30 September 2006

Toddycats Exhibition at NLB

For the last 2 saturdays I have been stationed at National Library for a Toddycats exhibition in conjunction with Eco 4 the world's UNEP Passage of Hope photo exhibition. Being more of a regional perspective, our little booth brings a local perspective to biodiversity conservation.

Eco4theworld's Passage of Hope travelling exhibition.

Doing this partly as my project for NEA's Young Environmental Envoy, the toddycats exhibit was unfotunately the only 'booth' there. To rectify the problem, I attempted to bring the different groups to the public by helping them distribute their flyes and printed materials. It was an excellent exercise at consolidating the efforts of the different green groups in Singapore and complimented each other very well.

Thanks to Joe from SEC's Green Volunteer Network, Ria from Wild Singapore for providing their excellent Wildfilms presentations, Vilma from NSS for the free Nature Watch which were very popular with everyone, Abby from Blue Water Volunteers for their flyers and all the help from the toddycats, from planning to actual day manpower. Many were bugged by me for months and others responded brilliant to last minute calls for help from the monkey. Even without script, trained Pedal Ubin guide, Andy D was able to help with the exhibit effortlessly. Of course he mentioned that hearing me regale the public with the same stories every 5 minutes helped!

The first Saturday, due to shortage in manpower, we only had the monkey, lots of freebies and panels galore. Many people were wondering if we were selling anything till we told them that there were free things to be had. After 1pm, the lunch time crowd started coming in and it was a jam!

The only picture of monkey over the 2 weekends.

As the exhibition coincided with the International Coastal Cleanup in Singapore, one of the biggest event in Toddycats calendar, the monkey had a shortage of manpower. However, it did not stop us from spreading word of the coastal cleanup and the surprising biodiversity in Singapore.

"Did you know there are dolphins in Singapore" worked brilliantly as an opening line for me on the first Saturday.

On top of that, we had 2 videos from WildFilms, one of which I spent a whole night converting from powerpoint to quicktime while adding a soundtrack from Snow Patrol courtesy of Hua Qin. It proved to be worth the time well spent. We introduced more than 100 people about the marine biodiversity in Singapore, the curse of the plastics and what people can do!

The next saturday, we brought on the help of the specimens, a proven crowd-magnet over past exhibitions.

Time was spent packing the exhibits the day before and on the day itself, 2 toddycats met me in school along with Wai who was kind enough to come and give me a hand loading the specimens into the cab, pass me the BWV flyers and also lend me her camera or there would have been no photos of the day! Interestingly, most of the toddycats that helped out explaining the exhibits were mostly non-biology students but we had no problems holding their attention. There was the geographer monkey, an accountant and an accurer. In fact, our veteran is a bear making mechanical engineer! We may not know scientific name and physiology but we sent the public home with awareness of biodiversity conservation in Singapore anyways.

We had with us a Malayan Pangolin, a Colugo, a Hawksbill Turtle hatchling, a Black Spitting Cobra, a Dugong, a Knobbly seastar and a Beach Horseshoe Crab! People listened on, captivated by the stories and the opening line never failed me.

"Did you know all these animals can be found in Singapore?"

At times I felt like the mobile salesman you find outside NTUC selling his wares behind a table to a crowd of curious housewives. At one point when the booth was left alone save for a monkey, I had to resort to addressing all 10 people in front of me at the same time.

Still, it paid off but nothing beats having and seeing my volunteers attend to the interested public, giving them personalized attention. It's especially great seeing the kids take it all in.

I met a kid who told his mama that they should go to a beach right now and bring a horseshoe crab home to keep in his tank. Hopefully my asking him if he had a beach or mangrove at home to keep the horseshoe crab alive and happy persuaded him otherwise. I doubt he has a forest at home to keep the colugos happy either. Better keep it out there in the wild for all the share.

There were encouraging moments when I saw a returning visitor. A mother who visited the booth on the first Saturday with her two kids returned again to show support to our exhibition on the 2nd Saturday after hearing from me that there would be real specimens the second time round! In fact, the kids loved the specimens so much, I ran out of stories to feed their hungry enquiring minds.

