What is it that you can’t see but is not just an empty space? What is invisible but is still made up of tiny particles and molecules that have mass and weight? What doesn’t feel very heavy but still weighs a lot? The answer is – A-I-R!
So, do you know the recipe for air? Well, just mix all of the following ingredients together — 79 cups of nitrogen molecules, 20 cups of oxygen molecules, 1 cup of argon atoms, a dash of other gases, including water vapour and carbon dioxide. The result will be a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas with a density about 800 times less than water. Refreshing when stirred up and served cool on a hot day. This means that walking along the beach, you have over 1000 pounds (450 kilogrammes) of air above your head and shoulders and the air in the average high school gymnasium weighs over three tonnes!
Interesting, right? It was indeed for 75 young children, including some from Sri KDU® Primary. They were attending the one-day Little Scientists Holiday Programme on 26th May held at the school hall to discover more about air! They were all excited not only because it was the first day of the Semester 1 holidays but they were given a chance to be scientists for a day! Thrilling hands-on camp activities and experiments galore were in store for them.
After an amusing ice-breaking session, participants were divided into groups. It was then when the fun started! Amongst some of the cool experiments which they conducted were Plastic Bag Flyers, Get Wet With Water, Bicarbonate Blast, Fly Robin Fly, Balloon Cars, Crackling Bombs and The Twirling Pipe. All participants were also required to write down their discoveries in a specially prepared workbook.
What did they discover? They generally learnt that air is not only important for living things to breathe but it has other purposes too. They also found out that wind energy and pressure can also be produced by air to aid in the movement of objects. At the end of the day, the little scientists got to take home Sri KDU® air trapped in interesting balloon sculptures, goody bags and certificates! What a great air-y experience it was!
Although it was just eight in the morning, the blinding rays of the morning sun streaked brightly through the trees where we were waiting. We could already feel the heat – from the sun and the excitement. Loud chattering filled the air as we could not contain our surmounting enthusiasm. While the rest of the school was preparing for their first lesson of the day, 127 of us were all fired up to face the challenges over the next few days.
Held at My Gopeng Resort in Perak, the Firestarter leadership camp was carried out from 30 March to 1 April. While only members from the Discipline Board got to attend this camp previously, this year proved to be different and extra special. Students outside the board were also given the opportunity to join this stimulating camp. A group of professional and experienced trainers from D’Jungle People (DJP) were the camp facilitators. Again! Yay!! They have been working closely with Sri KDU Primary School since 2008 to organise these camps. We just could not wait to see them again as some of us have attended their previous camps! And they have been superb!
We reached Gopeng, a small sleepy town in Perak, more than 3 hours after we started. The buses had to be parked alongside the main road as the little tarred road leading to the resort was too narrow. We were then loaded onto smaller trucks and vans along with our heavy luggage. Some of us regretted then having brought our entire ‘bedroom’ with us! The fun but bouncy ride took some 25 minutes but we wished it had been a little longer. A little sardine-packed is no issue at all for us. How often do we get to travel this way, right?
Upon reaching the resort, we were greeted by the camp commandant, Abang Evan. Then it was another session of dragging our weighty luggage into our allotted rooms. Camp company roll call followed soon after. We were introduced to the camp facilitators and thoroughly briefed on the camp rules. Some of them were new but there were quite a few familiar faces too! It sounded weird (to some of the new participants) that we have to address them with the salutation abang or kakak. But we told them… if it works for the facilitators, we were all for it!
Our first activity of the day was Find the Candyman. This fun-filled but challenging activity tested us mainly on our alertness, agility, ability to work as a team and the perseverance to complete the task assigned. By the time when lunch was served, we were totally ravenous. We did not even care what the food tasted like – we just gobbled up everything! So, Abang Evan did not have to worry about any food wastage. That was one of the golden rules of the camp.
Things got even more competitive after lunch when we were divided into 8 animal groups; Monkey, Tiger, Elephant, Cat, Rooster, Donkey, Duck and Cow. A leader was elected for each group and the first task was to create an animal mask and present a cheer for the group. From this creative activity, we learnt to take instructions from elected leaders whilst contributing our own ideas. We were so engrossed with the tasks that we did not notice time flying by so fast and soon it was tea time.
