IN AN era where climate change and environmental degradation are pressing global concerns, educational initiatives that promote environmental stewardship have gained unprecedented significance.
Sunway Theme Parks, a prominent player in the Malaysian entertainment industry, has taken a bold and commendable step towards fostering sustainable practices and environmental awareness among the younger generations.
Through their visionary Explorer Rangers programme, Sunway Theme Parks are not merely educating the future generation but also instilling future generations with a profound sense of responsibility towards the planet and its fragile ecosystems.
At the core of Sunway Theme Parks’ sustainability initiatives lies a dedicated commitment to education through entertainment.
Recognising the pivotal role that the next generation plays in shaping the future of sustainability, the Explorer Rangers programme was conceived to be an innovative initiative aimed at imparting knowledge about wildlife and environmental conservation to children ages five to 12 years old. This weekly, in-situ educational wildlife class, endorsed by the Education Ministry, takes place at two of Sunway Theme Parks’ locations: Sunway Lagoon at Sunway City Kuala Lumpur and Sunway Lost World of Tambun at Sunway City Ipoh.
The Explorer Rangers programme transcends traditional classroom learning, encompassing a diverse array of themes related to wildlife and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). By seamlessly intertwining these themes, the programme sets a resounding example for the younger generation, inspiring them to become impassioned advocates for planetary health and conservation.
The origins of the Explorer Rangers programme can be traced back to the Junior Rangers programme, which made its debut in 2009 as the brainchild of Sunway Theme Parks executive director Calvin Ho.
Initially introduced as an exclusive offering at Sunway Lost World of Tambun, the programme garnered significant praise and enthusiasm even after the Covid-19 pandemic. Fueled by the organisation’s growing commitment to environment conservation and the overwhelmingly positive reception, the programme evolved into what we now know as the Explorer Rangers programme, which is now available at both Sunway Lagoon and Sunway Lost World of Tambun, thus widening its reach and impact.
Nurturing young minds: A journey of discovery
What truly sets the Explorer Rangers programme apart is its pioneering approach to education, placing a strong emphasis on in-situ learning that enables young rangers to engage with exotic animals within the captivating realms of the Sunway Theme Parks. This immersive education strategy goes beyond traditional classroom settings and textbooks, providing young learners with a unique opportunity to witness the wonders of the natural world up close and personal. By bringing the classroom to life, the programme engages children in a profound and immersive way that conventional teaching methods simply cannot replicate.
The practical sessions offered within the programme are thoughtfully designed to seamlessly align with the natural environment, ensuring that the environmental parameters encountered directly relate to the syllabus being taught. As children engage with the environment firsthand, they develop a profound appreciation for the delicate balance of nature and the importance of conservation. These engaging sessions are not led by ordinary instructors, but are instead, conducted by experienced veterinarians and zoologists whose profound expertise brings a level of authenticity and depth to the learning experience that is truly unparalleled.
Moreover, the programme extends invitations to guest speakers and industry professionals to share their passion and invaluable firsthand experiences. This inspires children to explore the world of wildlife further and consider potential career paths in conservation, thus opening their eyes to exciting possibilities.
Inculcating sustainable initiatives
Within the Explorer Rangers programme, children have the unique opportunity to learn directly from Sunway Theme Parks’ exceptional conservation initiatives. Through engaging and educational experiences, the young rangers gain valuable insights into sustainability and environmental stewardship, thereby enhancing their understanding of these vital concepts.
Children delve deeply into the intricacies of the Upcycled Floating Island and Lake Conservation project, bearing witness to the transformative power of innovative solutions on environmental preservation. By observing the ‘Clean-Flo’ system in action and learning about its role in reversing lake degradation, they not only grasp the importance of conservation but also witness the power of technology in addressing ecological challenges.
In Sunway Lost World of Tambun, young rangers gain an in-depth understanding of the park’s dedication to preserving nature. They get to partake in the harmonious coexistence between human-made attractions and thriving ecosystems, exemplified by the park’s commitment to not cut down any trees during the development — showcasing a vital lesson in sustainable construction practices. The rich biodiversity within the park, including diverse flora and fauna and limestone formations, serves as a living textbook on the importance of protecting and appreciating natural beauty. These encounters ignite a sense of wonder and a strong environmental ethic in the young rangers.
The next generation of explorer rangers
As the Explorer Rangers programme continues to evolve and expand its reach, it’s imperative to acknowledge the transformative impact it has had on the young participants and their families. Over the course of one year, the programme has witnessed the remarkable growth and enthusiasm of these budding environmentalists, as shared by their parents.
Imaan, an enthusiastic Explorer Ranger since October 2022, has undergone a profound transformation in her outlook towards nature and conservation. Her mother, who goes by Iftiza, shares, “Her catchphrase is always ‘Did you know? Did you know?’ because every time I pick her up after her Explorer Ranger class, she will be so excited to tell me everything that she learnt and experienced.”
Iftiza fondly recalls a session where Imaan and her classmate had to learn about the proper way to care for a pony and its enclosure. Imaan’s happiness knew no bounds as she enthusiastically raked leaves in the pen, realising the significance of even the smallest tasks in animal welfare. Iftiza also shares how her child’s curiosity and passion for conservation have been ignited as the young participant revealed her dream to become a ranger like her teachers — becoming a potential environmental steward in her own right.
Meanwhile, Au Yeong Ming Joon, who embarked on his Explorer Ranger journey in September 2022, has greatly benefitted from the programme’s holistic approach to education. His mother, Lee, shares her perspective: “I always wanted Joon to join a programme that allows him to learn outside his class syllabus — so when I saw Explorer Rangers and found how interesting their breakdown of topics each month was, I signed him up immediately.”
The impact of Explorer Rangers has extended beyond Joon’s participation, as his mother and his siblings have also found themselves learning from him. Lee explains, “He would be like a little ranger, explaining to us about ESG efforts in Sunway Lagoon and how it works. So it has been very insightful, and I would spend my time sitting down with him as he patiently explained to me.”
Joon’s newfound knowledge and passion have not only enriched his own life but have also become a source of inspiration and education for his family.
These heartfelt testimonials from parents highlight the profound influence of the Explorer Rangers programme on the young participants, shaping them into environmentally conscious and knowledgeable individuals who are eager to make a positive impact on the world. As these young minds continue to grow and evolve, they are destined to become the next generation of environmental leaders and advocates, actively contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally-aware future.
Sunway Theme Parks has embarked on a meaningful journey of collaboration with several prominent Malaysian conglomerates and governmental institutions, including the Education Ministry, Malaysia Airlines, Maybank and many other partners. Together, they have forged an optimal “outdoor laboratory” that empowers youth to participate in research projects and environmental conservation efforts.
In essence, the programme fosters a generation of young individuals who are not merely passive learners but also active members in the conservation of the environment. Through their interactions with exotic animals and immersive educational sessions, these young rangers are equipped with the knowledge, empathy and skills needed to become champions of wildlife conservation and advocates for the preservation of our planet’s precious biodiversity.
As Ho aptly puts it, “Through the Explorer Rangers programme, children don’t merely learn about conservation; they experience it in action. As these young minds engage with sustainability on a practical level, they’re not only educated but also inspired to become responsible habitants of our planet.”