From Our Archives: Bird’s-Eye View - Beijing Olympic Forest Park is a paradise for both birds and bird watchers
In an age when tablets often seem to replace babysitters, many parents are making an effort to wean their kids off technology and plug them into nature instead. Many interests sparked during school years stay with us forever; that is why familiarizing your children with the great outdoors when they are young is vital. However, it is not always possible to get out of the city for the weekend. Luckily, bird watching is one of those activities that can be enjoyed wherever you live.
You might be surprised to learn that Beijing is a birding hotspot. Over 450 different species of birds can be seen here, beating out other capital cities like London and Paris. That is because Beijing is an avian crossroads of sorts; an important stop on the way to breeding grounds in northern China, Siberia, and other places. Though birding is currently confined to a small but active community, the popularity of the pastime is growing.
As parents, we strive to connect our kids with good friends, positive influences, and activities that build character and instill a sense of responsibility. When there is an organization as highly regarded as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for boys and young men, we encourage our sons to actively participate. Being far away from home, we’re quite lucky to have such an outstanding program available for our kids right here in Beijing.
Now that spring has come, we all want our children to be running around in the fresh air. But when the air’s not so fresh and you’re stuck inside, what can they do to burn off that energy?
We invited Joel Llaban Jr to lead a living room workout for a group of energetic kids ages 4 to 10. Joel is a teacher at the International School of Beijing (ISB) and also leads Heyrobics sessions across the city. “We call Heyrobics ‘the world’s happiest sport,” Llaban told us. “It’s the inclusive and friendly community that initially attracted me to it, and the same reason that made me stay! Equally important is the sweat and smiles in every single session.”
Helping Mia (age 4) make her paper bag house is English Specialist Juan-Pierre Taute. Originally from South Africa, Taute has been in China for seven months. He chose this activity because “it’s a great opportunity to learn the vocabulary associated with different parts of a house and the surroundings. I use the whole process to encourage the child’s conversational skills and to build up their confidence in using the English language.”
He tells us that Etonkids approaches arts and crafts in a way that ensures the children not only enjoy the activity but also learn from it. “We try to base our activities around our monthly themes. This month’s theme is On the Farm and the house we have made could easily be adapted to become a farm, complete with farmyard and animals!”
Elena Maringelli, 50, knows all too well the challenges of living and working in China. A single mother to a 23-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, the Italian executive has been living in Shanghai for nine years.
Maringelli’s relationship with China started in 1988 when she moved to Yunnan to study Chinese and anthropology. By 1991, she had graduated and married a Chinese national. They soon moved back to Italy together and had two kids. When her youngest was 2, they separated due to the strain of having little money and deep-seated cultural differences.
The AQI may be high outside, but when you come home and shut the door, you can take your mask off and relax, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. No building, however modern and well-designed, can keep out all the pollutants. And dangers may lurk in your home which you had never even considered.
There are few health experts we trust more than Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a former health columnist for beijingkids and a board-certified family doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital. However, his greatest contribution to the health field is arguably his peer review-certified blog, My Health Beijing (www.myhealthbeijing.com), where he continually tests and reviews independent test results on air purifiers, pollution masks, and other clean air accessories. We contacted him again to recap the latest research on air pollution and health.
What does the scientific literature tell us about the effects of air pollution on health?
The World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines make it very clear: out of the many air pollutants, PM2.5 causes the most serious health risks, especially from long-term exposure. With children, whose lungs keep growing until around age 18, pollution can permanently decrease lung function. Short-term pollution spikes can cause sudden deaths in sick people, especially those with heart or lung disease.
Darius Kwang gazes at the brightly colored world that he just created. The eight-year-old Singaporean student is enrolled in Grade 2 at 3e, and his ecologically themed art project is one of the many cross curricular assignments at this innovative Lido campus, where inquiry based learning and practical creative thinking are championed.
Over 70 percent of travelers stated that they would make green choices if given the chance, according to a 2012 survey by TripAdvisor. Your children may not yet understand the concept of environmental protection and why one might choose to take the bus instead of driving. What better way to instill this value than through an eco-friendly fa mily outing?
We are meeting up with EcoAction, a company founded by scientists and experts seeking to promote environmental responsibility among local and international families. We are getting a taste of one of its tours, which are designed for small groups of six to 12 people. The time for viewing autumn leaves might have already passed, but it is not too late to learn from botanical experts on this early winter tour.
Alexandra Thyssen is from Germany and her husband Walter is from Belgium. They work for the same Luxembourgish company based in Langfang, Hebei – she as a prototype coordinator, he as the plant manager. The Thyssens moved to Beijing in 2008 with their eldest son Patrik, who is now 22 years old and studies in Germany. Their two younger children, 6-year-old Richard and nearly 4-year-old Jonas, attend House of Knowledge’s Quanfa and Victoria Gardens campuses respectively.