29 FEBRUARY - 2 MARCH 2016
-- Nurhana Ismail, Senior Early Childhood Officer, ECDA
Enter The Marketplace within the 'Future of Us' exhibition, and behold the amazing sight of a geodesic dome in the centre. Welcome to the 'Learning Pod' -- a mobile, versatile learning space, envisioned to be the classroom of the future, where authentic learning can take place in a safe, fun and enriching environment for our children.
In the spirit of showcasing the aspirations of Singaporeans and exploring ideas for the future of our nation, ECDA partnered with Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), KidsSTOP (Science Centre Singapore) and Playeum Ltd to bring to life the 'Learning Pod', from 29 February to 2 March 2016.
Over 2,200 bright-eyed and enthusiastic children from pre-school centres across the island visited The Marketplace over the three days. Surrounded by static display of cutting-edge prototypes and gizmos, the 'Learning Pod' was abuzz with a variety of hands-on activities, specifically designed for pre-school children, to get them to discuss, explore and create designs and ideas for the future.
Let's follow the children as they journeyed around the 'Learning Pod'...
What do you get when you put together water, soap and dry ice? Children giggled with glee as facilitators from KidsSTOP showed them the effect of dry ice vapour trapped in soapy bubbles which release white 'smoke' upon bursting.
Children also learned about aerodynamics using assorted materials to build flying craft and releasing their pneumatic creations over a wind table.
While these are just brief exposures to chemistry and physics, they may spark an interest in the children to the exciting world of science, and hopefully spur their curious minds to future innovations and creations - based on playful scientific experiments!
PEPPER THE ROBOT
Imagine a world where robots are the children's learning companions and the teachers' able assistants. Well, meet Pepper the Robot!
Children from My First Skool (Jurong Point) went on stage to present their friendly humanoid companion, who entertained the audience by interacting and performing with them. With a shiny white surface, a tablet on its torso, and human-like features, Papper has the ability to read emotions and was created to give advice, dance, tell jokes, play games and even help children learn languages.
With advanced robotic technology a reality now, robots are set to become part of our society and be integrated into our learning environment. Pepper is an example of how robots can enhance the learning and play experience in early childhood education.
Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Finance, visited the 'Learning Pod' on the opening day and had the opportunity to watch Papper's animated performance. Along with a group of pre-school children accompanying her, she danced and sang to Pepper's upbeat Jungle Adventure Song before going on stage to colour a robot on the "Design a Bot" wall with them.
Next stop: Playeum's activity area, where children's imagination ran wild as they created their cars of the future.
At the workshops, Playeum's trained Playmaker facilitators led discussions about what cars of the future might look like, and gathered ideas from children on the possible features of these cars. With a specific goal in mind, little hands were kept busy selecting, cutting, taping and colouring, from a trove of recycled materials and craft items.
As the children were creating their future cars, they were also building problem-solving skills, fine motor skills and even social skills. The process of making their own creations and noticing other people's creations provided important opportunities for the appreciation of other people's strenghts and acceptance of their own abilities.
TECHNOLOGY AS A LEARNING MEANS
While technology will continue to pervade our lives, including learning and play, fundamental principles in early childhood education must hold true. As we prepare today's learners for tomorrow's world, we are reminded to use technology in a developmentally appropriate manner in the classroom, and complement, rather than substitute, concrete activities such as arts and crafts, music and dance, and keep the focus on social interaction and collaborative play.
And that is what the 'Learning Pod' hoped to achieve!
*Photographs featuring SMS Sim Ann were contributed by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY)