Tuesday 19 May 2015

Experiencing The PETRONAS Science Educamp At Long Teran

Although I've worked in Petrosains for about 7 years, it was my first time joining the PETRONAS Science Educamp, a 4 days 3 nights camp organized by Petrosains and sponsored by PETRONAS. My feelings were mixed. On one hand, I am excited as this was my first time going to a really rural area. On the other hand, I am worried. Will I be able to overcome all obstacles? Will I become a burden to my fellow comrades? These thoughts circled in my mind.

The challenges that were faced on the way to Long Teran. The final 5km stretch to Long Teran usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes, however during our expedition, it took about 4 hours to reach the village. This is mainly because the road conditions were muddy and wet. 

The day arrived. We landed in Miri and bought materials for our hands-on activities. The next day, the journey to Long Teran began at 10 am. We were told that the journey will take approximately 1 and a half hours. It was my first time on 4X4 but it was manageable. We arrived at about 4 pm and started to unpack and clean the venue, and prepared for the next day. Long Teran consists of the ethnic group Kayan and Kenyah, but there are also some Berawan and Penan people in SK Long Teran Kanan and they are mainly from neighboring 'kampungs'

The breathtaking view from SK Long Teran Kanan. 

Day 1 (6th March 2015)
The PETRONAS Science Educamp in SK Long Teran Kanan started at about 2 pm. There were also neighboring schools joining us, from SK Long Jegan, SK Kuala Bok and also SK Long Lapir. Most of the students from other schools arrived by boats via the Sungai Tinjar. Altogether, there were about 100 students.
First batch of students arriving from SK Long Jegan by boat via Sungai Tinjar.

Second batch of students from SK Kuala Bok and SK Long Lapok.

It started with an Ice Breaking session followed by a Telematch by Abang Jai. Most of the students were still shy at that moment.  But I can see that they were warming up. By the time the telematch started, even though they had only known each other for 3 hours, their fighting spirit for the team seemed like they’d known each other for life. I guess it’s true when they say that children socialize very fast. Mainly because, they don’t judge. 

Introduction session and safety briefing by Abang Jai

 Group Ice breaking session assisted by one of the teachers. In this activity, the kids were required to blow a feather up so that it will not reach the ground. The group that manages to make the feather float midair the longest is the winner. 

The kids were getting ready for the telematch and listening to Abg Jai’s briefing. 

In the evening, I presented one activity which was to make their very own head torch while learning about complete electrical circuits. Most of them managed to complete the task. We wrapped up the day with a wayang kulit presentation starring Siti, Ah Chong and Muthu; characters from the PETRONAS Streetsmart exhibition and not forgetting Uncle Fozi. In the wayang kulit presentation, Siti, Ah Chong and Muthu learns about principles of light from Uncle Fozi. An interesting way to inculcate scientific principles in students.

 The kids tested their head torch in the dark. They were excited to find out that they can make a simple head torch just by using simple everyday materials.

 After the head torch activity, a wayang kulit presentation that starred Siti, Muthu, Ah Chong and Uncle Fozi explaining the Principles of Light to the kids. An engaging traditional show to inculcate science principles to the younger generation

The people behind the scene of the wayang kulit show. 

Day 2 – 7th March 2015
The second day started with morning exercises conducted by Abang Terry and Abang Salam. After that, they all played a game of ‘Anak Ayam’. If you're Malaysian, I bet most of you would still remember this game. But in this Science Educamp, the students were exposed to the science behind food chains while playing the game!

The second day was packed with activities. After the game of ‘Anak Ayam’, we had the 'Pressure hunt'. 'Pressure hunt' is like a treasure hunt but the mission and challenges are based on the principles of pressure. There were 5 stations and each group needed to accomplish the challenges at each station. Even the simplest activities never failed to amaze the kids here. 
 The kids were trying to figure out how to transfer water just by using a string in one of the challenges in 'Pressure Hunt'. 
The serious faces of the kids while trying to accomplish a challenge, Take Tombo in 'Pressure Hunt'. They were required to fly the propeller by twisting it with their hands. 

