We had the opportunity to talk to Animal Planet hosts Dave Salmoni and Forrest Galante on getting the kids involved in conservation. Find out what they think!
We don’t know about you, but our kids are obsessed with all things animal-related. From stuffed animals and weekly zoo trips (hurrah for family memberships) to animal-related movies and exhibitions around town, they just can’t seem to get enough. But how do we talk to the kids about conservation and doing our bit to help the environment? Well, we find bringing the young ‘uns to fun, educational exhibitions – like the current Living Worlds exhibition – is a great way to teach them a thing or two!
So, if you need some expert advice on getting the kids involved, you’ve landed in the right spot. We scored an interview with big predator specialist Dave Salmoni and wildlife biologist Forrest Galante, the virtual hosts of Living Worlds, and asked them for some tips to get the conservation conversation started. Curious to know what they think? Read on to find out…
Getting kids to love wildlife
As the son of safari business owners, Forrest Galante has been inundated with animals his whole life. “I’ve just always been obsessed with wildlife,” he shares. “As a kid, I wanted to know everything about the earth and what makes it tick. So for as literally as long as I can remember, I’ve always known that I’d work with wildlife.” So what’s his tip for getting kids in Singapore interested in animals? “It’s tough for kids to be inundated by nature in a city. But media and interactive experiences are a fantastic option, especially at this exhibition. I can stand 15 feet from here and get a picture with an augmented tiger, which is pretty cool!”
Dave Salmoni grew up loving animals, too. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into animals. Thankfully, my parents recognised my passion and continually reinforced it by giving me plenty of opportunities to interact with animals – and that’s exactly what this exhibition does. We engage adults and kids alike through storytelling and interactive exhibits. We tell it in a way that people don’t feel like it’s unsurmountable – but rather, it gets people interested in animals so that they realise how amazing they are.”
Explaining conservation to the little ones
With global warming and climate change always being in the spotlight, starting the conversation about conservation is a tricky subject… especially with young kids (and even some adults!). How do we get people involved in conservation, then? “I don’t think you can teach somebody or get someone interested in conservation if they first don’t think that the animals are amazing to look at,” says Dave, who’s also a dad to two kids. “I think what parents can do is to explain to their kids why certain things are bad for the environment, and expose then to different things. If your kid says, ‘Tigers are awesome, I want to see in them in the wild’, you can direct them to groups that are saving the tigers, and give the kids role models and a path to follow so that they can be like them. This is how you’re being successful in conservation.”
Forrest agrees. “Conservation isn’t just one person practising sustainability perfectly to change the world. It requires everyone to make little changes, like reducing the number of straws or plastic bags used, which the kids will learn about here at the exhibition. There’s so much information in every direction. But, all they need to remember is one or two things and it’ll make a difference.”
And this exhibition is a perfect stepping stone to do just that. One fantastic exhibit is the polar bear display, which we’re sure the littlies will love. “I described it as dance revolution for animal nerds,” says Forrest. “You eliminate the carbon dioxide (CO2) by jumping on it, which connects the sea ice for the polar bear to jump on and catch its meal. It’s so much fun. Every time I’ve walked through the exhibition, I detour over to it to play it myself. Kids will get caught up in the game before they realise they’re learning about the negative effects of burning fuels.”
Keep things fun
So, what can you else can you expect at Living Worlds? Dave loves the interactive augmented reality (AR) zone of the exhibition. “You can experience and interact digitally with a species of your choice on a screen, and be immersed by the ecosystem that these animals live in.” If you’ve ever wanted to put your arms around a tiger or emperor penguin, now’s your chance! You could even colour in an animal of your choice and watch it come alive on a screen in front of you.
We love the sensory elements of the exhibition, too. The kiddies can traverse across a treetop, touch the pad of a polar bear’s paw and touch a block of sea ice, too. They’ll also be able to learn about marine life via a projection in an IMAX-esque dome, and even get to populate a reef by sticking magnetic corals around a wall. Plus, the exhibition has tons of bite-sized information about habitats and its relationship with wildlife, too… edutainment at its best!