Learning in the forest

Shah smells one of the leaves from a tree used by traditional orang asli to treat cuts.

Not too many people look forward to sleeping under the stars in a tent-in a jungle, bugs and all.

Throw some evening heavy monsoon rainstorms into the mix, add 30 inquisitive young boys, and the amount of would-be willing campers plummets sharply.

But for people like Hardy Chin, and associate professor at UKM University, biologist Dr Wan Juliana binti Wan Ahmad, it doesn't get much better. Well, perhaps they might prefer to take the rain out of the equation!

Hardy is a passionate photographer of everything that dwells in the forest and his wife reckons it's become his second home but Hardy believes everyone can, and must learn from nature - so he creates program modules for both young and old.

"Technology today, like mini-drones to take selfies, relied on field scientists to watch, learn, analyse and then educate us, as to how bugs and birds can navigate and turn their bodies, in just milli-seconds to face another direction," he says.

'Statistics are showing that less and less people are entering the biological sciences at Universities in Malaysia, so we need to change that."

And changing it, he is.

Most of the boys on a recent two night excursion were from the Ar-Rayyan orphanage in Seremban and by the looks on their faces and their all-out enthusiasm participating in the events, the forest was a welcome break from suburbia and Hardy just may have inspired a few young boys to a career or passion in the field.

Dr Wan, at rear, overlooks some of the boys searching for skinks and lizards.

"We support Hardy's modules which teaches them the basics of forests, how to live in the forest, what lives in the forest, herbs, animals, plants and trees," said Dr Wan who like Hardy also feels that many children lack awareness, knowledge or appreciation of such a vital element in life.

"Look how excited they are," says Hardy as we walk a trail with the children, their eyes darting here and there, holding onto containers, looking for small lizards and insects to catch, which they then talk about in presentations at the end of each day and release back to the jungle later on.

"We discuss what we find here by referring to Holy Koranic references about nature and it's place in their learning curriculum," says Hardy, who also gives lessons at the orphanage to the boys.

Archery and searching the river was a hit for the boys who competed in teams for prizes.

The children also played archery games, planted trees, walked with experienced guides in the forest, tasted some traditional herbs and smelt some leaves used as orang asli medicine. One highlight was watching Hardy remove a large non-venemous Red-Tailed Racer snake from a tree which they identified and talked about later in class.

The program, called Ta'aruf and Tadabbur Alam 2016 is among many that Hardy does with UKM to promote and protect the natural resources we have here now and provide the means to retain their status for our joint futures. The courses are regularly available at different times of the year and are undertaken at various locations.

Manager at Ar-Rayyan, Nordiana Hashim is excited to see some of the boys so interested and motivated by the camps and lectures put on by Hardy, Dr Wan and Dr Fazly from UKM.

"When we had other activities like swimming in the river you could see some of the younger boys preferring to continue collecting animals around the edge of the river than play," she said.

Not only did they continue collecting they found a baby terrapin that Hardy said had not been seen for years in the area and was quite rare.

"They learnt so much. If they go camping again now they can tell if water is clean by seeing the presence of a certain insect on top of the water, little things like that which are important in an ecosystem," says Hardy.

If you are interested in attending the next excursion or finding out more details about courses and modules please call Hardy on +6011 1571 9691


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