Motivating children to learn and keeping them engaged in the process is no small feat, as Esther Lee, a Sony Hong Kong employee, has gathered from her experience as a corporate volunteer.
"You need to find out what makes them tick, and how to communicate with them so they will stay interested in a topic," says Lee, senior manager of corporate communications at the consumer electronic company. The multinational has a volunteer group called the Rainbow Team.
Lee volunteered with the "Green Kids: Create a Beautiful Planet" programme, an eight-month initiative sponsored by Sony and run by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs) Yu Mak Yuen Integrated Services Centre, which is is a non-profit group based in Sham Shui Po.
The programme, which ended in March, was designed to improve the environmental awareness of children living in the area.
Tours were organised to ecological sites and spots including Hoi Ha Marine Life Centre, Hong Kong Wetland Park, Mai Po Nature Reserve, Lamma Fisherfolk's Village, Sha Tin Transfer Station, and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.
"Each volunteer was assigned one or two kids. We introduced them to important themes such as sustainability and helped them understand how human activities affect nature," says Lee.
After the tours, participants attended workshops at the TWGHs Yu Mak Yuen Integrated Services Centre, where they took part in activities that helped them consolidate their newly acquired knowledge and discussed ways to contribute to a sustainable world.
A closing ceremony was held during which the children were presented with certificates of appreciation. The programme attracted about 80 students aged nine to 12. Lee says the participants appreciated the opportunity to take part in green activities outside the classroom.
"I was excited to have the chance to experience nature," says Ng Wing-shan, a primary-six student. "It is really important that we treasure our environment and natural resources, protect nature and reduce waste."
To prepare for the programme, Sony volunteers had to familiarise themselves with the features of the sites and the objectives of the tours, while coming up with their own routes.
"We also had to think of ways to help the students complete the tasks on the worksheets, such as filling in the blanks, taking pictures of an object or making handicrafts," says Lee.
"We encouraged them to adopt an active approach in looking for the answers and to share with us any ideas they had. We hope they will apply the green tips they have learned to everyday life."
She adds that the volunteers benefited from the programme as much as the children did. "While the students learned about the environment, we improved our communication and coaching skills. We learned and grew together with them."
Volunteers should be mature and should have basic coaching skills
They don't simply accompany kids to an event but play the role of an instructor and mentor
They should be creative in motivating the children to learn and complete assigned tasks