In 1993 a group called Counting Crows sang a song named Big Yellow Taxi. Do you remember it? Its lyrics still echo in my mind, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot". The song was a twist between lost love and lost nature but it's the nature part that I'd like to focus on.
On March 1 small groups of ISKL girl scouts and boys scouts arrived at our school's guardhouses to meet with two botanists from FRIM and a nature guide from MNS. Together with their scout leaders and their parents they roamed the campuses, stopping at every tree. The group would look up, write things on small sheets of tape, and then proceed to tag the trees. "MA1", read first. "AC12", read another. Another member of the group indicated the same tag on a map of our campus. The botanists took notes as if in code, for reporting later on. As you walk around school, if you pay close attention, you'll notice these tags on the trees scattered all around. They are part of a "Tree Inventory" that we conducted, with this group, to identify every species of tree on our two campuses. The final report will show the number, location, species and origin of each tree that we have on our campuses. Though some might argue that it isn't important, the truth is that it was done with a purpose other than just merely to inventory.
The hope is that in inventorying our trees we might be able to shed light on our community of the species we have on campus, how many of each species we have, whether they are native or not, whether they attract insects and birds and/or whether they would be a good "fit" for the new campus when, due to human-nature dynamics, we get to choose how nature will be represented. It was also a great initiative that came up in brainstorming during our Eco Schools theme of Nature/Biodiversity but also introduced - quite by coincidence - by John Hollenbach, ISKL's project manager.
So, what did we find? Well, each campus has well over 100 trees though most of them are non-native. There are a number of species represented but the 'highlights' for myself are the cinnamon trees I've been walking past for a decade now on the Ampang campus and the Banyan tree nestled in the back of the Melawati campus! How delightful, even for a non-expert, to participate in the recognition of trees, to walk around and see identifying features and relating them to some pre-established memory bank or set of understandings! Learning never ceases! What a wealth of opportunity that exists on our own campuses?!
Another stanza of the same song, Big Yellow Taxi, talks about "the took all the trees and put them in a tree museum". At ISKL we're hoping that parking lots will be limited (but appropriately useful) but that our our own campus will be a tree museum, an real-life natural learning center, for students to engage in, to enjoy, to sit under, to be part of. When the final reports of what our tree museum looks like, I'll tell you all know about 'em.