WUHAN, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- It is late autumn at the Tianxingzhou country park in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and several migratory birds -- black storks with black bodies, white bellies, red beaks and thin legs -- are visiting the mudflats, their heads bent low in search of food.
In the distance, a group of primary school students are participating in a bird-watching event, appreciating the grace of these wild animals through binoculars.
"Look at their feathers, very impressive!" said Li Maoning, an 11-year-old student from Wuhan Foreign Language School.
"Black storks are under first-class state protection. There are fewer than 1,000 remaining in East Asia and we need to protect them," gushes Li, who has been anticipating this moment for some time.
Bird-watching is one of the activities offered by the public benefit program "Park Classes," which was initiated by the Wuhan municipal garden and forestry bureau in 2016.
The program aims to help foster the concept of environmental protection among primary and middle school students, and to help children get close to nature through a variety of outdoor activities, developing their ability to explore and take action.
Among the courses on offer is the restoration of small and micro wetlands, which requires a considerable amount of hands-on practice. Under the guidance of tutors, students are required to conduct research on a 500-square-meter wetland in a city park, and then take action to promote its restoration.
Last summer, a team of 15 primary and middle school students conducted a physical examination of the biodiversity of a micro-wetland in Wuhan's Houxianghe park. They observed and recorded the number of plant and animal species there and made suggestions for improvement, based on the wetland's physical condition.
During their field research, the team found that there were few fish in the micro-wetland and the distribution of wildlife species was generally defective. After further study, they concluded that the wetland was deficient in submerged and floating plants, which prevented fish and amphibians from reproducing in large groups.
In the subsequent courses, students worked together to create design drawings and put together a restoration plan. Thanks to their joint efforts, the biodiversity of the wetland has been significantly improved.
"It's very meaningful," said Teng Zhiyu from Wuhan Changqing Experimental Primary School. "I have learned a lot about strange animals and plants, and have also witnessed the improvement of the wetland's ecology. I'll take part in more activities like this."
Li Chenliang, with the Wuhan park association, feels the program brings major benefits to the students.
"It's not easy for children to have a connection to nature amid the fast-paced city life," said Li. "We should make full use of the city's ecological advantages and encourage more children to get closer to nature through the 'Park Classes' program."
Wuhan, dubbed an "international wetland city," has 165 rivers and 166 lakes. In the past six years, the program has carried out over 3,000 activities in Wuhan's 32 urban parks, covering all of the city's primary and middle schools and attracting over 1 million students. ■