The next activity after 'Pressure Hunt' is the 'Chill Out Lounge'. In this activity, the kids were exposed to the freezing and melting process. The purpose of this activity is to make their very own ice cream by using the science principles of the freezing and melting process. After 'Chill Out Lounge' was the 'Egg-citing Show'. In this workshop the kids were exposed to the science of eggs. Why are the eggs arch-shaped? Can we stack eggs on top of one another? And how do we make an egg float in the middle of a solution? These were the questions given to the kids for them to explore.
The faces of satisfaction when this group, Sea Dragon, managed to make an egg tower that consisted of 4 eggs stacked on top of one another. 

After lunch, they had 3 workshops in a row. The first workshop is called the 'Chemistry Corner'. In this workshop, the kids were exposed to chemical reactions and also to the various types of polymers that actually exist around them. The second workshop is the 'Chopstick Bridge Challenge'. Each group was required to build a bridge merely from chopsticks and rubber bands. The bridge should be stable and strong and most important of all they should be able to withstand the most number of mineral bottles on it. In the third workshop, 'Penguin Island', they were exposed to Penguins and how they lived. In this session, they were then required to make a miniature penguin model by using recycled materials such as plastic bottles. 
The kids from the rural area here have very good psychomotor skills. Building a bridge out of merely chopsticks and rubber bands is a piece of cake for them. Their handwork was also very tidy. 

At night, the kids participated in a quiz, Petrosains style, in ‘Pakcik Kayo!’. In ‘Pak Cik Kayo!’, the kids were given some Petrosains money. They were required to answer some questions, and if they answer the question correctly, they will be given more money but if they give the wrong answer, they were required to give the money back. The group with the most amount of money at the end of the session wins the challenge. The group Penguin won the ‘Pak Cik Kayo!’ session. 

Day 2 ended beautifully with a science show on Bubbles by Abang Fozi. In the bubble show, the kids learnt that all bubbles are spherical even if you use a different shape wand. They also learnt why bubbles are in the shape of a sphere and even if you use a 3-dimensional cube wand, the bubble would still come out round. The science show ended with a bubble making session by the kids and also the teachers.
A bubble blowing session ended the Bubble Show. Even the teachers were having fun blowing bubbles.

Day 3 – 8th March 2015
Day 3 started a bit late because the kids had a church session that morning. The first activity for the third day was the 'Balloon Show' conducted by Kak Ida. In this activity, the kids learnt about balloons and all the science experiments that can be conducted by using balloons. The balloon show ended with a mesmerizing view of the balloon rockets being launched to the sky by the kids and teachers. After that, the kids were required to build a tall tower by using only marshmallows and skewers. The challenge is to build a tall tower but it must be stable enough to withstand an ‘earthquake’ on a table. One thing that I observed was that the kids were very good with their hands.  Building things is peanuts for them. Most of the hands-on activities were also very easy for them.

The kids launching the balloon rocket high up in the sky. 

The third workshop for day 3 is to build a put-put boat. A put-put boat is mainly a boat that is powered by steam. The put-put boat is built with an empty drink carton and the engine of the boat is built from an aluminium can and two straws. The boat was then tested in a pool to see if it works and whether it moves. There were only three groups that managed to work the put-put boat. You could see the frustration in the childrens' eyes but we consoled them by telling them that a science experiment is not only about accomplishing the task but it is more of trying your very best and never giving up while doing the experiments. So it is okay if you cannot make your boat move today, but you can try again until it works. The kids started to feel better when we told them this.
The put-put boats that were constructed by the kids. The put-put boats were powered by steam. Candles were lighted and put near the engine of the boat. The heated water in the engine will turn into steam and this will move the boat forward. 

After the workshops, all of the groups started to prepare for the Science and Art Night. They were required to present anything such as singing a song or acting out a drama, and in the song or the drama, they must instill the science concepts that they had learnt for the past three days. The day started to become busy for all of the groups. That night, all of the groups presented their science play well. They were funny and spontaneous. The Science and Art Night ended with a play by the facilitators from Petrosains. The play was about a boy, Sarip that left his mother in search for wealth, not knowing that his actions actually hurt his mother so much. The play was a modern version of ‘Si Tanggang’. The play touched the kids so much that we spotted a few kids shedding their tears towards the end of the play. In the end, we reminded them that if one day they became successful, they shouldn’t forget their roots and should always remember the sacrifices that their parents had made for them.
One of the performances by the group 'Crab' during the Science and Art Night. Most of the group performances included acting and singing of what they had learnt during the educamp. 

