Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fieldwork Package Reflection

Initially, a few of us wanted to do an overseas fieldwork package. Intended to go kota Tinggi and Desaru. We approached Mr Yee and asked him for suggestion and he told us to email his friend Prof Teh who is an expert in physical geography in Malaysia. He sent us an email which show pictures of landforms and coral reef and i tried uploading on my blog but the pictures didnt appear.

Due to many factors, coordination with agency, time constraint, endless assignments, etc, we have to give this fieldtrip a miss. The seven of us decided to do a local fieldtrip thinking of the fieldtrips that Mr Yee conducts. He brought us to Bukit Timah, Labrador Park and Pasir Ris Park. Since the other group has decided on Coast, our group then choose Vegetation. Partly because Mel and I did vegetation for our ICT project, so we have researched quite abit. Our group decided to bring the students to Bukit Timah tropical rainforest but we feel that this may be a see see look look fieldtrip for them. Therefore, we decided to compare the tropical rainforest with mangrove.

We went down to Sungei Buloh Mangrove Reserve; most of the trails are at least 2km, we decided to take the students on a boardwalk trail. The NPark official told us that the boardwalk has everything that the students need to know. This trail is roughly 600-800m long with around 25-30 learning stations. We do find similarity between mangrove and rainforest, example: ferns and liana. We covered the trail in 1 ½ hours with lotsa photo taking. Towards the end of the trail, we find that some fauna and flora keeps repeating, we then decided to do a recap session towards the end so that students can have a clearer impression.

We actually plan to bring students to both forest and mangrove on the same day but after the mangrove trail we find it quite tiring and quite a lot to cover. We decided to conduct the field trip on 2 consecutive days. Our considerations include how to conduct a fieldtrip for 40 students in the class. How are we going to bring 40 students to rainforest and conduct lesson in the field? We find it hard to gather 40 students and listen to the teacher in both rainforest and mangrove. WE are assuming that only 1 or 2 teachers are conducting the field trip. We decided to split the class into 2 groups of 20 and conduct the fieldwork. Ideally, we feel that students shd get into group of 10 and the fieldwork can be conducted in the form of a few learning station but that will mean one or two groups of students may at times have no teacher’s supervision. We find that it might b unwise to leave students unattended; therefore we have to compromise with the number of students per group. We also thought of the idea of engaging guides to conduct the fieldtrip. At Sungei Buloh Mangrove, there is actually a guided tour which cost I think 50-100bucks. We were thinking teachers can plan the activities and the worksheet for the students to guide them to discover certain things in both mangrove n forest. Perhaps, we can engage the guided tour services to help us solve the issue of large group in the field. We designed our worksheet in the form of small booklet which we thought is more personal. We leave ample space in the booklet for them to construct their own understanding of both mangrove and forest. We find that worksheet can be very dull and very task oriented. The booklet is meant for them to keep, something like a field notebook which we don’t intend to collect but just briefly go through the main points with them in class. I quite like the notebook idea where students can deco this notebook and make it personal. I still keep my field notebook and I thought this might be useful for the students too.

Fieldtrip is definitely an important aspect of geography and a fact discovered by a child for himself through his direct observation in the field becomes a part of his being and is infinitely more than the same fact learned from textbook. Fieldwork in geography provides armchair geographers like us and students in classroom with the opportunity of studying the local environment around us which I thought will make learning more meaningful and enriching. It is only by being there in the field that one is able to grasp the meaning of distance, scale and dimensions of landscape elements. For example a picture of Grand Canyon, no matter how well taken, can neva communicate the awesome and magnificent experience which one gets when you see the real landform. Conducting fieldtrip can be daunting but worthwhile if students can remember for life.


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