The eighth edition of the Children's Season opens at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) with a delightful presentation of "Once Upon a Time in Asia: The Animal Race". This is a specially curated exhibition that features original interactive ensembles inspired by objects in the ACM collection, as well as specimens and replicas from the Science Centre Singapore.
This year, ACM collaborated with Kinderland and Skool4Kidz to create a community display for this exhibition. The result was a highly imaginative and exciting display of Chinese zodiac animals. The animals came in exuberant colours, various shapes and sizes and were reflections of the children's interpretations. The zodiac figurines were displayed in conjunction with "Chinese Zodiac Heads, A Gift from Jackie Chan", an exhibition of bronze sculptures of animals created for the hit movie, "CZ12".
More than 500 children aged between 5 and 6 years old from the two preschools were involved in the project. The children spent 2 months creating the exhibits with the help of their teachers and parents. Altogether, the children fashioned more than 100 animal figurines of various sizes, using recyclable materials such as wood pieces, newspapers, egg trays, carton boxes, plastic bottles and paper plates.
Visitors to the Level 2 Gallery at ACM were greeted by four big creations - a rooster, a snake, a dragon and an ox, with a large supporting collection of rats, dogs, tigers, horses, rabbits, pigs, monkeys and sheep -- all original works of art by the children.
The life-like pair of colourful roosters, each measuring more than 1 metre tall, is probably the largest, most visually-arresting exhibit. The male rooster appears to crow out to visitors with its bright red cock's comb and commanding yellow beak. Overlooking the exhibit is a majestic, 2 metre-long green dragon, gazing serenely at visitors from its aerial perch.
PLANNING THE CONTRIBUTION
The community art project was specially built into the children's Term 2 curriculum this year. Altogether, 12 preschool centres were involved. The 11 Kinderland centres each 'adopted' a Zodiac animal for the project. The younger children from a Skool4Kidz centre in Woodlands chose the Horse as their muse.
Preparations began in January this year when teachers from Kinderland and Skool4Kidz attended 5 training sessions with Mr Luis Lee, the resident artist/ designer at ACM. Mr Lee has more than 15 years of teaching experience at LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts and the Institute of Technical Education.
Through these sessions, the teachers learned how to conceptualise their designs and engage the children in creating the exhibits. The teachers visited ACM during one of the sessions to study the artefacts and pick out motifs and designs from the costumes and pottery on display. The children were also brought to the museum to view the artefacts for themselves.
Subsequently, the children put in 3 to 5 hours a week after curriculum hours in the afternoon to work on the project. Their parents chipped in by collecting recyclables and providing some basic art and craft materials for the children. Madam Low Geok Ling, mother of K2 child Ong Jing Yu, remarked, "Taking part in the ACM project has given us time to think and work as a family. We took time to look for various recycled materials, and in the process, learnt how to reuse things that would otherwise be considered as rubbish to us. I feel that this is a meaningful project that has brought us both joy and fun."
VALUABLE EXPERIENCES GAINED
For the children, the journey has been a magical adventure as they explored the integration of Chinese fables and Singapore's heritage, and used their little hands to transform used materials into attractive representations of their experiences. What did the children have to say?
K2 child, Edel Quek Xuan Ting, said, "I enjoyed working on the project with my friends! Our rat community looks so pretty here in ACM with the other children's zodiac animals." Creativity was also in the mind of K1 child, Kristal Kadariya, who added, "I made cute little rats with my friends out of paper cups. I like this activity because I get to be creative!"
It was certainly an enriching and rewarding learning experience for them, and many children expressed their happiness at seeing their work being showcased during Singapore's 50th year of nationhood.
For the teachers, the project has been a wonderful, eye-opening experience that helped them to appreciate the creative approaches to art, design and the museum's efforts at keeping Singapore's heritage alive and relevant to the public.
"I believe this collaborative effort is a milestone event for the teachers and children of Kinderland and Skool4Kidz. It has allowed us to make a very meaningful contribution to the SG50 celebrations," said Mr Seet Lee Kiang, General Manager of Kinderland Educare Services Pte Ltd. "It is also an experience that will continue to inspire both our teachers and children to excel in whatever they do."