The adrenaline-charged Nature Quest was next on the itinerary where we got in touch with Mother Nature. It was challenging to swiftly look for the 25 hidden items listed whilst appreciating nature at the same time. But all of us performed tremendously well! Already pumped up, we had to reluctantly return to our rooms to shower and rest for a short while before dinner.
Night Walk was then conducted immediately after dinner. After a short briefing, we were led in groups through an oil palm plantation in the pitch black night. Without any illumination to light our path except from occasional faraway lights off some houses along the way, we were terrified of the creepy crawlies we might encounter. Yikes! We had to trust our facilitators completely to lead the way! From this, we learnt that trust is essential but what is even more important, is that we need to face our imaginary fears head on. This activity definitely brought the term trust and being brave to a whole new level! Having successfully conquered our fears, we trudged back to our rooms after supper for a well-deserved good night’s sleep.
Morning exercise on the second day was refreshing. After a hearty breakfast, the awesome Firestarter camp T-shirts were distributed. We were also given some time to tidy up our rooms. A spot-check was then carried out to award points for cleanliness. Up next was Adventure Quest with games like Cup Relay, Walk On Paper Plates and Tangrams. They were designed to test us on our teamwork and communicational skills.
After the exciting but exhausting challenges, we looked forward to lunch. Food was so-so but then beggars cannot be choosers! Two more thrilling games like X-Treme Invaders and Battleship were conducted after that. Yet again, everyone worked intensely in their own teams to try their best to win those challenges. Not only were they fun, they were filled with subtle messages on leadership and communicational skills. We gathered in the hall for a debriefing session after a quick tea break. We were firmly reminded that we need to apply all those skills when we return to school. The hall was then filled with squeals of delight and ecstatic cheers when we were informed that it was campfire night!
Everyone rushed through dinner in anticipation of the campfire. The distant crackling sounds of burning wood heightened our excitement as we made our way to the main field. Lo and behold, a monstrous bonfire greeted us there! What a magnificent scene it was as we were all bathed in orange light as the brilliant flames licked away fiercely at the firewood, looking like they were performing some hypnotic dance! Even the acrid smell of smoke could not spoil our mood. We formed a circle round the bonfire and sang cool songs while Abang Evan played the guitar. Everyone was pleasantly surprised when a cake was brought out to celebrate Azim and Emily’s birthday! It was so disappointing to end the night when we were having so much fun!
The last day of camp started with an energising morning exercise followed by a simple breakfast and then the chore of packing up. Most of us just dumped everything into our bags! Nobody bothered to do it properly as the clothes we had worn were already dirty anyway! At the final debriefing session, we reflected on what we have learnt throughout the camp. We then cemented our memories and the lessons learnt on a specially prepared ‘leaf’ card. A prize-giving ceremony followed soon after. The Duck, Monkey and Donkey groups were announced as winners!
Lunch was just a blur as some of us were already feeling melancholic about leaving the resort. However, we realise that all good things had to come to an end. It was truly a great and an unforgettable experience! More importantly, we were all fired up to perform our best when we returned to school! And that is an earnest promise!
“Ev’ry day, more wicked!
Ev’ry day, the terror grows!
All of Oz is ever on alert!
That’s the way with Wicked – Spreading fear where e’er she goes…
Seeking out new victims she can hurt!”
In the wee hours on a cool and crispy morning of 9th March, 80 bleary-eyed but thrilled students and teachers boarded two chartered coaches for a five hour journey down south to Singapore. It was not only the start of their mid-Semester 1 break but their sole mission was to invade the Lion City.
Universal Studios Singapore (USS) was the first place on our mission. Built on 20 hectares of land and housing a total of 24 attractions, the park consists of seven themed-zones which surround a lagoon. Each zone is based on a blockbuster movie or a television show, featuring its own unique attractions, character appearances, dining and shopping areas. After a hearty lunch at Casa Del Wild Food Court, everyone broke off into groups to discover the wonders USS had to offer.
The futuristic Sci-Fi City, which is equipped with space-age technologies and the ultimate modern conveniences, was the biggest hit. The four exhilarating rides here were the Accelerator, a whirling twirling ride which spins guests around; Battlestar Galactica : Human, a sit-down roller coaster without inversions which can reach speeds of up to 90 kilometres per hour; Battlestar Galactica : Cylon, a suspended roller coaster which performs intense manoeuvers including 5 inversions in the form of a Cobra roll, corkscrews, vertical loop and a zero-g roll. The Cylon coaster also plunges into a 5-metre deep pit filled with artificial fog to give the sensation of a near miss with the ground; and Transformers: The Ride, with additional 4D effects peppered with water spray, wind, hot air and fog. It was a miracle no one threw up after all those rides!
