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.

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