More Fun in a Greener Beijing
The “2017 Greening Together” event for Beijing families enabled Beijingers to learn more about protecting the environment while having fun.
Advancing ecology construction is a natural choice for upholding the people- centred development and enhancing the wellbeing of residents in the capital, and the requisites for implementing the capital’s strategic positioning and building a world- leading harmonious and liveable city. It is also the only way to transform economic development modes, alleviate resources and environmental constraints, and achieve sustainable socio- economic development.
“We want both a green environment and economic benefits; otherwise, we prefer the former to the latter for the green mountain and water is the economic progress.” To respond to the call by General Secretary Xi Jinping and advance ecological construction of the capital, the “2017 Greening Together” event for families in Beijing, is initiated. Connecting the government, institutions
of higher learning, “green bases” and families together, the event takes up the task of publicising education of ecology.
‘Green Bases’ in the Capital
In Beihai Park, lotuses are in full blossom every midsummer. First built in 1166, Beihai Park used to be an imperial garden during the Jin (1115–1234), Yuan (1271–1368), Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. Growing lotuses for imperial families to enjoy had been developed there since ancient times. Nowadays, each July and August is during the summer vacation for children, and they frequently visit Beihai Park to view lotuses with their family.
This summer in 2017 welcomes the 21st Lotus Show in Beihai Park, where various kinds of water lilies appear. Different than before, this event ushered in 25 children from all over Beijing to experience a new “green” season.
About at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, from Beihai’s south gate, a group of tourists were enchanted by a grand and graceful lotus pond against the White Pagoda atop Qionghua Island and Yong’an Bridge. It is Nanxiaohai Lotus Pond with an area of more than 8,000 square metres, the largest and most representative of its kind in Beihai Park. More than 10,000 lotus roots are planted in the pond. Some families were playing in front of the “2017 Greening Together” signboard.
The “2017 Green Together” event is organised by the General Office of Capital Forestation Commission (the General Office) to perform requirements of ecological publicity and education by the central government and the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality.
Beijing’s scenic spots such as the Temple of Heaven, Beihai Park, Summer Palace, Beijing Zoo and Beijing Botanical Garden now adopt another name— education bases for ecology in the capital. In early 2013, the General Office sought to organise experts from related industries for investigation. From 2014 to 2016, it screened and confirmed 30 units including parks and Beijing Forestry University as the education bases for publicising ecology in the capital.
The General Office has planned 100 courses to be given respectively at the 30 units. How are these courses planned and selected? What are the course schedules? Meng Fanbo, principal staff member of Liaison Division of the General Office, answered these questions.
Meng said, “First of all, these education bases boast their own strength in ecology and can play a demonstrative and leading role in publicising ecology. Second, these bases have carried out distinctive educational activities concerning ecology before and had a lasting social influence. Finally, they have advantageous resources and the capability of popularisation, publicity and education of sciences, emphasised most by the General Office.”
The 100- course timetable of the “2017 Greening Together” details plans, times, venues, themes, content, requirements for participant families, as well as reminders from June to October 2017. For example, wetland bird knowledge around Yeya ( Wild Duck) Lake, a tour to Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center and mountain climbing in Xiaolongmen National Forest Park all provide a rare opportunity to get close with nature and observe wildlife.
Each weekend, on average, two or three themed activities are held in Beijing. These courses are selected following this procedure: each education base submits three– five activities according to its special advantages; the General Office then discusses and selects from them. Parents and children can choose activities according to their demands and apply for them, and gain experience amid nature in summer.
To put the spirits of General Secretary Xi’s key speech into action, and implement requirements of the Beijing CPC Municipal Committee and the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality, the Capital Forestation Commission issued a notice to promote the publicity and education of ecology. With support of the financial department, the commonweal of the
“2017 Greening Together” event has drawn an influx of more participants.
Beihai’s ‘Beautiful Life with Lotus Flowers’
Everything went orderly in the activity, from signing in to filling up the form and quequing up. At 9:30 a.m., all participating families arrived and the green experience event themed on “Beautiful Life with Lotus Flowers” began. The children surrounded Zhao Jie, and learned about lotuses in Beihai Park.
Green lotus leaves stretch to the sky, and flaming lotus flowers appear under the sun. Nowadays, with the “park with a feature” guideline, lotuses have become a cultural symbol of Beihai Park, where more than 1,200 pots of lotus and aquatic plants are cultivated each year.
Zhao Jie said, “All lotuses here wear ‘elevator soles’.” The truth is that graceful lotuses have rigid requirements for water level, specifically 80 centimetres. The root stock under the 80- centimetrehigh water level is used to absorb nutrients while that above the level contain lotus flowers and leaves for appreciation. The average water level of Taiye Pool in Beihai Park is one metre; staff members there have to dredge the pool and elevate lotus pots. He added, saying, “Beihai Park also introduces lotuses from Thailand this year, aside from local strains.”
