of Naked Hermit Crabs. :)

(Moderator: Apologies for this backdated post)