University, while Tabitha Davis (in green cap) looks on.
Photo © Geoff Styles/Birds Korea
Not being a birder I was (obviously!) quite apprehensive when asked to help out with a “bird camp.” I had only recently been introduced to birdwatching by a colleague, Geoff Styles, and although I had been involved in the Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program (SSMP) spring counts at Saemangum, my role had been as scribe, simply supporting the bird-counter. However, after speaking to the organizers and previous participants, I realised that my role, along with the other volunteers, was to be a guide and facilitator. And indeed, for the weekend I was.
As team leaders if we couldn't fully answer a question (about the birds, the environment or anything!) it did not matter. We were there to create an environment where the students could ask questions and draw connections between what they could and could not observe. To get them thinking. To get them to ask, “Why?” and, “How?” and, “What can I/should I do for the environment?”
The weekend started in a classroom at Changwon University, where the students were given a strategy for identifying birds and looking at their habitat(s). As well as looking at slides, pictures and hearing about birds, the students (and their helpers!) were able soon after to put their newly gained knowledge into practice at Joonam (or Junam) Reservoir. This approach gave everyone a great sense of control and power out in the field which in turn prompted the students to ask questions about what they could (and could not) see and hear. As a result the area of study was expanded to the reservoir in general and eventually to a hypothetical global scale. Simultaneously we were addressing the issue of human relationships with their surroundings, especially where we were, Joonam Reservoir.
This sounds complicated and deep - not to mention near impossible in a second language!- but because we were in the field, surrounded by the environment and species in question and accompanied by people who were knowledgeable and cared, there was a natural flow from theory to practice, bird to environment, from our surrounding to humans.
When the weekend started, many of the students could already answer questions put forward by other participants, but they gave very closed and single-word answers. However, by the end of the weekend they had realized much more the importance of interconnectedness and often the impossibility of a giving a “single” answer.
A weekend is a frustratingly short time to cover such a wide and far reaching topic as the environment. We briefly skimmed the surface of many issues and I was left to wonder, “What will the students do? How will they use the information, the insights, they have gained?” In May (during the SSMP) I took a group of ten-twelve year olds (English Time 5) to a bird photograph exhibition at Wonkwang University, and several of them wrote about the experience in their journals. They then took their parents and family there the following weekend. I can only hope that this weekend at Joonam will also have made a lasting impression on some of the students, and that the experience will spill over to influence the lives of others. For the educators too, the experience was, in the words of colleague Jeff Puccini, “so rich.”
For more on this Camp in English, visit Birds Korea Life-members Geoff and Emily Style's blogs at:
NOTE: This was the second such English Camp this year. Organised by the Nakdong River Basin Office of the Ministry of Environment-UNDP-GEF Wetlands Project and funded by Changwon City, the Camp was led by ex-pat members of Birds Korea (who organized the curriculum, and provided the educational aspects of the Camp). There are plans for another Camp, possibly in October 2007. If you are an English teacher living in Korea, concerned about the environment and interested in environmental education, perhaps you too would like to join Tabitha Davis, Nial Moores and others at the next Camp? If so, please email Birds Korea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translated by Park Seo-Yeong.
On July the 28th and 29th, the Joonam English Wetland Camp was held, organized by the UNDP-GEF Wetlands project of the Ministry of Environment, and funded by Changwon City. Birds Korea, the conservation organization of birds and their habitats, planned and conducted the educational program.
In total, 27 middle school students living in Changwon, 8 Korean volunteers, and 8 foreign nationals participated in the weekend camp held at Changwon University, the Joonam reservoir and the Joonam Eco-centre. For better understanding of the aims and educational materials of this camp, preliminary meetings were held on July 22th and 25th for both students and Korean assistants.
The wetland English Camp aimed to help students interested in nature -birds or wetlands- enabling them to take action for conservation. Additionally, the Camp aimed to help the students enjoy English while developing a more international view of the Ramsar Convention (especially as the next Ramsar Conference will be hosted by Changwon, Gyeongnam Province in 2008).
The Camp offered various opportunities for interaction between the students and teachers, as one foreign national and one Korean assistant were assigned to every five students.
On the first morning, students were absorbed in indoor activities by introducing themselves, answering a quiz about birds and wetlands led by Mr. Styles, listening to the sounds of insects and looking at plants and nature (led by Mr. Kim), and looking at images of wetlands shown by Mr. Moores. In the afternoon, at Joonam Reservoir, the students were outdoors, where they learned about wetlands and the interrelationship between species living there, despite the extreme heat. Especially, the students saw how the structure of waterbirds depends on their habitat. Consequently, the first day of the camp provided general knowledge about the Joonam Reservior.
The second day began at 8 a.m, to avoid the heat. The students, Birds Korea teachers and assistants made an eco-map of the Joonam Reservoir, debating what kinds of wetlands, animals or plants species and disturbance were there. Finally, they made a presentation about how to protect the natural environment at home, at school, in Changwon and the world.
The Joonam Wetland English Camp was a very meaningful way for students and environmental activists to work together, not only transferring knowledge, but also helping students think again how to conserve nature and start shifting their interest to nature based on their experiences. Furthermore, as the camp was conducted in English it was a good opportunity for each student to improve their English proficiency and speaking skills.