This is article is part of the Undisrupted series, a series of articles detailing our troop's response to the current COVID-19 situation, allowing training to continue even when physical CCA sessions have been postponed showing that our troop is truly prepared and unwavered even in the face of the pandemic.
By Lucas Loh
In the previous article, it was highlighted how effective our troop's Proficiency Badge Elective System is in providing the necessary structure and scaffolding to help our scouts bring glory to our troop. In this article, the spotlight will be our two of these electives, the Naturalist and Conservator badge, to illustrate how our PBE program has managed to allow our scouts a deeper understanding in pursuit of their badges.
For both badges, our Ventures identified the key lacking areas where the scouts' learning can be improved upon.
The first key lacking area was the time scope of both badges. In the Conservator Badge, a survey of 2 different areas, was required, with sketch maps and discussions on the Past and present land utilization. This is a key focus as urban development in land-scarce Singapore often puts urban planners in conflict with conservationists. Hence, the badge requirements were extended to focus on Chek Jawa and Pekan Quarry in Pulau Ubin specifically, to allow scouts to exemplify the history of Pulau Ubin from a mining town, to a target for development, before finally achieving its status as a conservation area in Singapore.
For the Naturalist Badge, a study of the natural history (i.e. plant and animals) for at least 3 months, of either a piece of seashore, sand dune, rocks or garden/vegetation. However, such a short timeframe is often not sufficient for observable changes to landforms to occur in the geological timescale. Hence, the troop came up with additional requirements in order to ensure that this learning objective is met by extending the study using satellite images over years and decades. By allowing our scouts to understand how the environment itself is shaped before it shapes the flora and fauna around it, they are able to form a more holistic picture of the interactions between the environment, biosphere, and man.
Hence, the use of Google Earth not only broadens our spatial perspectives, but also temporal perspectives, two key dimensions all geographers must be able to make use of.
A quote from the reflection of one of our scouts, Audric Tan from Rhino Patrol.
In addition, even in the relatively large expanse of untouched nature that is our Nature Reserves in Singapore, many landforms often experience muted development as many processes such as erosion and deposition are disrupted by the nearby urban environment through factors such as the Urban Heat Island effect, channelization of rainwater and concretization of urban fringes. By allowing our scouts to study globally, they are able to better appreciate the natural processes first by seeing how an absence of man produces different patterns in nature, as compared to the highly artificial environment we are used to in nature such as Bishan River.
In these ways, both the conservator and naturalist badge elective program allows our scouts to be better geographers and gain a much deeper understanding of complex ideas such as environmental injustice, inter and intragenerational equity, and many ethical considerations through a topic as simple as rivers or plants.
A mindmap produced by one of our Scouts, Audric Tan from Rhino Patrol.
Furthermore, these badges have allowed an avenue for a deep mentorship experience between the Ventures and the Scouts as intellectuals and informed scouts of this world, especially since many of them were stretched in their understanding of geography.
Left: An excerpt from Joshua Low's Naturalist Report, from Tiger Patrol.
Under the guidance of our Venture Mentors, many scouts were not only able to write academically competent reports but also link their learning back to what they know in scouts so that they are able to apply their knowledge.
For the Conservator badge, guidance was provided in the form of many conceptual frameworks and understandings to start off the scouts' research, in order to help them categorize and organize their research. For example, the geological aspect of the report, requiring an understanding of soil type and soil erosion, was especially challenging since the badge required 5 types of soil, despite the fact that all soil is on a spectrum between the 3 major types of abiotic sediment (clay, silt, sand) and peat. By helping them to integrate this understanding, the scouts were able to direct their energies better in the research project, reaching academic standards 2-3 grades above their current age.
For the Naturalist badge, guidance was provided in the form of theory lessons to allow the scouts to understand the prevailing theory of meandering rivers, before being challenged to find their own meanders and apply their learning to the real world. They also studied the impact of human activities in depth, gaining a balanced view of the world, such as the environmental harms of "clean energy" from dams and ethical issues surrounding transboundary rivers. By first learning the theory before applying it on their own, the scouts were able to reach higher-order critical thinking skills expected only at the JC level.
An annotated sketch of the various meandering processes by Zavier Ng, Cobra Patrol
Overall, through the PBE, our troop has managed to achieve excellence in academic standards from theory to application, far surpassing the Proficiency Badge standards expected from 13-16-year-old scouts. This is only possible through an efficient and effective training structure that provides only the guidance needed, without impeding their ability to learn and discover independently.