By Serina Rahman
Photos by Noraini Jane Ariffin and http://www.globalpicts.com.
The school is not registered as a Kelab Pencinta Alam (KPA); it does have a nature club; but Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Bukit Damansara’s annual wildlife conservation / awareness program is run by active parents and led by the ever-energetic Noraini Jane Ariffin (also a parent of children at SKBD).
Since 1999, Jane has been driving a program to open the eyes of the children to a world beyond the four walls of their classroom. The project began small, when it first started it was a ‘Save the Seas’ dance performance but the next year they decided to specialize by species and they moved on to the turtle. By 2004, a team of dedicated parents almost 40-strong were running activities, competitions, performances for kids across the board – from Standard 1 to 6, sometimes taking over art and English lessons to drive the conservation message across.
And the kids love it. The plan for 2005 was initially the hornbill, but the kids, both boys and girls, clamoured to do the shark instead. “They find it to be an awesome creature,” Jane said, “they look up to the power of the animal”. By the end of the year though, the kids had found out much much more about the shark species than just its stereotypical menacing image a la Jaws.
In May the Marine Group was honoured to be invited as judges for their shark poster and presentation competition. Artwork by students of all ages was on display for us to review and the amount of detail, care and effort put into the presentations was amazing. Even more impressive was how the children responded when interviewed – shark facts, behaviour and breeding habits rolled off their tongues with ease. It was almost heartbreaking to decide on the winner – they were all so good.
The students’ enthusiasm and passion for their subject shone through again in November when they staged “The Making of Teeth” at KLPAC. Attended by swooning parents, sponsors and lucky members of the Marine Group, the children enlightened the audience with the truth about sharks and a look at the world from the sharks’ point of view. Edwin Ambrose, an impartial member of the audience unrelated to any of the performing children, thoroughly enjoyed himself. Later he confessed that as a result of the show he realized that “we (humans) are the ones affecting marine life – we take out of the sea for our own interest and we need to remember that the waters are their territory.”
It was a message well learnt and often-repeated by the students of SKBD. In the works now is a shark calendar, part of their fundraising effort in order to produce a colouring and activity book for children of island schools. They’d already spent most of 2005 selling t-shirts, badges, pewter necklaces – all designed by the students themselves.
And next year? With a deep breath Jane says, “It’s the year of the fireflies – the kids wanted to do it”. She is now gathering energy to run full steam into another year’s program, but with the support of so many parents and the unbridled excitement and passion of children eager to get involved in what has now become a tradition at the school, it’s impossible to stop. In fact, even Jane admits, “we have so many good ideas, it’s hard to fit them all in”.
All this by students and parents of a school – all on their own initiative. It’s a shining example for others to follow and yup… Jane will now speak to the Guru Besar about the school joining MNS as a KPA.