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Shelyn Elementary School’s Wondrous Eco-Tour at Tzu Chi’s Life Science Garden

March 15, 2024
Students, parents, and teachers at Shelyn Elementary School, together with Tzu Chi volunteers, embarked on a wonderful journey to the Life Science Garden. Photo/Keira Ko

Written by Keira Ko
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrew Larracuente

Twenty-four students from Shelyn Elementary School (SES), four parents, and two teachers embarked on a beautiful journey to the Life Science Garden in Tzu Chi Walnut Campus with Tzu Chi volunteers on February 23rd. The trip was not only an ecological exploration but also a spiritual baptism.

The Bond Started a Long Time Ago

The volunteers led the children on a tour of the farm, explaining the signs and promoting the environmental concept of cherishing food. Photo/Keira Ko

It all began with a deep bond between the Tzu Chi Walnut Campus and SES. Previously, Kevin Chou, a young Tzu Chi volunteer, and Kathy Blair, a classroom instructor at Shelyn Elementary School, started an eco-recycling club, where children’s environmental protection awareness was gradually awakened through twice-a-month recycling activities. Against this backdrop, Tzu Chi’s Character Education team has been working with SES for a long time to provide students with a deeper understanding of environmental protection and ecological issues.

The children made drinks with passion fruits from the farm and learned how difficult it is to go from the farm to the dinner table. Photo/Keira Ko
Volunteers integrated Tzu Chi's concept of "character education" into the event, introducing the children to Jing Si Aphorism through storybooks. Photo/Keira Ko

In January, three teachers from SES visited the Tzu Chi Walnut Campus Life Science Garden for the first time. With the detailed guided tour by the farm’s volunteers, the teachers were attracted by the diversity of species and the abundance of fruits and vegetables in the garden, so they arranged a field teaching tour for the students.

Countryside Experience

On the day, the volunteers introduced the children to the ecological diversity of the farm; they strolled through the fields, picked oranges with their hands, and tasted the sweetness of the fresh fruits, experiencing the gift of nature. The children also made drinks with passion fruits from the farm, realizing how difficult it is to go from the farm to the dinner table. During the arts and crafts session, the children made small flower pots from recycled newspapers and planted succulents, further experiencing the significance of the ecological cycle.

With the volunteers’ introduction, the children got to see the ecological diversity of the farm with their own eyes. Photo/Keira Ko

The volunteers also incorporated Tzu Chi’s concept of “character education” into the event, introducing the Jing Si Aphorism in a storybook: “When you eat, you should think of the farmer who grows the rice, the worker who threshes the grain, the merchant who transports the grain, and the chef who cooks the rice with a thankful heart.” This guided the students from observing the ecology of the farm to being thankful for the food, and it allowed them to learn from the experience amid laughter and action and to appreciate the significance of environmental protection.

The children made small pots from recycled newspapers and planted succulents with their own hands. Photo/Keira Ko
When leaving, the students happily took a group photo together. Photo/Keira Ko

Accompanying SES teacher Temmy Honda was impressed by the beauty of the park and the unique and enriching activities arranged by Tzu-Chi. “I was surprised to learn that there is such a garden, and I was impressed that such a farm is open and available in the neighborhood,” she said.

I'm also grateful that the kids were able to have their first hands-on experience with something like freshly made passion fruit lemons because they've never tasted them before.

Appreciating The Nature

The students were joyful as they said goodbye, leaving behind fond memories of the unforgettable eco-tour and gaining ecological knowledge that they could not learn from books. Student Jeremy Louis said, “I never knew plants could survive in such a difficult environment!” The children were so excited about this journey of discovery that they expressed their desire to share this beauty with more people.

In addition to helping broaden the children’s horizons, parents received the program well. Parent Jennifer Merrick appreciated how much the children learned from this experience. “This event helps with what the children learn at home and school. There were many exciting things for the children to try out today; it was a great experience, and we hope to return,” he said.

Grace Voong, a teacher at Shelyn Elementary School, and Debbie Lee, CEO of the Tzu Chi Education Foundation, had an excellent talk. Both were excited about the future collaboration and were confident that by working together, they could do more for the community. “We are happy to share any information and learn from you, including the current education programs. If possible, please talk to the Tzu Chi Character Education Team!” Lee said.

This event not only allowed the students to experience the wonders of nature but also inspired them to realize and act on environmental protection. It is believed that such activities will become precious memories for the students as they grow up and will inspire advocates for environmental protection in the future. We look forward to serving more education teams and public schools in the Life Science Garden, which will become the closest natural classroom for children on their way to caring for the earth.

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