Following their senior guide, children headed for the park’s east gate. When passing by the old “bingxi (ice-skating)” site during the Qing Dynasty, children could gather a sense of “national customs” through Zhao’s explanation, covered in sweat. The team was attentive, patient, and professional to the little guests, answering questions from both parents and children.
“Grandma had no semblance of this knowledge before, although I’ve lived in Beijing for over 60 years,” an elderly woman said to her granddaughter who grew up in Singapore and came back to Beijing this summer to take part in the event.
Liu Jun, deputy director of Beihai Park, said proudly, “Our ecology publicity and educational team takes its root in the park’s abundant resources, and have carried out various activities, shaping an ecological brand with characteristics of Beihai Park.”
Beihai Park follows the layout of “one pool and three hills” featured in the imperial parks and gardens, with its various gardening techniques since the Jin Dynasty, and combines imperial magnificence and gardening elegance in the regions south of the Yangtze
River. Temples there express Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist cultures. Chinese scholar trees from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) and ancient trees granted with titular honours tell of the park’s changes throughout the years.
Deputy Director Liu Jun added that Beihai Park is turning the park into a mature scientific popularisation brand, publicity and education base. The park makes the most of distinctive lotus and chrysanthemum shows and protecting old trees to display its characteristics. The education and publicity work goes year-round with highlights, such as the “Beautiful Life with Lotus Flowers” education activity, the “Intangible Cultural Heritage into Community” series educational activity responding to the Beijing Chrysanthemum Fair; the “Entering Imperial Gardens, Experiencing Brilliant Culture of Ancient Trees” series educational activity; and a national science day activity featuring ancient architecture and plants in the park. Also, a science house integrating science lectures, exhibition and specimen production is to be completed in Beihai Park. The park, as an element of the Central Axis of Beijing, has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
According to Qian Jun, chief of Gardening Science Section of Beihai Park, “Beihai Park holds parent- child summer camps themed on ‘Beautiful Life with Lotus Flowers’ for children at various ages. We also design interactions and prepare small gifts for children which they like.”
“Ecology has a subtle effect on children’s living habits. While the ‘civilised tour’ is advocated, we still have to spend money and labourers repairing lawns after key festivals or events each year.” Chief Qian Jun added, “The activity enables children to have an appreciation for plant life and protecting the environment.”
A Class of Nature
Passing by Haopu Pavilion in which an aquatic plant exhibition was on show, children walked around a nursery garden full of flowers and grass; this is the “back garden” of Beihai Park called the Plant Cultivation Centre. Children will do a more interesting “task”— planting flowers and plants in the water by themselves.
Four desks were placed in the nursery garden. Children from 25 families were grouped around the desks, eager to open the cream- coloured canvas bags prepared in advance and which contain a small notebook, a mini electric fan and a small pot of fourleaf peperomia herb.
Wang Hongtao, an educator and 20-year horticulturist from Beihai Park donning a straw hat, explained hydroponic plants to the children in vivid detail.
What types of plants are suitable to grow at home? Which plants are harmful to people? What hydroponic plants are suitable at home and what features do they have? Wang Hongtao led children into the world of hydroponic plants. He also introduced different kinds of hydroponic plants which can be bought on the market.
“This is a parlour palm from Mexico,” Wang said, lifting a small glass bottle with an exotic plant. The children stared at the plant and observed it, “The parlour palm can grow in normal water and has strong adaptability. Everybody, do you want to try planting it by yourselves?” continued Wang. The children answered in unison and raised their hands, nodding their heads, yelling “Yes!” They began to move right after Wang explained hydroponic plants.
Flush the root of the parlour palm clean with water, and put it into a reused light bulb with water. The children operated the procedure. Staff stood prepared to give instructions. Parents were also busy asking questions to experts to answer their children’s curiosity, while others took photos of the event. Environmental protection, energy saving, ecology and green concept influenced each participant on a deep level, and the parents
smiled when their children immersed themselves in the activity.
“This activity helps develop children's practical capability which can't be accomplished through reading science books. But, it is special to get close to nature and grow a hydroponic plant with professional instructions available at the site,” according to Cao Deyu's mother, a primary school teacher. She considers competency- based and cognitive education important. As a mother of a six- year- old, she knows well that children in this age group are curious about the world and poised to communicate and get involved. She realises the significance of enabling children to love nature and protect the environment consciously, saying, “Everybody should love to be ‘green'.”
The “2017 Greening Together” event enjoys advantageous resources. “Children can learn from books, which is a special value of this event. We took part in other free and for-profit courses in the past, but the ‘2017 Greening Together' is organised by a governmental department with a different atmosphere, seeking to widen children's horizons,” one parent said.
