half of chidren have not walked on grass

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    Monday, October 18, 2004

    More than half our children have never walked barefoot on grass


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    Hong Kong children have very limited contact with nature, with more than half never having stepped on grass in their bare feet or seen a firefly, according to a survey.
    The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department last month surveyed 1,300 children in 16 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools to help it develop a conservation programme.

    The survey showed that while young people were knowledgable about plants and animals, very few of them had direct contact with nature.

    A total of 90 per cent of students knew that Mai Po was a paradise for birds, and 80 per cent were able to distinguish between little egrets and black-faced spoonbills.

    But only 60 per cent of students had participated in bird-watching activities.

    Only 45 per cent had ever seen fireflies, 41 per cent had stepped on grass in their bare feet, 40 per cent had heard the breeze in a bamboo forest, 36 per cent had hugged a tree, 29 per cent had gone camping and 18 per cent had seen the spikes of a porcupine.

    Conservation officer Fiona Lock Nga-yi said the city's urban lifestyle had deprived children of developing a passion for conservation.

    Dr Lock said the findings indicated that children learned about the environment from books, television and websites rather than from direct contact with plants and animals.

    "It was quite a surprise for us to find out that students are very knowledgable about the natural environment. However, only very few of them have actually experienced the environment," she said.

    "Some teachers who come to us for advice admit that they do not know where to bring their students for outdoor activities.

    "In some cases parents are just too busy to take their children to the countryside or they overprotect their children by refusing to let them visit the natural environment to avoid danger and dirt," Dr Lock said.

    She said children would show more concern for nature if they had direct contact with it.

    The survey found among the children's favourite outdoor activities were touching a mimosa tree (77 per cent) and hiking (65 per cent).

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