Sunday, September 5, 2010

MAD Lessons Go To School

Cicada Tree Eco-Place is proud and excited to bring our MAD lessons to schools!

Our first school was First Toa Payoh Primary School where we shared the wonder and beauty of butterflies and moths with 150 pupils of Primary 2 in May. Run for 5 classes over 5 days, our lessons covered butterfly and moth characteristics, diversity and ecology.

We brought live caterpillars and pupae to class. The kids were lucky to observe the stages of a butterfly life-cycle and participate in the release of newly emerged plain tiger butterflies at their school assembly yard.

Besides live butterfly and moth caterpillars, we also brought preserved specimens of butterflies and moths to show the kids.

The lesson ended with art and craft where the kids made colourful atlas moth wall-hangings which later decorated their classrooms and corridors.

Reflections from the kids were heartwarming. Here is one: “I hereby pledge that I will build a garden for the beautiful butterflies and moths to suck up the nectar from flowers to flowers.”

We hope to bring our MAD lessons to more schools soon. To register, write to Celine Low at

Pupils and their teacher, Ms Lee, look in awe at newly emerged plain tiger butterflies in the terrarium

What furry yellow caterpillars are those?

The kids proudly showcasing their atlas moth art & craft

The kids looking at a preserved atlas moth specimen

Uncle Andrew teaching the class

A moth wall-hanging and a pledge card

Ms Lee releases a newly emerged butterfly, much to the pleasure of everyone around!

Bat lessons!

False Vampire Bat
Photo by Nick Baker

The month of September was dedicated to one of our favourite mammals, bats!

Bats are awesome flying mammals. Bats are important to humans as they help pollinate plants which in turn produce fruit for us. Bats which eat insects help control our insect-pest numbers, while bats which eat fruit help disperse seeds and hence help us grow forests.

In this lesson, kids were grouped according to three types of native bats found in Singapore - common fruit bat, cave nectar bat and false vampire bat. Each group presented about their special bat once they were familiar with them-- where they lived, what they ate, and why we should protect them.

Later, Uncle Andrew, Auntie Irene and Auntie Teresa took everyone out into the garden for a bat roost and bat food hunt. Although we didn't find any bats roosting under the huge leaves of the Chinese Fan Palms at the Children's Garden, kids got to see a make-belief tent roost which Uncle Andrew simulated in class, by showing everyone how fruit bats bite through palm leaves causing them to droop all around them hence providing shelter from rain and strong sun. Uncle Andrew even made make-belief bats out of African Tulip seed pods to make the classroom tent roost look real!

Last but not least, everyone made a bat wall-hanging to bring back home.

Fruit bats presenting

Vampires presenting

Bats are cute and some live in caves

Bats are nocturnal and hang upside down while resting

Bananas are a favourite meal of fruit bats

Our make-belief classroom tent roost

Uncle Andrew teaching us about parts of a bat

Friday, August 20, 2010

Events Gallery

Check out photos of our previous events on the left sidebar!

We're working on transferring write-ups and pictures of past events to this blog, but for now, you can view them on our main website by clicking on the links to the left. :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Our first fundraiser: Save the Pangolin!

Pangolins are being poached to extinction in Southeast Asia and need our help
photo of Sunda Pangolin by Vilma D'Rozario)

Cicada Tree Eco-Place’s very first fundraiser was a bold initiative to raise funds to employ a person to work with TRAFFIC ( to conduct research on pangolins and oversee efforts to curb illegal trade in its scales, meat and skin. Help is definitely needed for the pangolin, a not too well known mammal – except for the hunters – and eaters. Pangolins are the most traded mammal in Southeast Asia and their numbers are dwindling due to this trade which is illegal.

A dinner was held at HortPark on 18th April, and after donations, table ticket and raffle ticket sales, CTEP found it had netted a glorious sum of S$41,000 to aid pangolin conservation. All thanks to generous donors, dinner guests and supporting partners, The Vertebrate Study Group (NSS); Nature’s Niche Pte Ltd., RMBR (NUS), SOTA, ACRES, and venue sponsor, HortPark.

Thank you to Rod Monteiro, our celebrity emcee, for saving pangolins!

Celebrity singer, RJ Rosales with CTEP's Teresa Teo-Guttensohn

SOTA students sway to the divine voice of RJ Rosales in a hall packed with nature lovers

Sizzling belly dancers enthralled diners

There were about 140 dinner guests in all, charging the hall with chatter and laughter. This special evening event included culinary innovations in vegetarian food, entertainment complete with belly dancing, poetry reading, singing, a veena recital, and a competition based on tables identifying various bird calls. A highlight was an informative though heartbreaking talk by Chris Shepherd, from TRAFFIC, on the plight of the pangolin, revealing statistics of violation, entrapment, and kingpins laughing all the way to the bank. But now, with the stage set for a dedicated pangolin officer, things are looking brighter for pangolins.

CTEP worked hard. They must have experienced many give up moments. Only three years old, they’ve already pulled off an event which usually has event management firms in a knot.

Also read TRAFFIC's writeup on the dinner here.

By Talking Tiger

More pictures:

TRAFFIC's Elizabeth John with volunteer, Tia Guttensohn at a booth set up to showcase the work of TRAFFIC

Yang Mulia Tunku Rogayah Yaccob draws the winning raffle ticket

Thank you Mr Ng Lang for helping us with the raffle draw!

