Tai Tam Tuk Foundation
Funding support: Private grants, public grants (in application)
Number of staff: 4 (3 paid, 1 voluntary)
Number of visitors per year: around 200
Overall aims of the centre
Our aim is educate to inspire action for sustainable development in Hong Kong’s young people through hands on interaction with the outstanding nature and culture of Tai Tam. Where most Hong Kong people live without a garden or balcony, yet less than 30 minutes away are green spaces covering 70% of the Territory, we want nearby schools to treat Tai Tam as their backyard.
Our theory of change is that when students experience, learn about and care for their local place, this is the first step to experiencing, learning about and caring for their district and wider Hong Kong.
Description of the centre
Tai Tam Tuk Foundation is a community initiative and registered charity founded by four outdoor enthusiasts who have enjoyed this area for over 10 years, to promote its conservation, wise use and sustainable development. The Foundation is based in the tiny historic village of Tai Tam Tuk in Hong Kong island’s Southern district featuring natural and cultural heritage. We see the area as a small scale example of urban development and wetland conservation, and to test ideas for education and wise use of numerous other small (<3 hectares) mangroves around Hong Kong.
Tai Tam dam
Natural heritage: Tai Tam Harbour (Inner Bay) was an early designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1975. The SSSI is around 16 hectares and is noted for diversity of habitats within a small area including the last remaining mangroves on Hong Kong island at around 1 hectare, intertidal mudflat, sandy shores, sheltered sand flat, natural water course, grassland and shrubland. The SSSI is flanked by Tai Tam Country Park and Shek O Country Park which are the two largest protected areas on Hong Kong island.
Species lists can be found from: (1) Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department’s Hong Kong Live Eco-Map and; (2) Citizen science platforms e.g. iSpot Hong Kong
Cultural heritage: Tai Tam Bay was a fishing settlement dating from at least the 1860s forming part of a wider “boat dweller” community in the Southern district and islands. Between 1883-1917 Tai Tam became the site of a major water supply scheme including building Hong Kong’s second reservoir group. This enabled urban development to spread from Central and Western to Eastern districts, construction led to growth of the village and adjacent areas. In the 1970s the population was rehoused under a Territory-wide government programme for squatter settlements.
The community retains strong local knowledge and cultural traditions through an active fraternal society gathering in Tai Tam Tuk, eg organising annual dragon boat races.
Workshops are held in the field and we have access to indoor and outdoor classroom space with application in progress for permanent classroom space.
Main CEPA work areas
-Participated in drafting Hong Kong’s first Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) due 2015 as member of NGO Focus Group under Awareness Mainstreaming and Sustainable Use Working Group. NGO Focus Group aims are to cause a positive cultural shift in the Hong Kong public’s awareness of biodiversity.
-Partnering with the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Department of Education to develop pilot curriculum for a thematic study of urban sustainability under Liberal Studies curriculum, to involve field studies on site.
-News and area guides through website.
-Experiential learning workshops for secondary school students and teacher workshops/ curriculum support. The focus is on capacity building of teachers/ volunteers to develop curriculum, gain site knowledge and site experience. Workshops are usually held on site in Tai Tam, and we have also worked with schools in other mangrove/ intertidal sites around Hong Kong and overseas. We also operate as a resource for curriculum design and student engagement in citizen science (see below).
-Delivering talks and workshops in primary and secondary schools.
-Delivering talks and workshops at thematic events held by local and international NGOs.
-Our curriculum is included in a Liberal Studies teaching resource flash drive distributed by HKU.
-Mainly through promoting citizen science initiatives. Eg we are covering the Tai Tam site for WWF Coastal Watch 2013/14, Hong Kong’s first large scale citizen science programme involving 27 sites and over 600 volunteers to conduct ecological and marine debris surveying.
-Partnered with Open University UK and HKU Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS) to bring iSpot, a website/ app for crowdsourcing nature observations, to Hong Kong. This includes developing experiential educational workshops on biodiversity and taxonomy using this learning tool.