Other rides like the Revenge of the Mummy and Treasure Hunters at the Ancient Egypt zone were also bang up-to-date. The former involved a high-speed psychological thrill ride with sharp turns and fast reverse sections, pits guests against fireballs, scarab beetles and robotic warrior mummies — all in partial darkness. Everyone also relished their time at The Lost World zone featuring Jurassic Park and Waterworld; the Far Far Away zone, the kingdom from the animated movie Shrek and the Madagascar zone featuring all of the colourful characters from Madagascar, the movie.
We bade goodbye to USS late in the evening. With plastic bags full of collectibles, we boarded our coaches and headed towards Marina Bay to the Merlion Park. And what was in store for us? The Merlion of course! It is the statue which is used as the national mascot and personification of Singapore. Designed by Fraser Brunner, it measures 8.6 metres high and weighs 70 tonnes. Its body is made of cement, skin from porcelain plates and eyes from small red teacups. The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village and the lion head represents Singapore’s original name — Singapura.
As we gathered on the viewing deck, we had the opportunity to watch the awesome virtual colour changes on the Merlion. We instantaneously took the opportunity to pose for some beautiful pictures with the Merlion and the new Singapore city skyline as the backdrop. We ended our first day with a sumptuous dinner at Zac’s Middle Eastern & Mediterranean Cuisines located on Arab Street. We stuffed our famished stomachs to our hearts content. Some of us even went for third and fourth helpings! With our stomachs filled, we then checked into our respective hotels to put our exhausted bodies to rest for the night.
We woke up bright and early the next day to check out of the hotels. Then off we went to the food court at Geylang Sari to sample some local breakfast. We unanimously agreed that food taste better in Malaysia! After that, we broke off into two groups again, where one went to the Marina Barage and the other to the NEWater factory.
At the Marina Barrage, we learnt that it is actually a dam built across the 350-metre wide Marina Channel to keep sea water out. It is also a comprehensive flood control system to alleviate flooding in the low-lying areas such as Chinatown, Boat Quay, Jalan Besar and Geylang. The informative and pretty guide demonstrated how a series of nine crested gates at the dam are activated to release excess storm water into the sea during heavy downpours. It was amazing to note that the giant pumps are capable of pumping water as much as an Olympics-sized swimming pool per minute into the sea.
At Marina South, we observed how waste water is made into NEWater. Yes, you read that correct! Sewage water, which has been purified using dual-membrane (via microfiltration and reverse osmosis), ultraviolet technologies and additional conventional water treatment processes, is made into drinkable and usable water! It was disgusting to think that anyone would want to drink water from the sewage! Nonetheless, it is a very smart idea since water resources are very limited in Singapore!
It was lunch time by the end of the tours. We rushed to the food court in Marina Bay Sands. All the way there, we could not help but think if we will be served with NEWater for lunch. Yucks!! A whole section of the food court was booked for us and food was already prepared when we arrived. We were served with nasi lemak and drinks. Some of us, who were more adventurous, sampled other food which is sold there too.
Alas! The main mission for our trip arrived — “Wicked : The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz”. This Broadway musical is based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire and relates the remarkable odyssey of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba and Glinda the Good Witch long before Dorothy dropped in. We were all blown away with the acting, singing and dancing. The props were simply incredible too. No wonder it has been reported as a worldwide phenomenon and has won three Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and the original cast album also received a Grammy Award. The only setback was our seats. Some of us had to request for ‘raised-up’ plastic seats because we could not really see the stage! We had to stretch our necks even with the plastic seats! We vowed to get better seats the next time we attend a musical!
We journeyed back to KL immediately after that and was caught in heavy traffic at the Causeway. There was a short stopover at ZenXin, an organic farm in Ayer Hitam, for dinner. Food again was super and we helped clear most of the food served! We slept all the way back due to exhaustion. Before we knew it, we woke up to find ourselves back within the school grounds. It then dawned on us that our “Wicked” crusade was over. Mission accomplished!