IMPACT 0538: INCORPORATING THE OUTDOORS INTO CLASSROOMS
Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.
Tasha Phua, 21, is an Environmental Studies undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. Outside of school, she is an Associate Director of Public Relations and Partnerships at Earth School Singapore, a student-run organisation working to bring environmental education to children and youth across the nation.
As a member of the business development team, she contributes to Earth School’s operations from the back end in various ways, such as reaching out to local green companies and organisations to establish partnerships, as well as sourcing for support and funding.
Today, she shares more about the work that her team does at Earth School Singapore!
What was your role within your YAC project?
During the YAC, I took on the role of team leader and helped to keep track of the YAC schedule and deliverables. I ensured that our team was kept up to speed with what was required of us. I also served as the point of contact between our team and assigned mentors – scheduling meetings and communicating our queries.
However, that is about as far as I can claim to have a distinct, individual role during YAC. When it came to developing our project and proposal for YAC, all three of us contributed at various turns to generating ideas, ironing out details, pushing back with questions, and creating the final pitch.
Understandably, given our different roles at Earth School, each of us contributed more to the areas we were familiar with. For example, having shared about Earth School to potential partners before, I presented on Earth Schools’ operations and goals during our final pitch.
What motivated you to join YAC?
Earth School Singapore is a relatively new student-run organisation currently operating as a non-profit. We have big dreams of developing environmental education in Singapore, but have limited resources to achieve them. YAC hence presented itself as an important opportunity to secure some support and funding for Earth School, as well as meet and work with mentors who could provide us feedback and guidance on our ideas. Additionally, it could be an avenue to raise awareness about and gain traction for Earth School and our cause.
On a personal level, I believed that it would be a good learning experience, allowing me to grow both in my role at Earth School and as an individual, especially since I have not participated in many of such programmes or competitions before.
Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?
Our team went into YAC with the intention to pitch Earth School itself as a project to the judging panel. However, as we went through the workshops, we realised that that would not be enough. At the same time, I was concerned that we were struggling to apply what we learnt from the YAC workshops and meet all the requirements for the final pitch.
However, one of my teammates prompted us to rethink what we stood to gain from this YAC journey and put forth this perspective – instead of trying to follow the guidelines to secure as much grant money as possible, we could make use of this opportunity to develop the next step for Earth School. Through several nighttime discussions and Saturdays sacrificed, we thought about what we were already doing at Earth School, where YAC fits into the bigger picture, and what the next step towards our goals could feasibly look like.
Eventually, we managed to put together a new idea for a project called the Nature Learning Space. We are grateful to have received positive feedback and financial support from the judging panel to carry out our project over the next 12 months. We have begun looking into logistics and partnerships to start the project in the latter half of the year.
What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?
As all three of us are university undergraduates, it was a challenge to juggle between school and YAC commitments. Not only did the workshops and mentor consultations take up several hours over a few weeks, we also struggled to find time outside of these sessions to discuss and make progress with our idea.
Developing the idea itself came with its own set of challenges. As mentioned in the previous question, a lot of thinking, both about Earth School and our proposed project, was required to reach a point where we were comfortable and confident with what we were presenting. The YAC workshops and our mentors gave us many pointers to consider and understandably, we had to decide for ourselves which advice was most relevant to apply to our evolving ideas. Internally, we also had to address various details that came with uncertainties, such as the future of Earth School, and the sustainability and feasibility of both Earth School and our proposed project.
The whole experience was a step out of my comfort zone. Figuring out how to develop and pitch an idea as well as working with mentors were not things I usually did in my daily life. There were times when I had to be emotionally resilient and lean on my teammates for both practical and moral support.
Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?
The Nature Learning Space is currently in its planning stages. While its impact has yet to materialise, the project serves as a one-step towards our long-term goal of making environmental education mainstream in Singapore, as well as to empower younger generations to build a sustainable future.
The Nature Learning Space, coupled with Earth School’s curriculum, will allow us to further integrate holistic and immersive environmental education with the current education system, as well as spread our reach to even more students than before.
Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?
One thing I learnt was how important it is to be clear about the objective, target audience, and value of a proposed project. Related to these fundamentals is the crucial step of clarifying the need for the project in society. These aspects are often what people on the receiving end look for. Clarity requires some time and effort to work through, but it helps others understand and be convinced by the idea, as well as guides us in making decisions for the project.
Learning to shift my perspectives was also a learning point for me. I suppose I am used to simply following the requirements of a project to reap maximum results. However, my teammate’s challenge to look beyond the immediate goal prompted me to consider that in some situations, long-term gains are more important than short-term wins. It is okay if we walked away from YAC without any grant money, especially given the challenges and limitations that we faced. If we could make use of the YAC journey along with its workshops, exercises, and mentorships to strengthen our foundations or plan for our next steps, then that would still be a gain we could bring back to Earth School.