It was a return trip with the ISS International School Singapore students on the IB program Grade 11 students for their group 4 project, this October, and it proved emotionally rewarding for me indeed, on so many fronts.
I loved seeing how the teachers buy in to the message of the trip was very possible and encouraging, with a great bunch of teachers who came on this trip and who felt passionately against single use plastics that they would help reinforce the message and point out to students when they depend too much on single use plastics indeed. The support was heartening and one could really see how much the teachers were invested in the conservation message of the trip indeed.
After the first day of visiting the shark market and the shark processing plant, the students did some reflecting on the day and it was insightful to see how affected they were by seeing the whole industry first hand, while still getting to know the human aspect of the issue through their time interviewing the fishermen on the island where most of them lived on. I guess listening in on the insightful reflections that exhibited critical thinking by the students got me really interested in the IB program (a very holistic developmental education program that gets students to ask questions than take in whatever is fed to them).
I was very very lucky indeed, to have had the support of fine trip facilitators namely, Matt, who was a retired teacher of ISS and who came on the trip last year with the previous batch as a teacher then; Bryan, a marine scientist who added much value to the shark processing plant, sharing important shark biology information with the students as well as helping them students with the snorkelling and data collection. Can’t forget Sheryl, another marine science trained facilitator who connected and bonded well with the students and guided them so expertly through the collection of shark landings data at the fish market, not forgetting taking amazing care of her group during the data collection snorkelling too. Couldn’t have made the trip possible without such dedicated crew that had great expertise and were super strong swimmers! I really learnt so much from the 3 of them indeed too, about data collection for coral health and fish species density counting, considering how I don’t have an academic background in marine science! Thank you Matt, Bryan and Sheryl!
I personally enjoyed the trash audit activity with the students the most. As we were doing beach clean up along the shores of a secluded beach, it was interesting to hear the students making observations that the beach looked so clean but we still amassed so many bags of trash, as well as how they noticed that some of the straws they picked (or tried to pick) were already disintegrating as exclaimed that fishes eat these when they are in the ocean and humans end up eating the fish with the ingested plastics too. Without the first hand experience of counting the types of trash that we pick, the lesson on the harms of single use plastic could hardly be more entrenched.
And the end of the whole trip, I was really touched when the students came forward during the last night’s reflection session to specifically thank each and every one of the teachers and facilitators on the trip and I think it really struck me when the kids shared about how thankful they were to Bryan for teaching them to snorkel properly and for Sheryl in taking time to have dinner together with the students, as well as to Matt for travelling all the way from USA to be a facilitator on their trip and gide them through the activities. I really appreciated the openness by students to one another of different nationalities and cultures and how they were really open to and respectedone another’s views. That is truly the value of having an education in an international school. Was also super grateful for Juli and his Nara Lingua team for their invaluable help in translation especially for fishermen interviews, the team really put themselves out there and went above and beyond to help the students and bonded with them as well.
The departure at the airport back in Singapore was definitely emotional for me too. It was epiphanic when the teachers individually shared deeply about how the trip made them think deeper about issues and what impacted them as well. Thank you ISS, for being such a wonderful bunch that inspires me to keep going with the school trips. no matter how hard it is to get more schools into the buy in. It has been rewarding and fulfilling taking you on a marine conservation trip with The Dorsal Effect!