Dr Hsu Chia Chi of NSS wins "Sungei Buloh-Green Reflection" donated by eco-artist Teresa Teo Guttensohn

Teresa recites a poem "Ode to Birdwatching" while Subaraj makes authentic bird calls from behind a screen to illustrate the poem

All photos by Cyril Ng.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tiger Tiger

Tiger cubs Zhihui and Zhixin

Tigers are pouncing out at us from almost every corner. It’s the build up to The Year of The Tiger. Tigers cavort and carouse, pivot and prance, dally and dance, looking so cute, who can resist buying whatever they’re being used to sell. We’ve been regaled with how ferocious tiger women are, goodness knows what the men are like, and other assorted tales, not of tiger, but what tiger symbolizes.

Through the deluge of tiger tiger, no column has related any facts about the actual animal being paraded. No items have cautioned to the possibility that in the next Year of The Tiger (12 years from now), there will be fewer tigers, if any, left.

These facts were the subject of CTEP’s MAD lesson on Tigers on 7 Feb 2010. It was a relief – finally some real tigers. The slide show cum talk had the children wide-eyed with wonder as they displayed many not known scenarios of the tiger – tiger swimming, tiger with cubs, tiger on snow, etc. A video with some rare scenes of a real tiger with its cubs followed. The children then transformed themselves into little tigers roaring around as they put on tiger masks which they had colored. The sad part, how tigers are killed for almost everything they have, their skins, tails, teeth, claws, meat, you name it, some mad human being wants it. The children were taught they had to do their bit to keep tiger around, to never eat tiger, or buy anything that once belonged to tiger. They had to spread this message around, especially since only very few are doing it.

By Talking Tiger

Drawing of tiger by Zhihui (aged 6)

Firdaus and Qisti colour their tiger masks

Bengal Tiger Panthera tigris tigris

All photos by Vilma D’Rozario

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Critters in their Cribs

This pitcher plant is a cosy crib for a Four-lined Treefrog. (Photo by Andrew Tay)

Sometimes you wonder how different we really are from animals. CTEP’s MAD lesson on critters and where their home sweet homes are was about how every living thing needs and has a home. Nature Educator Andrew showed real examples, some alive, while Vilma slide-showed some beautiful and dramatic photographs, to about 15 children on Sunday 24th Jan at the JBCG. They were then taken for a walk through the gardens with some of the children going wild to discover red ants, butterflies, and other critters. And critters are? As defined by the children in attendance, fast, small, little, cute things, and so they are. Some examples: Flying squirrels, bats, dragon flies, spiders, slugs, snakes (yes, them, too), ants, butterflies, cockroaches, carpenter bees, pangolins, potter wasps, cave centipedes, etc, etc, and they all live in houses custom made, such as tree hollows, root caves, mud cribs, etc. The lesson was another demonstration of CTEP’s specialty, a skilful selection of enough information to keep the kids all agog (and some of the parents, too), alongside some value added educational gains, of stimulating the kids to think through their answers to certain questions, developing their spontaneity as they got excited to answer Andrew’s questions. As you sleep in your crib tonight, join God’s critters.

By Talking Tiger

Mad lesson on Monkeys: What the monkeys taught me

Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are native to Singapore.

Sunday 16th November 2009
Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden

We use the term monkey for mild misdemeanours, usually of the impish variety, and attributed to small children. Example, a house guest might apologize sheepishly for her child ripping your teddy bear’s ears off with Oh he’s such a little monkey, isn’t he. What would real monkeys think of this? Where did this negative comparison spring from? There are monkeys who do misbehave. The Penang Botanic Gardens has cases of monkeys who have attacked children, stolen food, destroyed car upholstery. But the CTEP MAD Lesson on Sunday 16th showed the monkey side of the story. Monkeys get up to monkey tricks because humans do. We feed them killer food like potato chips ignoring signs that state clearly DON’T. We poke and prod them with tree branches. We tease them with food withdrawing it when the monkey approaches. MAD’s lesson highlights the fact that monkeys just want to mind their monkey business. If we destroy their homes, the trees and forests, where do you want them to go? If we take away their food sources, what will they eat? If we use them for cheap entertainment, do we really think they’ll sit back and enjoy it? Especially since they’re probably more intelligent than the adults who think it funny to aggravate them. MAD brought such lessons across using the talents of Andrew, CTEP’s naturalist educator, with CTEP’s very own Vilma assisting, but the top attraction that day was the bonus performance by Vilma’s trainee and graduate teachers from the National Institute of Education with their story-puppet show. The whole lesson held 17 children (no little monkeys) captive, conveying a wealth of information about the monkey world with delightful variety. These children are all ready to make a difference with their knowledge about Long-tailed Macaques, Banded Leaf Monkeys, that monkeys are neither ape nor chimpanzee, they travel in troops of 30, use their tails for balance and hands to swing about. The most significant point the lesson made perhaps was that monkeys are human in their need to survive, keep their family together, eat, drink, and be merry. We don’t want anyone to take this from us, let the monkeys do the same!

By Talking Tiger


Andrew talking about the Banded Leaf Monkey with Tia assisting

Oscar’s (9 years old) monkey

Supermonkey, the superhero puppet that bridges communication between people and monkeys

Kids making a presentation on the Banded Leaf Monkey

A take-home message

Kid’s reflections