22 April 2021
MORE THAN 71,000 PRE-SCHOOLERS DO GOOD THROUGH ‘START SMALL DREAM BIG’ MOVEMENT
1 The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has launched the seventh edition of its President’s Challenge initiative, ‘Start Small Dream Big’, with more than 71,000 children from 1,050 preschools participating in the movement this year. This is the highest record to date, with more than half of all pre-schools in Singapore on board. This signals the early childhood sector’s continued and rising recognition of the importance of inculcating important values such as kindness, compassion and sharing in our young children. The movement has grown seven-fold over the years, with 150 preschools and 8,000 children participating when it was first launched in 2015.
2 The theme of this year’s ‘Start Small Dream Big’ is “Stay Connected, Make A Difference”. It aims to encourage children to continue to maintain social connections with the community, despite the current COVID-19 situation, and find meaningful ways to reach out and do good. Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said, “Laying the foundations for a more caring and inclusive society starts from an early age. I am heartened that more pre-schoolers have pledged to do good for the community through ‘Start Small Dream Big’ this year. With digital technology becoming more accessible, all of us can find new ways to stay meaningfully connected with all segments of society.”
Children staying connected and making a difference 3 This year’s theme also aligns with the President’s Challenge’s current focus on supporting the digital inclusion of vulnerable groups. To stay connected in a time of social distancing, preschools are increasingly leveraging technology to engage the community. Centres are encouraged to extend their children’s ‘Start Small Dream Big’ activities to include digital platforms, where possible. These include using digital
technologies to connect with seniors and persons with disabilities to help keep them mentally and physically active; linking up with residents of Children’s Homes or foreign workers’ dormitories to befriend them and uplift their spirits; organising virtual fundraising events involving parents to benefit the less fortunate; or linking up with experts or partner organisations to learn and do more about pet responsibility, wildlife conservation and other environmental causes.
4 One such initiative that encompasses the spirit of this year’s theme is by Presbyterian Community Services (PCS) Grow & Glow Childcare Centre @ Yishun. The centre plans to organise a virtual fundraising carnival to help raise funds to sponsor a meal delivery programme for frail and homebound elderly under Dorcas Home Care Service. As part of their project, the centre will be collaborating with Grace Orchard School, a special needs school for youths. To promote inclusivity, the centre is involving these youths and their preschoolers in art workshops and activities through a virtual platform. The artworks created together will be included in the fundraising carnival. This year, all 11 PCS Childcare Centres are on board ‘Start Small Dream Big’. Most of their centres participating in the fundraising will also be live-streaming the meal distribution, or providing a pre-recorded greeting from the children as a way to connect them with the elderly.
Community partnerships and new resources 5 ‘Start Small Dream Big’ has continuously received strong support from the community through partnerships with various organisations. Two new partners, the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), have come on board. This brings the total number of partners supporting the movement to 25 this year.
6 As part of their effort to help preschools engage with the community, new Educator’s InfoKits were developed – “Befriending Seniors” co-developed by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and Community Chest, and “Befriending Persons with Disabilities” developed by Community Chest. The “Befriending Seniors” InfoKit is released today and the “Befriending Persons with Disabilities” InfoKit will be released at a later date. These InfoKits aim to share tips in the planning and implementation of volunteering activities for children, including via virtual platforms. These resources would also help educators better understand the various profiles of seniors in the Community Care sector and persons with disabilities.
7 Parents are encouraged to show support for their children’s preschool projects by participating in their project activities, either at home or online. Stories from all participating preschools on their ’Start Small Dream Big’ events and activities can be found at http://www.startsmalldreambig.sg.
1. What is ‘Start Small Dream Big’? ‘Start Small Dream Big’ movement was initiated by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in 2015 to encourage preschools to create platforms for children to give back to the community. It was first launched as part of SG50 and the 15th anniversary of President’s Challenge, as an annual series of fund-raising and volunteer activities. Participating preschools design and implement community service projects for children over a period of six months.
2. What are the objectives of ‘Start Small Dream Big’? We aspire to nurture each child holistically, including character building, so that they can succeed individually in life and also become responsible citizens who care about those around them. Through ‘Start Small Dream Big’, young children in preschools are encouraged to use their own resources and creativity to give back to society, and in the process, instil the spirit of giving and good values such as care for others, humility, kindness and compassion.
