Largest-Ever Education Conservation Initiative Conducted in Local Schools Includes Targeted Programming for Students with Special Educational Needs
Ocean Park and The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 5 February 2021, strengthening their long-standing partnership on research initiatives, wildlife conservation and environmental education.
The new collaboration will focus on integrated wildlife conservation and education engagement with students and the community across different age ranges, including a programme tailor-designed for young children with special educational needs (SEN) and activities for the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The Government has all along been very supportive of climate change initiatives and conservation efforts in Hong Kong. Recognising this need to combat climate change, the HKSAR Government pledged to work towards the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, as announced in the 2020 Policy Address. On conservation aspects, the Government is planning and preparing for the South Lantau Marine Park and North Lantau Marine Park, enhancing the protection of green turtles by expanding the Sham Wan Restricted Area and extending the restriction periods, strengthening the protection of endangered species, improving the facilities in country parks and revitalising remote countryside areas. The move towards carbon neutrality and nature conservation will not only protect the environment, but also promote a green economy and bring more green job opportunities to the community. Concerted efforts are needed from the public and business sectors as well as the general public, in particular the young people. Let's make positive changes together by adopting a low carbon and green lifestyle, such as saving energy, reducing waste and practising ‘leave not trace’ when enjoying the countryside,” said Secretary for the Environment, Mr. Wong Kam-sing, GBS, JP, who witnessed the MOU signing ceremony today.
“As highlighted in our recently announced future strategy, Ocean Park will dedicate even more efforts to drive local wildlife conservation and education inside and outside the Park, with the goal of creating the ideal nature classroom for our future generations,” said Mr Lau Ming-wai, Chairman of Ocean Park. “We are thrilled to commence this new collaboration with CUHK, allowing us to expand our ongoing work with the University, share our professional knowledge, and provide a unique environment for local and overseas students, scholars and research pioneers. The Park is particularly delighted to join forces with CUHK to provide a dedicated programme for local students with special educational needs, offering them specially designed participatory learning activities led by specialists from the University and the Park. Through our refreshed vision for Ocean Park, we hope to provide the next generation with a strong environmental education foundation and create a lifelong curiosity about conservation.”
Professor Rocky S Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK, remarked, “Hong Kong is surrounded by the sea on three sides and its rich marine biodiversity offers great opportunities for scientific research. As early as 1970, CUHK established the Simon F.S. Li Marine Science Laboratory, which has served as a leading research base for marine scientists. CUHK researchers, with Ocean Park’s support, have made important discoveries in jellyfish research. Collaborating under the MOU, the two parties will also focus on recovering marine ecosystems, promoting marine education, and nurturing future leaders in sustainable development.” Professor Tuan added, “As the co-host of the Hong Kong chapter of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN Hong Kong), CUHK looks forward to advancing SDG 14 ‘Life below Water’ and SDG 17 ‘Partnerships for the Goals’ in Hong Kong through this strategic partnership with Ocean Park.”
Expanding the long-standing partnership from research and conservation to education
Since 2013, Ocean Park has supported CUHK’s research on jellyfish, which led to a breakthrough in the field in 2020, by decoding for the first time high-quality genomes of two jellyfish species commonly found in Asian waters. This MOU will build on that research, with a new study exploring the nexus between climate change and global jellyfish populations, as many species have seen increased populations over the past two decades.
In addition to research collaboration, the two parties will come together to launch a series of new conservation education initiatives, with the aim of raising a new generation of conservation advocates and change makers in the city. The new initiatives will offer an array of interactive and hands-on learning opportunities for students from kindergarten to university.
Comprehensive education programmes targeting SEN students, and kindergarten to university students
One highlight of the new initiatives is a pioneer inquiry-based learning programme, targeting young SEN students in kindergartens and primary schools. Co-designed by CUHK educational psychologists specialising in SEN and Ocean Park’s Discovery and Education team, the programme will feature a series of participatory learning activities in the Park’s unique and immersive environment, as well as on the CUHK campus. SEN students will not only enjoy learning outside the typical classroom setting, but also enhance their observation, investigation and social skills through different levels of sensory stimulation.
A first-ever school-based, city-wide butterfly survey will also be launched to engage primary and secondary students in a biodiversity survey, with the aim of raising their awareness and understanding of biodiversity conservation, while contributing directly to the study. The programme echoes the two parties’ collaboration on the Ocean Park Conservation Chill Club – the largest school conservation programme in the city to date, which seeks to benefit over 40,000 local secondary and university students in a series of ideation, training and hands-on activities to spark their curiosity about conservation, inspire changes in their everyday habits, and nurture champions of biodiversity in Hong Kong.
Finally, Ocean Park will join hands with CUHK in advancing the UN SDGs through engagement with SDSN Hong Kong. Co-hosted by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and CUHK, SDSN Hong Kong mobilises local and global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. Ocean Park will participate as a sustainability partner at SDSN Hong Kong’s first international meeting, the International Conference on Sustainable Development in Belt and Road Countries, which is scheduled to take place in early 2022.