Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ho Hai: a second grade field trip

I love school field trips. While the school buses, traffic and noise can be a bit much, it is so much fun to see the kids in their school element. It is always interesting to hear and see other kids ask Tori questions, typically reference type questions and to try to get her attention. And it is good opportunity for me to explore Hong Kong while doing my job of being with the kids. Tori’s second grade class is in the middle of a science unit on habitats. To get a better grasp on this, her class recently went out to Ho Hai Wan Marine Park and splashed around in a couple Hong Kong habitats, all in the name of science.

Ho Hai Wan is a bay off the South China Sea, north of Sai Kung Pennisula, in the New Territories. Sai Kung, about an hour drive away from where we live on Hong Kong Island, is known as a get away type spot. Sai Kung has a big harbor for pleasure boating, a large country park and a little town that is striving for a bohemian sort of feel. A fair number of expats are moving out there in order to get away from the hub-bub of Hong Kong and to have a bit more space. One of Phil’s drivers lives out there too, so the exodus is not strictly an expat trend.

The sheltered nature of the bay protects and supports a large number of marine animals. Tori’s class went to Ho Hai to explore three separate habitats, including the ocean water habitat, the freshwater habitat of a small stream that flows into the ocean there and the mangrove habitat, a large stand of trees and shrubs that grow in subtropical costal areas.

My group of students, five including Tori, first headed off for the fresh water stream. We found it to be about 3 feet deep and full of large crabs. We hesitated for about one second before plowing into it and through it. We then headed straight for the coast. Typically on field trips you hear teachers yelling to the students to stay out of the water. Here we had explicit instructions to get into the water and we did just that. The bay itself is home to a lush coral environment, and over 100 species of fish, star fish and jelly fish. We wandered around, admiring it all until we actually found the starfish. Here the starfish were sand colored and not stuck on rocks but rather just at our feet. After finding one or two, we all reached down and found literally hundreds of starfish in the sand we were standing in. The mood among the second graders was electric and contagious. The water was clear. We were alone in the bay and Hong Kong was gorgeous.

The last habitat we explored was the mangroves. All along the coast, these trees and shrubs stand as a buffer against coastal erosion, providing homes for oysters and crabs. Tori told me that the trees’ roots systems ran under the sand towards the beach and I believed her. She climbed high in the trees, amazing her many non-tree climbing classmates. This habitat thing made sense to me all of a sudden. Tori might not be in her native habitat but she is definitely finding a way to thrive and to grow. And as she played sang and did hand clapping games the whole way home with a classmate from South Africa, I realized she, and all the rest of these transient kids, are putting down roots here. She, as much as anyone else, is now from Hong Kong.


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