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‘Kids are like sponges’: Raising eco-warriors from as young as 2-years-old

PUBLISHED

08 July 2024

Taken at Admiralty Park, the instructor was explaining what the Simpoh Air plant was to the children under the Outdoor School Singapore programme ‘Wild Troopers’.

An article on how preschools and outdoor activity schools inculcate a love of nature and an eco-friendly mindset in children by Straits Times featured NTUC First Campus’s (NFC) Outdoor School Singapore (OSS) and its programmes.

Established in 2019 by preschool chain NFC, OSS offers school programmes during term time and holiday programmes at locations such as Dairy Farm Park and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. These programmes teach children to love nature and aim to empower them to advocate for environmental sustainability when they grow up.

However, some children would have to shed their inhibitions about the natural environment first.

OSS’s Programme Architect Phang Shu Ann said that some children who attend its programmes initially refused to sit down on the ground in the forest, preferring to squat or sit on their bags because they have been taught that soil is dirty.

“To change the children’s mindsets about the outdoor environment, our coaches will ask them questions such as ‘Why is the soil precious? Who needs it?’, leading them to think about the importance of nature for the trees and animals,” she said.

Children who spend a lot of time on screens and have not been exposed to open-ended resources in nature, such as grass, sticks, branches, trees and rocks, may not know what to do when it comes to free exploration outdoors. Through repeated exposure to nature, Ms Phang said children gain confidence in navigating different types of terrain, learn how to identify poisonous plants and know what to do if they see a monkey or snake.

OSS’s school programmes start at $85 depending on class size and duration, while holiday programmes range from $110 for a one-day session to $430 for a three-day advanced programme. OSS has seen more than 10,000 children attending its programmes as of the end of 2023.

Manager Teo Hui Yi, 43, has registered her two children for OSS programmes since 2021 and during subsequent school holidays so that they could “get more sunlight and fresh air and enjoy the calming presence of nature”. She also realised that nine-year-old Elly Pu and six-year-old Rayner Pu picked up important values about preserving the environment along the way.

“When the forest near my HDB block was cleared for redevelopment, my son was upset for quite a while, asking where the creatures living there would go now that their home was gone,” she said, adding that the family had hiked in the forest before and her children saw spiders, fishes and birds there.

Media coverage

Straits Times Online (7 July 2024)

Straits Times Print (8 July 2024)

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