It also helped that we played a little "where can these animals be found" game with the kids and adults alike, with NSS Nature Watch magazines to be given away as prize. Being so popular, the magazine had no problems enticing even the adults to play our game. Before we knew it, 200 copies of the magazine was given out over the two Saturdays! In fact, save for a few brochures, we gave out almost everything we brought to the library! Our bags always came back lighter.

Playing games.

At around 4pm, we packed up and ICCS zone captain drove down all the way from the museum to pick me and the specimens up from the library back to the school. It was a good way to spend my weekend. Talking for 6 hours nonstop was worth it!

Unpacked and home sweet home.

For more photos, see my flickr set.

02 September 2006

Setting up exhibition for NYEF 2006

The night before the National Youth Environment Forum, organized by ECO Singapore and held at SMU School of Accounting on 2 September 2006, the security guard at SMU encountered a car load full of toddycats bustling up towards the building with panels and gear in tow.

While Siva, Weisong and Gwynne has the responsibility of presentation and caucus group discussion tomorrow, Yueat Tin and Chen Kee has the task of setting up the panel exhibition the night before due to logistics reasons. Luckily, Yueat Tin encountered more toddycats, namely Anand and November, at the NUS Masters of Environmental Management Lecture Series and managed to rope them in to help out in exchange for a free ride home! Along the way, the civet cats also managed to pick up an ECO member at the Energy and Climate Change talk that evening and got insider help from him.

After much shifting around to accomodate the feng shui and limitations of the venue, the exhibition team finally decided on a spot not so far or different from the originally assigned one. Setting up the exhibition display panels turned out easier than expected with the extra pairs of hands. We also managed to get extra display panels courtesy of our friendly organizers which helped very much.

After setting up and being very pleased with our handicraft, the team took photos and head off to supper, transfering photos and blogging this very account. But not before we arranged for the logistics for the next day which involves transporting the specimens for our booth from the museum in the morning.

The display includes mainly details about RMBR Toddycats and our activities, RMBR newsletters and museum roundtable flyers. At the same time we will also be displaying several specimens such as the dugong, horseshoe crab, knobbly sea star and the heart urchin.

All photos courtesy of Wong Yueat Tin.

01 September 2006

Activities this weekend

Hi all,

I'll be giving a talk at NUS LT31 at 12pm. It's in conjunction with the
ICCS. See Raffles Museum NewsI'm preparing that now! Dewi and Dongrong will setup an exhibition at LT31 for the session.

On Saturday, Gwynne and Wei Song will be facilitating at the National Youth Environment Seminar at SMU, where I'll give a10 minute presentation on behalf of NSS andd ACRES as well. This is the follow up to the amazingly informative and motivational pre-forum seminar last week.

Yueat Tin, Chen Kee and Kai Scene will setup and man an exhibition at SMU where they'll meet youth from various organisations. Airani just finished preparing the new set of name cards for all our exhibitions.

The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore Kranji team - Wei Song, Yueat Tin, Cheng Puay and Hua Qin - will be conducting a briefing and walk through of the site at Kranji in the afternoon, at the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. The Kranji team includes several other Toddycats who are handling data, site supervision and leaders of the NUS team.

November will be setting up and manning the ICCS exhibition (marine life and pollution issues) at an NEA exhibition at the National Library. We always partner some organisation for exhibitions so that their publicity will umbrella us and a wider picture of the issues is achieved.

Wai has been helping with the BBC crew filming snakes and crabs in the mangroves. That's been a dawn to dusk effort which was finally completely successful last night. I'll release the crabs at Sungei Buloh tomorrow.

The ICCS Otters led by Deputy Coordinators Angeline and Yueat Tin are communicating with groups to allocate sites for the cleanup and briefing new organisers, partnering up organisations at sites.

Zone Captains, Ng Kai Scene, Hwang Wei Song & Vu Tinh-ky, Ng Hua Qin, Dinesh N., Lim Chen Kee and Kok Oi Yee have recce-d their sites and are handling the management of groups coming on the 9th and 16th of September.

Talks have been given/allocated to about 20 schools and organisations so far, which Chien Fang has been coordinating.

I have to go prepare for my talk - this was meant to be a two liner note! But a lot is happening all the time. We just don't write that much about it.

More things lie ahead in the next three months: ICCS post-even debrief and analysis, Southern Ridges trail (briskwalk and cycling), Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk, Public Gallery Guiding, the Annual Recruitment, recce of Mandai mangroves, etc.