A conversation between two 5 year olds and their teacher on the environment
August 31, 2013, 2:49 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Early Childhood Education, Singapore

This conversation happened sometime back and after reading through the transcript several times over the past few days, I feel this have to be shared.

________________________________________

Student A: Rachel, when people build more things, it means that they have to chop down the trees right?

Me: That’s right. How do you feel about this?

Student A: Then where do all the animals like the birds and the worms move to?

Student B: And monkeys and ants also.

Me: Where do you think they will move to?

Student A: Another tree? But then if they move to another tree, that tree will become so crowded. And then if people keep on chopping trees, then the animals need to keep moving right?

Student B: Or they die lor…

Me: Well, that’s true… how do you feel about this?

Student A: Then we cannot build more buildings anymore.

Student B: And then where do people live?

Student A: If we keep thinking about people, people and people, one day there will be no animals left. We need to think about the animals too and stop chopping down their homes! (She was actually angry…)

Me: What should we do then?

Student A: Recycle houses? Hahahahaa…

Student B: No… I don’t know what to do.

Student A: I know! We make posters to tell people that animals are so poor thing so we should stop destroying their homes. Can we do that or not?

Student B: Will it be too late? I mean, are many of the animals’ homes gone already? In future, will we still have any animals left when we grow up?

________________________________________

Indeed, will we still have any wildlife left in Singapore when my students who are now 5, grow up? I think it is time for us to seriously think about what we are destroying here… Bukit Brown might be gone soon, along with all its wonderful biodiversity. What is next, Chek Jawa and perhaps the whole of Pulau Ubin?

Let’s stop this before it is too late.


14 Comments so far
Leave a comment

it’s not just bukit brown that will go, you know. all the secondary forest on this island is to be cleared by 2030. currently, it’s full steam ahead at pasir ris now. enjoy what exists while you can. in fact, by the end of this decade, most of the wild life will be at the bars and nightclubs. no more wild boars, iguanas, monkeys, squirrels, civets etc etc… ahhhh, the joys of ”progress”…

Comment by seven

Rachel, if you ALREADY own a house, or are living with your parents in their house, then it is EASY for you since the trees that occupied the land where you are living have already been chopped down.

It is a selfish attitude and please do not inculcate this abhorrent attitude in the children you take care of.

Comment by Bryan Ti

Bryan Ti,

All I did was to encourage critical thinking among the young children who I EDUCATE (rather than “take care of”), which is and should be the goal of all forms of education in the first place. I do not tell them what to think or influence them to hold certain opinions and this very conversation was initiated by my students in the first place, not me.

P.S: I am not interested in being an authoritarian. I am an educator, a facilitator of the learning and development of young children… and a friend.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

All I did was to encourage critical thinking among the young children who I EDUCATE[…]

Seriously? Then why do you ask them what they FEEL instead of what they THINK about something? It appears it would be more accurate for you to say you engage them in “critical FEELING” than THINKING.

I do not tell them what to think or influence them to hold certain opinions and this very conversation was initiated by my students in the first place, not me.

This is evident since it’s more important to you to know how/what they FEEL instead of what they THINK being that feelings and emotions can then be manipulated and swayed to certain opinions regardless who initiated the conversation.

P.S: I am not interested in being an authoritarian.

We get that just by your utter contempt and visceral hatred towards all things authority to begin with.

I am an educator, a facilitator of the learning and development of young children… and a friend.

What about being an example? Did you forget to leave that one out?

Student A: I know! We make posters to tell people that animals are so poor thing so we should stop destroying their homes. Can we do that or not?

This is the way of the future to solve all the world’s ills! Make… POSTERS! But didn’t you inform your young, impressionable minds that posters are made of PAPER and PAPER comes from… TREES?!

You could have at least informed them that wearing RIBBONS are a more economical and “environmentally-friendly” way of expressing their emotional turmoil while feeling really good about themselves because not only do they get to wear a cool badge to show the world they care and feel more about whatever the current, trendy, fashionable liberal crisis du jur, but they can then brag how they do so more than you do. Remember children: Symbolism over Substance.

Let’s stop this before it is too late.

This just oozes of liberal compassion, caring and awareness! Can you FEEL it? But in reality, how/what do you propose to do? Are you suggesting returning to a life of Luddism, or becoming Amish? Are we all to just go back to cave dwelling? PLEASE, tell us what to do?!

Comment by Sembawang Bolo

First of all, apologies for approving your reply so late. Have been too busy to check my blog in the past few weeks. As I have to run back to doing some work, here is my brief response in point form:

1. Children first learn through concrete experiences (in this case, FEELING) which can then lead to abstract actions (in this case, thinking).

