Fish home sweet home

Fish home sweet home

Students and teachers are invited to design homes for the residents of Ocean Park's new aquarium

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Ng Cho-yuen, Poon Yu-ching, Grace Lau Kwan-bick and Lo Wai-chung believe design can have far-reaching effects on student learning.
Ng Cho-yuen, Poon Yu-ching, Grace Lau Kwan-bick and Lo Wai-chung believe design can have far-reaching effects on student learning.
Photo: May Tse
Finding an ideal home is hard in Hong Kong, but it should get easier - for some fish, at least. A group of teachers has joined forces to help design new homes for the scaly creatures as part of a programme called "Design to Empower - Learning Design through Marine Conservation". It is co-organised by Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) and Hong Kong Ocean Park.

The teacher-training course is part of Ocean Park's project for the opening of its Grand Aquarium and its Aqua City, set to open early next year. The Aquarium will be the largest of its kind in the world: a dome 5.5 metres in diameter with a 13-metre-wide viewing panel. It will be home to more than 5,000 fish from 450 different species.

A competition will be held for students to design an ideal home for fish and other marine animals. "Aqua City promotes conservation by inspiring students to protect oceans and marine life," says Eric Yau Chun-wai, Ocean Park's senior public affairs officer.

Several teachers have signed on to take part already. "Creating an ideal home for fish is an interesting topic that will inspire our students," says Poon Yu-ching, an art teacher in Our Lady of the Rosary College.

"I like the idea of green art - art that is linked to conservation," adds Lo Wai-chung, an art teacher at Buddhist Wong Fung Ling College.

"This new approach will help me think outside the box," says Ng Cho-yuen, a teacher at Po Chiu Catholic Secondary School.

The project was the brainchild of Grace Lau Kwan-bick, who is on HKDC's board of directors. "Design is about experiencing and discovering opportunities," she says. "You can't just follow a formula. Design is also closely related to [real life]. From how you'd dress yourself to what kind of food you'd prepare for a party, you engage in some kind of design activities every day.

"What I most want teachers to take away from the course is not design tools but the process of creativity, and then they can re-create the experience with their students."

All 42 participating teachers found the course a creative experience. "It's great to share our different opinions and not be judged," Lo says. "It's important that students brainstorm ideas and collect all their experiences [in art class]."

Poon said she also enjoyed hammering out designs in group sessions. "How nice it would be if my students can also do that," she says.

In an exam-oriented school environment, students are not often encouraged to develop original ideas or strive to be creative, Ng says. "But I can see how research can help students to approach a topic from different angles and also how outdoor environments can stimulate creativity," he adds.

"We have all been teaching for a long time," Poon says. "We're used to being surrounded by four walls while we follow the steps of a teaching plan. The course taught me that inspiration can come from outside the classroom and lesson plan. Our students lack exposure to new things. As teachers, we need to help them to open up their mind."

Lau concludes: "Designing can be fun. As long as you can control the process, a bit of wild thinking is just fine."

If you have a wild idea about a home for marine animals, enter the student design competition before November 24. Winning designs will be showcased at Ocean Park's Aqua City. Prizes include education programmes and annual passes to Ocean Park. For details, go to www.designtoempower.hk

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