Today I was invited to represent MNS as an observer of the River and Water Awareness and Education Programme for Schools in Penang. This is run by Water Watch Penang with funding from the MNS-ABN AMRO Conservation Fund. The day was co-ordinated by Prof Chan Ngai Weng, who is the President of Water Watch Penang, with the help of one of his Master's students and a friend.
For this particular programme he was joined by 2 teachers and 30 Form 2 students from St Xavier's School. The day started with a talk on the importance of water catchments, and then some testing of the river's cleanliness and water quality.
By the time I arrived, students were already enthusiastically wading knee-deep in the stream, equipped with nets, petri dishes, trays and bottles.
"There! There! Get that one!" Some excited encouragement from the sidelines!
"Come and look at what I caught!" If only more science classes could be like this!
The catch is carefully and quickly transferred into a shallow tray filled with stream water.
Put into a petri dish for closer study.
Now, which one is it? Checking the identification key.
Reading about how different species are indicators of water quality.
Marking the catch on the pollution score sheet. The total catch score will give an accurate assessment of the state of the stream's water quality.
No clipboard? No problem! What are friends for?!
You know, I could get into this!
St Xavier's students go wild!
I was told by the students that this is a shrimp - river prawns apparently have hairy legs!
And we thought this must be a water spider of some kind.
Lunch tastes good after a hard morning in the field! Notice the biodegradable food wrappers!
Collecting rubbish at the end of the fieldwork, to make sure we leave the place cleaner than we found it. Malaysia boleh!
Students learn where the water in our taps comes from, and about the treatment process it goes through first.
A view over the treatment plant.
We were privileged to see the waterfall that provides the inflow for the treatment plant.
Reluctantly I had to leave at this stage for another appointment. Having observed the pristine beauty of the headwaters, the students were now taken to the mouth of the river into which the stream in the Botanical Gardens flows - the Penang River. At the point where the river enters the sea it is now longer pristine, but a foul-smelling black outflow of pollution. This would be a lesson in care for our waterways a thousand times more effective that the best classroom lesson. Hats off to Prof Chan and his team for their work in helping school children to understand and value their natural environment!