2. Facilitation includes modelling.

3. Research has shown that authoritarianism is anti-thesis of the purpose of developing critical thinkers and learners.

4. My students, young as they are, are very well aware that papers come from trees. We have been recycling paper and recreating paper from used paper (i.e., making our own paper) for art and craft. Also, these children are 5. They have all the time in the world to find out other ways of doing things and in class, they are encouraged to think of other ways. Posters come to mind because they see posters all the time in their immediate community spaces.

5. Thank you for trying to put me down but do note that you are wasting your time doing so.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

These days, houses are made of concrete, sands, plastics, waste material, steel, containers. Not trees.

Comment by vree

What my student meant was:

In order to build more buildings, trees need to be cut down to pave way for the construction. And yes, all my students know very well that buildings are not made from trees unless we are talking about tree houses here.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Whether it is a 10 or 30 storey , still use the same amount of land space. Alternatively, can extend housing to sea, lakes, canals which is a good idea since sea level is forever rising.

Comment by vree

Having said so, I believe in an optimal population density level at around 300 per km2. We have way gone over that long ago.

Comment by vree

Very touching story. I feel the environment doesn’t get enough consideration here. Did you see the ourSGConversation asked people to rate their preference for building infrastructure vs saving green spaces and also vs preserving our heratage. In both cases a majority prefer preservation over building, but somehow this gets completely overlooked in the debate and aftermath thereof. PM just goes on about building more houses, which are only needed because they have committed to 6.9, which apparently all flows from a desire for economic growth… Environment be damned.

And don’t even get me started on global warming. Singapore is hardly well placed for rising sea levels – but with our technical skills, educated workforce, experience with semi-conductors and equatorial location – we should be a world leader in solar power. But are we? No. For all the gov’s talk of long term planning, this is quite poor…

Comment by andyxianwong

1. Children first learn through concrete experiences (in this case, FEELING) which can then lead to abstract actions (in this case, thinking).

First of all, this converstation wasn’t about any particular “concrete experience” any of these children had. It was based on some hypothetical idea of building more things means having to chop down more trees. Does a child “feel” or “think” when realizing more trees have to be chopped down? “Feeling” is more the abstraction here being that it can be manipulated by subjective “correct” thinking.

2. Facilitation includes modelling.

Facilitation can include many things, which modeling can be part of. What are you an example of to your students that you model?

3. Research has shown that authoritarianism is anti-thesis of the purpose of developing critical thinkers and learners.

Whose research? “Authoritarianism” is more or less a buzzword linked to negative connotations by authoritarians who want to hide their authoritarianism. It’s no small secret that crictical thinkers and learners have thrived in all sorts of environments regardless. An authoritarian can encourage critical thinking and learning just as much as subduing it. It all depends on what is the purpose of the authority.

4. My students, young as they are, are very well aware that papers come from trees. We have been recycling paper and recreating paper from used paper (i.e., making our own paper) for art and craft. Also, these children are 5. They have all the time in the world to find out other ways of doing things and in class, they are encouraged to think of other ways. Posters come to mind because they see posters all the time in their immediate community spaces.

Since you are trying to inculcate your young students on the early precepts of “activism”, they should be made aware of such concepts of thriftiness and conservation. Whether or not posters are the first thing that comes to their mind because they see them all the time should also be taken a step further to point out the excess of resources in making them. It’s a perfect opportunity to show them a better way than what they see.

5. Thank you for trying to put me down but do note that you are wasting your time doing so.

You’re more than welcome. However, I don’t put YOU down; just your Westernized leftist liberal ideas/activism which is essentially couched socialism.

Thanks anyway for your concern about the use of my time as you certainly must have wasted your own in expressing it.

Comment by Sembawang Bolo

“First of all, this converstation wasn’t about any particular “concrete experience” any of these children had. It was based on some hypothetical idea of building more things means having to chop down more trees. Does a child “feel” or “think” when realizing more trees have to be chopped down? “Feeling” is more the abstraction here being that it can be manipulated by subjective “correct” thinking.”

You are assuming that it isn’t. Educators don’t just let children sit around and chit-chat the whole day. A day in our classrooms are filled with activities and discussions but I don’t blame you for your assumptions because you might not be an educator yourself. Feelings are felt directly and to be able to describe how one feels (hence it is concrete), requires thinking and the application of learned vocabulary in the first place, which is a very important process that young children have to go through before being asked “What do you think?”. Also, in the follow-up to this conversation which continues on through activities on a daily basis, children will eventually be asked for their thoughts. Here in this blog post, I am only sharing a conversation which lasts less than 5 minutes so you are too quick to assume and judge. I am not sharing the greater details of the activities of the day because I am bound by my contract not to do so.