Aside from viewing lotuses under the White Pagoda, another activity was also arranged according to the summer season—to produce anti-mosquito sachets with children.
Honeysuckles, angelica roots, cloves, mint, wrinkled giant hyssop, folium artemisiae argyi are filled in plastic bags on a desk with functions of driving away summer heat, mosquitoes and insects. Sitting around Gao Sulan, a teacher in Beihai Park, children listen to explanations about what functions these materials have and how to make a sachet. During this process, children selected their own types, put them into a refined sachet with the mouth tied.
Each participating family will have a piece of activity log stamped by the education base. Once they collected three pieces of such activity log, the family will exchange for a green notebook.
General Secretary Xi Jinping points out that ecology construction is a complex project, involving in- depth reform of civilisation forms in society in addition to energy saving or alleviating pollution. To realise reform, ecology publicity and education should play a leading role including ideology, concept, knowledge and behaviour; the ecology value as well as sound conduct in production, living and consumption should prevail across to build a new harmonious relationship between people and nature, and fulfil sustained development among the economy, society and natural environment.
“How did you know about the ‘2017 Greening Together' event?” “I knew about this from the news and applied on the Wechat account. My child is interested in it.” Parents expressed that it was a golden opportunity to take part when asked about the application.
As the organiser of the “2017 Greening Together,” Green Life magazine knows the best about the 100 courses, and is the best qualified to speak on activities.
“Each education base has its own distinctive arrangement of course content and highlights its routine ecological content. For example, wetland parks primarily introduce animals and plants as well as ecological system in the wetland. Beijing Institute of Landscape Architecture emphasises rare species of Chinese roses. All activities are mainly designed for families with some for special groups,” said by Li Qingbo, editor- in- chief of the Green Life magazine. Li continued, “Take the activity held in Xiadu Park as an example, parents and their children actively took part in the activity with complete materials prepared. Children were curious about everything amid nature, and professional teachers and staffs gave precise instructions on the site. In the course on Chinese roses in the Beijing Institute of Landscape Architecture, every child seriously recorded notes. The teaching way through lively activities enables parents and children to learn ecological knowledge easily. Such parent- child activity is helpful for ecology to permeate families, the smallest cell of society.”
To improve ecology education, enterprises, schools, NGOS and the public are all important forces, apart from governmental departments undertaking principal tasks concerning ecology. Different forces should unite together and compensate with each other to construct an ecological publicity and education system at various dimensions, and promote this alongside education for all people, across the whole process and in life. This goes from kindergarten, primary school, middle school, university, the workplace, family to society, and in formal and informal settings.
The General Office will usher in more social resources via the “government's purchase of services,” and work with education bases to host more specialised activities, bring service, educational and demonstrative functions of ecological publicity and education bases in the capital into full play.
The “2017 Greening Together” event transforms simple teaching into proactive experience along with interactions and games for families. Since its initiation, the event has been widely welcomed
by parents and children. The event's Wechat account was also opened simultaneously, featuring ecological education and interactions.
On the homepage of Wechat account of the “2017 Greening Together,” the event's logo is eye- catching, with three green cartoon figures hand in hand, symbolising family members to participate in building a better ecological environment; flying green birds imply Beijing's hope for building a green and ecological city.
In the Wechat account, people can find detailed activity introduction, information of education bases, and exclusive application links. With functions of online applications, participation and sharing, the account posts information on activities, course records and ecological facts each day. People who follow the official account will be updated with the latest activities and application information.
Organisers use effective ways to ensure the information of each participant family true and valid, satisfying the demands of families for an ecological experience. These effective ways include verifying mobile phone numbers, call confirmation and information disclosure. Professional photographers were available to document the activities. For each activity, a Wechat chat group will be established involving participant families for communication, feedback and sharing course reviews. “It is unexpected that we received uninterrupted praise from participant families, which provides us with more publicity channels.”
Course quality has been underlined by the organiser. To ensure the quality of each ecological course, the number of participating families is limited to under 30. The number of attendants on the site may be different for different courses. Li Qingbo said, “A parent suggested less participants to guarantee the course quality as he would like to pay more. For some hot courses, we generally suggest applicants wait for the next course or choose another education base.”
For citizens who fail to apply for the courses, the General Office will also launch online courses to allow more families and children to learn ecology and sense the charm of nature and ecology.
To grant more access to more families and communities in the capital is the beautiful vision of ecological publicity and education. More participants and social power are expected to join the event to enjoy the achievements of ecological construction in the capital while contributing efforts in building a green and ecological Beijing.
Educating the public about water plants
Handing out schedules for the green event
Introducing lotus culture at Beihai Park
Teaching kids about varieties of China roses
Kids show their logo stickers for protecting ecology
Putting fruits in bags to keep mosquitoes away
Teaching how to grow water plants