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Birds bring students from Hong Kong and South Korea together

Environmental education is a cornerstone of WWF-Hong Kong’s work to engage people, businesses and governments in complex conservation issues. We achieve this through our community engagement and centre-based education programmes, and our many interesting and, in some cases, life-changing, activities.

One of these is “Birds and Schools”, an interactive international exchange programme between schools in different parts of the world that brings students together to share observations on migratory birds and wetlands. Birds and Schools takes students to wetlands or wetland education centres, where they discover the wonder and beauty of migratory birds in their natural habitats.

The first “Birds and Schools” event in Asia, an interactive international exchange programme, was held in late 2022.
© EAAFP
The first “Birds and Schools” event in Asia, an interactive international exchange programme, was held in late 2022.

The programme was initiated by Wetland Link International (WLI), a UK-based support network for wetland education centres that works to amplify the effectiveness of wetland education and deepen links between centres around the world. The first WLI event was held in 2016 in the East Atlantic Flyway, and the first event in Asia connected students in Hong Kong and Incheon, Republic of Korea, in late 2022.
 
Organised by the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Secretariat, WWF-Hong Kong and the Incheon Metropolitan City Education Office under the Incheon-Hong Kong Sister Site Programme, this hybrid event took its young participants on a deep dive into the world of wetlands.

Students from Hong Kong and Korea came together virtually to present their findings on wetlands’ incredible biodiversity.
© Pui Shing Catholic Secondary School
Students from Hong Kong and Korea came together virtually to present their findings on wetlands’ incredible biodiversity.

Students from different schools in each location were selected – in Korea, the participants were part of a wetland education programme put on by the Incheon Education Office; while in Hong Kong they had signed up for WWF-Hong Kong’s “Water Caltrops Fostering Programme”, part of our Wetland Incubator Project based at Mai Po Nature Reserve. The project experiments with planting water caltrops – a type of aquatic plant – in Mai Po, in the hopes of creating a suitable habitat for the Pheasant-tailed Jacana, a previously-common but now rare bird in Hong Kong. The student groups then conducted activities at their chosen wetlands for several weeks to several months. 

After successfully spending time in the field gathering data, making observations and learning all about wetlands and their incredible biodiversity, the students came together virtually to present what they had learned. It was a day filled with positivity, encouragement and fascinating insights from the EAAFP, staff from the Incheon Education Office, WWF-Hong Kong, and of course the students – who gave presentations on bird surveys, species habitat restoration, mudflat monitoring, and halophytes in the Sorae Wetland.

The Hong Kong students planted water caltrops – a type of aquatic plant – in Mai Po, in the hopes of creating a suitable habitat for the Pheasant-tailed Jacana.
© WWF-Hong Kong
The Hong Kong students planted water caltrops – a type of aquatic plant – in Mai Po, in the hopes of creating a suitable habitat for the Pheasant-tailed Jacana.
Students representing Korea monitored the halophytes in the Sorae Wetland.
© Sooyeon Yoo
Students representing Korea monitored the halophytes in the Sorae Wetland.

It is hard to overstate the impact this experience had on the students. Besides learning valuable skills and knowledge, they became empowered as “wetland ambassadors”, gained a sense of how collective and collaborative efforts can lead to tangible conservation results, were able to visualise how many people are working together simultaneously to conserve wetlands and species around the planet, and experienced being global citizens whose efforts make the world a better, more sustainable place.
 
One of the Korean students, Sooyeon Yoo, even called the Birds and Schools programme a turning point in her life, saying that it made her future clear and that it was her “dream to go out into the world and deal with global issues.” Several students also went on to present their findings at other meetings, including the 2023 Incheon International Education Forum on Climate Education.  

Korean student Sooyeon Yoo called programme a turning point in her life, saying it was now her “dream to go out into the world and deal with global issues.”
© Sooyeon Yoo
Korean student Sooyeon Yoo called programme a turning point in her life, saying it was now her “dream to go out into the world and deal with global issues.”

 
 
WWF-Hong Kong looks forward to following these students as they pursue their interests in sustainability and wetland ambassadorship, and we are excited about nurturing other keen-minded students in future exchange programmes!

Related story from The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership