Malaysia: Benn’s Rainforest Discovery Centre

Bernadette, or ‘Benn’ as she is fondly known, is the environmental
education programme coordinator of the Rainforest Discovery Centre
(RDC) in Sepilok. “At an early age, I really liked the environment. I
dreamt of being involved in a job related to it when I grew up,” said
Benn, 40. It was however not the most conventional of ambitions. Local
universities did not offer degrees in environmental education, and
Benn’s best option then was to study something related to nature.”

had to a get a degree in Zoology first, then specialise in
‘conservation and ecological biology ‘. Benn was so determined to
achieve her dream that she was not daunted even when her application
to study zoology was rejected twice. “I had to apply three times for
the Zoology course at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). My
application was not successful the first two times. When I put in my
application for the third time, I went to see the dean of the faculty
of life sciences there and asked him to give me a chance. I got it!”
After she graduated, Benn applied for the position of Environmental
Education Programme Programme at the fledgling Rainforest Discovery
Centre (RDC) in Sepilok. She started out as a volunteer for five
months before finally landing the job in 1997. “I did not know what to
expect from the job,” she says.

“But I went into it with an open mind.
I was told that it involved teaching and interacting with many people.
It sounded like fun to me. More importantly, it was a job related to
the environment. I knew I would love it.” People ask me, ‘Benn, you do
these courses week after week, don’t you feel bored?’ I say no. Each
course is attended by different people with different opinions,” she
says. “I always believe it is a challenge to educate any individual on
the environment, regardless of their background. There is always an
opportunity to educate.” Benn believes a good educator is one who is
able to hold the attention of his audience. To achieve this, she says
the educator has to be enthusiastic. “If I am not enthusiastic when I
present, how can I expect my class to be enthusiastic as well? It is
impossible, the class will not come alive at all. I try my best to be
as enthusiastic as possible every time.” Through her environmental
education programmes, Benn has reached out to people from all walks of
life. Executives, professors, teachers, students, you name it! She has
fond memories of a course she did for a group of disabled children.
“We had to get their attention. It was a huge challenge for the team.
We had to wade into the pond with them and help them sense and feel
the rainforest. That really was a lot of

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Comments (1)

susanMarch 29th, 2010 at 11:53 pm

hi,i’m susan..i juz finish my form 5 last year and is very intersted in taking zoology course as i love animals..but what should i do now? can i straight apply zoology courses after form5?

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