-(In progress) Partnering with local and international NGOs to deliver events recommended in BSAP NGO Focus Group report for biodiversity awareness raising.
-(In progress) Using citizen science mapping techniques (QGIS, OpenStreetMap) to develop annotated site map highlighting natural and cultural heritage of site.
Top three successes
1) Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Biodiversity Workshop
This is a 3- hour experiential co-curricular workshop based on Tai Tam mangrove ecology. We developed this for UNESCO Hong Kong Association’s ESD Learning Programme 2012/13 in collaboration with HKU SWIMS. The ESD framework was key. It enabled the workshop to gain support at a pilot stage from local government, NGO and academic partners; ensures that biodiversity and science education is framed in terms of sustainable development of the immediate environment; and benefits from strong curriculum links in both local and international schools leading to teacher support.
2) Mangrove Action Project
This is a citizen science pilot project resulting from the work of 5 undergraduate summer interns in 2014. With guidance from local and international mangrove experts and local site supervision the students conducted baseline ecological surveying and mapping of the Tai Tam mangroves. They then created a teaching package for schools to conduct follow up ecological surveying and mapping of these and other small mangroves around Hong Kong. This allowed us to collect data and develop robust scientific, mapping and educational methodology while engaging students with limited scientific experience in a meaningful “real world” project.
3) Engaging nearby schools
The site is an isolated village in Hong Kong island’s Southern district, but only 30 minutes from Central (Hong Kong’s CBD) and accessible by public transport. We found from early evaluations that the further students needed to travel for workshops the more tired they were and less engaged, this is also due to our limited facilities. We therefore decided to focus on getting nearby schools to treat it as their “backyard” and encouraged repeated visits. The aim is to form a group with nearby schools and other stakeholders/ advisors to become long term active stewards of the site.
Top three challenges
1) Outdoor learning workshops for schools under the local curriculum
Our on-site workshops are designed for students to explore and learn in the outdoor environment. Generally, international schools are more keen to conduct field studies and to access more interesting but harder to reach sites compared with local schools. This is largely due to local schools’ strict school schedules, limited resources and policies on out-of-school activities. Ideas for solution: Working with teachers to choose more accessible sites and designing suitable experiential activities; larger outdoor learning event involving diverse schools and other education centres to normalise practise.
2) Site specific constraints on growth/ CEPA activities
The site mangroves cover a tiny area of around 1 hectare. We are not certain how much disturbance they can sustain as part of CEPA activities. We have therefore limited our CEPA work with the wider public (eg eco-tourism) to focus on local school groups which are helping to conduct ecological surveys. Ideas for solution: Working with diverse stakeholders and local community on better monitoring and conservation management to determine ways to provide access according to local and international best practise; helping others interested in setting up wetland education centres for other small mangroves around Hong Kong.
3) Conservation planning for site as non-site owners/operators
The area is government land and managed by different departments. The site itself is designated an SSSI however this only restricts building of certain structures and facilities on SSSI land. The public can freely access the site and there are no other regulations on recreational activities, clam digging, fishing or other potential environmental disturbance. (Hunting of wild animals is prohibited under Hong Kong law but this excludes fish and marine invertebrates.) We recognise that good conservation management of this SSSI will be achieved by diverse stakeholders working together for a shared goal. Ideas for solution: Educate on conservation management status; gather stakeholders to become long term active stewards; help authorities monitor site through citizen science data collection; work towards ICCA (indigenous and community conserved areas) partnership in line with government conservation strategy.
Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails
Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre; Building / maintaining structures
Working with disabled people; Engaging hard-to-reach groups; Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers
Education and communication
Early years education; Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Lobbying / running campaigns; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials
Auditing / assessing effectiveness; PR and marketing; Running effective administration; Health and safety; Fund-raising; Project planning.