As a child, I spent a lot of time visiting my grandparents and uncle in Indonesia from Hong Kong. My uncle loved the nature and taught me different facets of the Indonesian rain forest. I am fascinated with the herbal plants, poisonous flowers (yes I meant poisonous ) and wild animals whose lives depend on the rainforest. During my study as a musician and composer with the Royal School of Music and UCLA, I have always wanted to do something special – something in my very own way that could help to educate children through engaging stories about the nature and our threatened environment, from facts about ecosystems to concepts of conservation. This dream has finally come true. After 14 months of painstaking work and help from various friends plus the ‘on and off’ songwriting process, Kakamega the Rainforest Musical eBook is finally released on the app store .
The Kakamega Rainforest App is about 3 kids saving the rainforest. The story centers on the fundamental concepts of global warming, friendship, faith and love.
During my research and various interviews with young children, I was actually quite surprised that not many of the them understand the importance of the rain forest. I know most of them love animals but there are just not enough articles out there to touch on this very important topic. We have heard about the melting ice in the North Pole or rising sea temperature but not many young children know how modern medicine depends on the herb extracts found in the rainforest. Furthermore, more and more indigenous tribes are loosing their battles to fight against logging company while protecting their homes and habitat. “The Medicine Man” movie (Sean Connery) is over 20 years old but there is just nothing really fun and factual at the same time for young children to read. I recently went for a movie screening of “RIO 2” which touches on the rainforest but it is just not enough to get to the crux.
One of my challenges in creating the Kakamega Rainforest Story was about how I could make a serious and meaningful subject simple enough for young children to understand and appreciate. Obviously, we do not want to make it too ‘preachy’ . While I stare out my window in Malibu, California trying to figure out tunes and lyrics, my brain is constantly thinking, how to make Kakamega “fun” and educational”. I spent hours of thinking how to develop the story and brings in elements that are core to our lives – love, faith , friendship while saving the rainforest… plus catchy tunes that young children could sing along and stay tuned to.
When I first started writing the story line for Kakamega, I wanted to have a “hook’ . Indiana Jones is still one of my all time favourite movies. Treasure hunt comes to my mind. Who does not like treasure hunt, right?! Originally I was hoping to have one theme song for each chapter but I ended up writing 12 songs for 9 chapters. I could not stop writing.. How fun is it to have the red-eyed frog rap about the forest, how cool is it to have a ‘forest band’ and the mushrooms chanting about their lives on the forest floor.. so the song list just goes longer and longer.
The Kakamega eBOOK is over 2 hours long. Someone said I was crazy as no kids would have that kind of attention span to sit that long. Nevertheless, I did not want to compromise. I wanted to create something that could make an impact even if it means just a “small audience” . Every little steps counts. I would consider it as a “success’ If I could meet a kid who come to me and said “oh, I learned about how the trees help to regulate climate from Kakamega ” or perhaps sing a few of the Kakamega songs.
Find the app here!
Educating young children about conservation
written by : Shirley Choi