Day 4 – 9th March 2015
Last day in Long Teran started with the Water War Game. The kids versus us, the facilitators and the teachers. The kids outnumbered us, but we had some tricks up our sleeves. Our shield is either made up of plastic or paper waxed with candles and the same goes to our goal post. We had water balloons as our bomb and a water gun.  The kids on the other hand had only newspapers as their shield and only mineral water bottles to attack us. The fight was ferocious and the kids started to rebel when they saw us cheating. But in a very cute way. At last, reluctantly they admitted defeat.  
The kids posing for the camera right before the water war game. In this game, the match is between the kids and us facilitators. The objective was to defend our goal post and at the same time attack the opponent’s goal post. 

After distributing their PETRONAS Twin Towers t-shirt, we prepared for the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony was attended by the head of the village Mr Phillip, the headmaster of SK Long Teran Kanan, Ms Eno Liau and also a representative of PETRONAS, Ms Victoria. The closing ceremony was a smooth one and we gave some advice to them. Always study hard, remember to become good boys and girls and study hard until you enter the university. They started to weep and then cry. This made us sad too. Some of us started to cry too. This farewell was indeed a sad one.
 The closing ceremony for PETRONAS Science Educamp at SK Long Teran Kanan. The closing ceremony was attended by parents and the guest of honour is the Head of the Village, Mr. Phillip. 

 Sad faces on our last day. I was trying to capture a group picture with my group, group Penguin. I was asking them to smile for our group photograph but they couldn’t smile as they still contained their sadness. So I just gave up and I said, “Okaylah, gambar nanti. Tak payah la nangis-nangis. Mari peluk kakak.” And they hugged me so tight. I started to weep too. Our advice for them, “Belajar rajin-rajin, nanti masuk universiti dan jadi orang baik dan berguna kepada ibu bapa.” 

One thing that I learnt during this trip to Long Teran is about giving and selflessness. And the most suitable example to explain about giving and selflessness are the teachers that are deployed to the rural areas. Imagine, if you are born a city girl, and for all your life you are used to living in the city filled with leisure and facilities such as clean water and proper roads.  Then one day you are deployed to a rural area such as Long Teran where you will need to bathe with collected rain water and accessing one place to another requires you to hop on a boat because road conditions are wet and muddy. How would you feel? The most important question to ask yourself is ‘Can you survive?’

Most of the teachers there just survive, and this is for the sake of the children that need the education. Almost half of the teachers in Long Teran are from Peninsular Malaysia. And you can really see the dedication in the work they do and most of all in their eyes. This is the real meaning of giving and selflessness.

As a visitor to Long Teran, I was fortunate to witness the real meaning of basic necessities. Most of the kids and community there, have lived there all of their lives and have never traveled out. Some cannot imagine what the outside world looks like. As I talked to the teachers I asked them, what are the challenges that they face in educating kids in the rural area? Most of them agreed that most of these kids don’t take education seriously. They think that education is just to kill time and if they think it is too hard to study, they will just give up. That is the reason why most of the kids only finish their education up to Standard 6. They do not feel the need to further their studies up to secondary school. Their parents also think that education is not vital in securing a future for their children, thus the support in pursuing education is gone. 
The dedicated teachers that helped throughout the whole educamp.  

When Petrosains came to Long Teran, we saw changes in the children. With the activities that we conducted, we instilled the importance of education in them. After the camp finished, when we asked them what they would want to be when they grew up, they answered, “I want to become a doctor!” or “I want to become a scientist!” By having this workshop in Long Teran, we hope that they will become more ambitious and will study harder to achieve their dreams.

As for the teachers, we got really valuable feedback from them. Access for information for teachers serving in rural areas are very limited. They told us that all of the activities that we shared during the educamp are useful for them so that they can bring it back to their schools and use the activities there. “Another fun way to teach.” they say. It is a win-win situation for us. By exposing to the teachers the activities we conducted, they can bring it back home and reach even more rural students. I just hope that more students will be interested in science and mathematics and will pursue science and mathematics in their studies. Who knows in future, we will meet them again, not as students but as engineers and scientists. My hope is for them to be inspired, and then jump as high as they can to catch their dreams. Be a doctor. Be a scientist. Be an engineer. If this happens, then our efforts to give back to the nation have been successful.

Shared by Nensirati Supahan
Guest Blogger

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