I am not training any of my students to be future activists. What I am doing is the inquiry-based approach which exist in most early childhood education centres in Singapore, including PCF and centres operated by NTUC, encouraged and advocated by MOE and MSF in their Kindergarten Curriculum Guide (KCG). If you find it too “Westernized leftist liberal”, do write to the ministries to have their KCG and teacher training content changed.

By the way, I am hardly a socialist and my view of the world and its wonderful ideas is not narrowly segmented into “eastern” and “western”. You should perhaps read up on tribes untouched by “western ideas” with more liberal cultures than the “west” in various parts of Asia and South-East Asia before your cry “Western leftist liberal ideas” here.

Goodnight.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

You are assuming that it isn’t. Educators don’t just let children sit around and chit-chat the whole day. A day in our classrooms are filled with activities and discussions but I don’t blame you for your assumptions because you might not be an educator yourself. Feelings are felt directly and to be able to describe how one feels (hence it is concrete), requires thinking and the application of learned vocabulary in the first place, which is a very important process that young children have to go through before being asked “What do you think?”. Also, in the follow-up to this conversation which continues on through activities on a daily basis, children will eventually be asked for their thoughts. Here in this blog post, I am only sharing a conversation which lasts less than 5 minutes so you are too quick to assume and judge. I am not sharing the greater details of the activities of the day because I am bound by my contract not to do so.

I can only go by the context you have used for this post, which is the basis of this conversation. If it’s out of context to the rest of the “day in the life”, then that’s out of my hands.

Also, I am not training any of my students to be future activists. What I am doing is the inquiry-based approach which exist in most early childhood education centres in Singapore, including PCF and centres operated by NTUC, encouraged and advocated by MOE and MSF in their Kindergarten Curriculum Guide. If you find it too “Westernized leftist liberal” or “socialist”, do write to the ministries to have their KCG and teacher training content changed.

Of course. Nowadays, it’s completely ‘normal’ for Kindergartners (5-year olds) to be concerned about such topics as the “environment” and “saving the planet”. No curiousity how/where/who these youngsters get these ‘ideas’ from; they naturally spring into their young, impressionable minds all on their own.

By the way, I am hardly a socialist and my view of the world and its wonderful ideas is not narrowly segmented into “eastern” and “western”. You should perhaps read up on tribes untouched by “western ideas” with more liberal cultures than the “west” in various parts of Asia and South-East Asia before your cry “Western leftist liberal ideas” here.

LOL! It seems I have struck a nerve. I never said you were a “socialist”, but because you defend a charge that was never leveled at you… . Ideas can be narrowed down and categorized as ‘western’ or ‘eastern’ based on the predominance of the area they thrive in. It’s no small secret that certain ideas thrive more in eastern countries/cultures than in western ones and vice versa. Communism and Socialism (weak Communism) are universal being that they both have infected the ‘west’ and the ‘east’ with dire consequences. There is nothing new under the sun.

Thanks for your reading suggestions, but I’m not looking for comparisons. I’ve been around long enough to know the stench of garbage when I smell it.

Goodnight to you, too.

Comment by Sembawang Bolo

“I can only go by the context you have used for this post, which is the basis of this conversation. If it’s out of context to the rest of the “day in the life”, then that’s out of my hands.”

Yes, I agree that I should have done more to explain the context.

“LOL! It seems I have struck a nerve. I never said you were a “socialist”, but because you defend a charge that was never leveled at you… . Ideas can be narrowed down and categorized as ‘western’ or ‘eastern’ based on the predominance of the area they thrive in. It’s no small secret that certain ideas thrive more in eastern countries/cultures than in western ones and vice versa. Communism and Socialism (weak Communism) are universal being that they both have infected the ‘west’ and the ‘east’ with dire consequences. There is nothing new under the sun.”

Actually that wasn’t me being defensive but trying to explain my perspectives + put down in record that I am no socialist because many people have mistaken me for one (not saying you did), in my state of sleepiness.

“Thanks for your reading suggestions, but I’m not looking for comparisons. I’ve been around long enough to know the stench of garbage when I smell it.”

Sure, up to you. All of us have the right to our opinions/ not seek to understand where others with different perspectives are coming from. I do respect that and despite the differences, I appreciate the engagement. We can’t always hear the same old tunes all the time.

Once again, goodnight!

Comment by rachelabsinthe




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