Learning is fun and exciting

The start of a journey, impacting the lives of children in Student Care Centres…

Every day, around 30,000 children attend Student Care Centres (SCCs), spending up to six hours in the SCCs after school..

In 2017, Temasek Foundation introduced the Learning is Fun and Exciting (LIFE) programme, to enable children to learn life values through creative activities in participating SCCs.

119 students and 9 coaches from different SCCs participated in the pilot conducted in 2017. In this pilot phase, Temasek Foundation partnered with Julia Gabriel Education and The Alpha Mind to develop curricula and training opportunities for staff in SCCs run by the YMCA of Singapore (YMCA) and Big Heart Student Care. The curricula incorporates core values such as respect, responsibility, resilience, integrity, care and harmony.

Mr Eugene Tay, Founder of The Alpha Mind, emphasized that the LIFE Programme is important as it ingrains values such as responsibility, integrity and accountability in our children. Given the strong emphasis placed on children’s academic results, Mr Tay feels that more can be done to develop our children’s character and emotional resilience, so that they will be more prepared to face future challenges.

“The thing about mindset and character development is not as easy to quantify as, let’s say, exam results, where you can put a child through an intense tuition course and then get an ‘A’ at the end of it. What we are doing through the LIFE Programme is planting seeds and nurturing the young minds for the future.”

Mr Tay hopes that children will not only enjoy and have fun participating in the LIFE Programme, but also take away meaningful values through the hands-on activities, developed as part of The Alpha Mind curriculum. He shares one such activity he piloted at YMCA’s SCC, based in Zhangde Primary School:

“I encouraged the children to create colourful origami butterflies. When I asked the students what they thought this project was all about, they explained that the young of the butterfly is a caterpillar, and it’s on the ground just crawling away, very ugly, but if you believe enough in yourself, you can actually have the possibility and potential to grow into a beautiful butterfly and fly around the world. Through this activity, children learnt to believe in themselves – simple, yet it sends a very powerful message.”

Ten-year old Xiu Qian who attends YMCA SCC at Zhangde Primary School said, “I have learnt from the LIFE Programme that we should not give up even though we face challenges. That’s why I think encouraging my classmates is important because if we don’t encourage one another, we will feel like there is no support and won’t continue to work hard and persevere. I also like the games because we can play and learn at the same time, which makes it more fun.”

Julia Gabriel Education, another LIFE Programme curriculum developer, observed that the programme enables SCC coaches to feel confident, and develop positive outcomes for the children.

Mr Trevor Rodrigues, a trainer with Julia Gabriel Education, said that the LIFE Programme motivates children to be ready for life itself. Piloting the THRIVE curriculum at Big Heart SCC@Teck Whye Primary, Mr Rodrigues shared that these children became more self-aware of their feelings and behavior through the various activities. For example, the “Mindful Jar” (a jar filled with water and glitter) teaches them to better control their anger or frustrations. As Mr Rodriques shakes the jar, the children sat still, took deep breaths and counted from 1 to 10, as they watched the glitter fall into place. This helped them to remain calm.

Other interesting games include storytelling and role-playing. For example, in the Character Trait Story, cards of different attributes (e.g. kind, generous and caring) are placed around the room. A story or scenario would be read to the children, after which the children would be encouraged to stand next to the value or trait that best described the person that was mentioned in the story, and his or her actions.

“The LIFE Programme grooms children into responsible, positive, contributing adults in their community. If I compare the first session with the last session, I noticed there has been great improvement in the children’s focus – how they were able to self-regulate and control their emotions and reactions. I would say they have made great strides, and they’re ready to take on the next session.” said Mr Rodrigues of the pilot run.

Following a successful pilot in 2017….

As of August 2019, the LIFE Programme has expanded to benefit 34 SCCs, trained more than 160 coaches and impacted 3,000 students. The SCCs are managed by a variety of operators such as the YMCA, Big Heart Student Care, Life Student Care and Raffles Student Care.

Apart from Julia Gabriel Education and The Alpha Mind, O School and Ivy Cubs have also come on board to design curricula that inculcate the learning of values through movement and collaboration. This is complemented with modular training sessions to help SCC coaches deliver the activities effectively. Besides curriculum training sessions, we have also worked with SHINE and Ngee Ann Polytechnic on foundational skills courses, to enable SCC coaches to hone key competencies such as classroom management and communication skills.

Temasek Foundation will continue to reach out to more partners to extend the reach of the LIFE Programme to school-based and community-based SCCs.

Temasek Gives: Learning values and preparing for life, all through fun

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