3. How are preschools conducting their ‘Start Small Dream Big’ projects considering the COVID-19 situation? Preschools participating in ‘Start Small Dream Big’ are advised to conduct their projects in accordance to ECDA’s latest advisory on safe management measures. These include ensuring safe distance between groups of children for outdoor activities, restriction of visitors in preschools, and ensuring no mixing of children across cohorts. As such, projects would be limited to activities within the children’s classrooms or outdoors, in small groups, subject to safe management measures. Partners may use online communication tools to give talks or conduct programmes for preschools. Centre-wide events involving large groups of parents or the public are not allowed.
4. How many children have participated in ‘Start Small Dream Big’ over the years?
5. What is the age range of children who participate in ‘Start Small Dream Big’ and what is expected of the children? The children are mainly from the K1 and K2 levels (i.e. 5-6 years old). The preschools are encouraged to involve and guide the children in developing, planning and implementing the community projects. Under the guidance of teachers, the children play an active role in deciding who they want to help and what they want to do. Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved in supporting their child’s community projects.
6. What are some of the community projects that preschools will be carrying out for ‘Start Small Dream Big’ this year? Preschools are encouraged to reach out to the community, notwithstanding the current COVID-19 situation, by exploring new channels such as virtual platforms where possible. Some examples of community projects that preschools will be carrying out virtually are: connecting with the elderly at senior or nursing homes through digital means; befriending persons with disabilities and special needs through online platforms; and virtual fundraising for the less fortunate. Other projects include: collecting and packing donations for families in need; writing cards or sending letters to sick friends at hospitals and hospices; making regular calls to their grandparents or spend time with them at home; showing appreciation to healthcare and other front-line or community workers through kind acts; caring for the environment through gardening, recycling efforts, beach clean-ups and water conservation; caring for animals through responsible pet ownership and raising awareness on marine and wildlife conservation; and promoting good hygiene or a healthy lifestyle to their families and residents in the neighbourhood.
7. What kind of support does ECDA provide to the participating preschools? ECDA provides a resource package to all participating preschools. The resource package includes bucket hats, masks, pledge cards, stickers, hanging mobiles, Educator’s Guides, reflection journals, posters, and customised banners. E-resources are also provided to preschools. Furthermore, ECDA links preschools to community partners and creates opportunities for preschools to share best practices. All these can be found on the ‘Start Small Dream Big’ portal at http://go.gov.sg/ssdb2021-resources.
8. How was ‘Start Small Dream Big’ launched this year? Minister for Family and Social Development, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, launched this year’ ‘Start Small Dream Big’ on 22 April, Thursday, at Presbyterian Community Services (PCS) Childcare Centre @ Yishun. Participating preschools will carry out their project launches with children at their own premises, and share photos or videos through the ‘Start Small Dream Big’ portal,www.startsmalldreambig.sg. Preschools will also document their projects over a period of six months (April to September) on this portal.
9. Which community and government agencies are ECDA partnering with in 2021 for ‘Start Small Dream Big’? ECDA works with many agencies to support preschools in their community projects. Among them are Community Chest, Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), Preschool Market, National Parks Board (NParks) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). This year, new partner organisations on board are the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC). More information on centres’ projects and partners is available at http://www.startsmalldreambig.sg.
10.Are there new resource materials available for participating preschools this year? Two new resources developed by our partners, Community Chest and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), will be made available to participating preschools this year. They relate to befriending the elderly, and befriending Persons with Disabilities. The InfoKits feature Sharity, Community Chest’s pink elephant mascot who advocates for caring deeply and sharing freely. These publications provide guides and tips that help pre-school educators in planning and managing volunteering activities for pre-schoolers. They also provide information on the various profiles of seniors in the Community Care sector and persons with disabilities. A section on virtual befriending has been included to enable pre-schools to continue befriending seniors and persons with disabilities via virtual platforms amidst the present pandemic situation. The InfoKits and the series of befriending activities are specially curated for pre-schoolers with the hope to instil positive attitudes in the young while learning the importance of empathy and respect.
“Befriending Seniors – An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Intergenerational Ties”, co-developed by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and Community Chest, is available for download at:
“Befriending Persons with Disabilities – An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Disability Awareness”, developed by Community Chest, will be available for download in June 2021.