An annual event for me is the TA briefing and preparation for LSM1103 Biodiversity. The module objectives are clearly explained so TAs know th reason behind every thing we do, an how we maximise efficiency. Once they are on board, the complicated module runs well. Since it’s usually close to National Day like this year, I wear red – otherwise an anathema for field biologists!
Once the module briefing was over, it was a quick refresher through the Kent Ridge practical which serves as an orientation to participation and science and sensitisation to the environment. Then the walk to pick out the plants and discuss ideas about how to facilitate the session.
We moved the TAs quickly through the sites in a bus, while they eyeballed the route to familiarise themselves not just with the flora, but the landscape and facilities, in case of emergencies. We usually have storms to contend with and will tack the weather radar on an iPad from the safety vehicle, ready to activate everyone to take cover! It has happened a couple of times in the past, but we’ll hope for a pleasant day.
TAs will avoid crossing the pedestrian-risky Gap junction so our LSM1103 students will miss seeing the Kent Ridge plaque, except from a distance. But they will be in campus for at least three years, so we’ll let them look for it themselves!
A short while later, FTTA Xu Weiting hopped out of the van to report on the roosting bat colony – only one individual today! The palm tree is encountered amidst the very built-up Science Park Drive, which we walk quickly through. Most of it is a construction site and the roost is an oasis tot he TA, who will pause to chat about the relationship between bats and the forest. Most of the bats have left this roost since the construction began, so we were happy one had persisted.
Looking for the sole bat
Heading to Kent Ridge Park at the end of Science Park Drive
I dropped Weiting and the TAs off at what used to be a lawn at the end of the road! Now a road leads to Normanton Park, AYE and Portsdown, and a sidepath links the marginalised pedestrian to Kent Ridge Park. I was surpsied by this just last week as I toured some “Nature as Practise” conference participants around the ridge. I sure was surprised by the new connection and nearly ended up in Porstdown!
This van driver, however, was one of our regulars, a local who knows our route well. So I could left the driver at the Gap for him to meet the TAs at Kent Ridge Park while I went to pack the National Day Coastal Cleanup supplies. Weiting and the TAs continued on foot to the Reflections of Bukit Chandu where the practical ends. From there, we will bus students back to NUS over the next two Fridays.
It is a large class, but with a good operational procedure, an enthusiastic bunch of TAs (just look at that self below!) and the remnant greenery of the ridge, our 250+ undergrads WILL have an interesting time – in fact, we’ll make them tell us all about it after with an essay which the TAs will scrutinise!
TA group selfie!