Outdoor education

OBS plans ahead and steps up green initiatives

More young people in Singapore will be exposed to the great outdoors come 2020, when all Secondary 3 students will have to go through a five-day camp in rustic Pulau Ubin or Coney Island.

In preparation for the influx of students, organiser Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) is stepping up its environmental protection initiatives.

Over five days last month, two experts from the US-based wilderness education firm, National Outdoor Leadership School, came to Singapore to train 13 OBS instructors in a conservation movement on how to enjoy nature responsibly.

There are seven main principles under the Leave No Trace programme, including repacking food to minimise waste, disposing of waste properly, not touching wildlife or historical and cultural artefacts, and reducing campfire impact.

OBS senior assistant director of capability and sector development Noor Hisham told The Sunday Times that while OBS camps have always included environmental initiatives, having instructors trained under the Leave No Trace programme provided a formal structure.

Mr Kim collecting waste in a plastic bottle, which can be taken along, leaving no trace behind.
Mr Kim collecting waste in a plastic bottle, which can be taken along, leaving no trace behind. PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

In the past, various outdoor educators in the industry would share with campers tips on how to care for the environment. But educators may have differing views of what it means to protect the environment.

For instance, they could have different views on whether fires should be started outdoors - some may think bonfires are essential, others that fires are unnecessary as they damage the environment. "Is it wrong to start a bonfire? Not always. So under the Leave No Trace programme, OBS participants will be taught how to minimise campfire impact," said Mr Noor Hisham.

Plans to make OBS compulsory for all Sec 3 students were announced last month during the budget debates for the Education Ministry, in a bid to toughen up young people here and provide them with a common experience in Singapore's more rugged environment.

This is expected to kick in from 2020, by which time the new $250 million campus on Coney Island is expected to be ready.

Some 45,000 young people will be able to attend an OBS camp every year, up from the current 14,000 who use the existing OBS campus on Pulau Ubin.

Mr Kim Yong Kang, an instructor who went through the Leave No Trace course, said it helped him understand how campers' habits can affect the environment.

The senior training consultant of sector development at OBS said: "Instead of simply telling campers not to practise certain habits like littering, we can use the terms we learnt during the course to let them know about the consequences trash can have on the environment, such as how long it will take to degrade."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'OBS plans ahead and steps up green initiatives'. Print Edition | Subscribe