Enhancing Learning Through Innovation
Innovation is key to winning children’s hearts and minds. At the PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Blk 412 Geylang Serai, educators have used creative activities and projects to stimulate children’s thinking.
Capture children’s attention through innovative and fun projects and they will be motivated to take charge of their own learning and development. That has been the experience of educators at the PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Blk 412 Geylang Serai.
Over the past few years, the centre has organised charity carnivals, plays and other projects to sharpen the children’s language and thinking skills as well as their motor coordination. These activities have also facilitated their social-emotional development.
Ms Nur Aidah Dahlan believed this to be the case when her daughter Nayra was chosen to play the lead role in the pre-school’s annual play. Nayra was five years old at the time. “She was very excited and regularly practiced her dialogue at home. The play was her first time being on stage and performing in front of an audience. I believe the whole process had helped boost her communication skills and confidence,” Ms Nur recalled. "She is now more willing to speak up in class and share her ideas in group discussions."
Staging plays has also created opportunities for the children to immerse themselves in enriching cultural experiences. In 2016, the children focused on the Chinese legend of Chang’er, the Chinese goddess of the moon. Now, the educators and children are working on a project involving Indian dance and music.
Festivals, too, offer children enriching experiences. Inspired by the dragon dances during the Chinese New Year celebrations, the educators also taught the children about the significance of dragons in both the Eastern and Western cultures. The children made dragon artefacts using recyclable materials found in their homes and at the centre.
“Some of the dragons were made out of cards, so the children had to think about how long the dragons were supposed to be, and how many cards were needed. Throughout the whole process the educators had discussions with the children. This not only stimulated their thinking but also strengthened their mathematical skills when they had to estimate, gauge and count,” said Ms Diana Lee, the centre supervisor. The ‘Dragons Come Alive!” project won the centre the ECDA’s Early Childhood Innovation Award (Distinction) in 2016.
Thinking Out of the Box
Ms Lee and her educators believe that it is important to devote their time and effort to such opportunities for creative endeavours. It takes intentional thinking on the educators’ part to re-create everyday materials into something new. With limited resources, both educators and children are encouraged to continually reframe ways and come up with solutions.
Going the Extra Mile
Ms Lee acknowledged that embarking on innovative projects may be daunting to some educators. She said, “Some educators may think that it’s just not possible to come up with these projects because they are too time-consuming or that they are not creative. Here are some tips to overcome some of these psychological barriers:
- Put time aside to plan as a group
- Brainstorm possibilities
- Draw up a project plan and breakdown tasks to make it more manageable
- Have a realistic timeline
- Conduct regular meet-ups to touch base and iron out concerns
- Acknowledge and affirm efforts and ideas
“Centres can also conduct learning journeys to other pre-schools”, suggests Ms Lee. For example, her children visited another pre-school which did a project on clay modelling. “This experience was beneficial. We picked up project ideas and processes, and also reflected on how these could be adapted to meet our children’s needs,”Ms Lee said.
The projects have also helped to foster closer relationships between the educators and parents. Ms Nur, Nayra’s mother, said that her daughter loves the pre-school’s creative activities and projects. “When she is given projects to be worked on at home, she gets really excited. We do these projects together and that draws us even closer. ” she said.
Ms Lee noted, “I observed that the more we involve our children’s parents, the more we get to know each other. Our relationship becomes stronger. We know that we are all in this together, and that we need to work in partnership for the children’s benefit.”
For parents who are busy, the educators set aside time to lend a hand to the children. “We understand that many parents work full time and sometimes they may not be able to find the time to get involved,” Ms Lee said.
Looking back on their centre’s project experience, Ms Lee added: “At times, it has not been easy. But the educators were motivated and always found ways to overcome challenges. I believe that their positive attitude has contributed towards the project’s success.” The pre-school also believes that it is important to see projects as a powerful curriculum tool. It brings together various learning objectives and engages the whole child.
Ms Nur is among the parents who are grateful for the centre’s efforts in shaping an innovative learning culture for both children and parents. She said, “I think the activities and projects have definitely made the learning fun and enjoyable for the children. As a parent, I have certainly benefited from being involved in the project. I have a better understanding of how my child learns.”
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