Who is The Grange Kid?

I find looking for schools tough. As a parent, I have my ideas about how I want to raise my children, so I like the concept of holistic education. I like the idea of setting kids up for personal rather than academic success. That’s why, during the search for my child’s school, I would ask the following questions:“What is the school about?” and “What personal qualities do they foster in their students?”I was pretty impressed with the response of The Grange Institution to these questions because they’re all about creating thoughtful individuals. They have created an avatar – The Grange Kid – and they use this as their focus in designing their curriculum. The Grange Kids are archetypes of the children that the school wishes to develop for the future world.Who is The Grange Kid?According to the school, The Grange Kids are truly global citizens. “As a result, they see the Earth as their home and recognise that they have an active role to play in the community where they live. Being internationally-minded, they embrace similarities and differences between cultures. The Grange Kids have genuine respect for other people, plants and animals, and the environment. They are passionate individuals who understand the meaning in relationships they have with others.”It takes eight to createIn addition to adopting the avatar, the school has connected a philosophy to The Grange Kids notion that ties in with the number eight. “We believe The Grange Kids can be ‘Cre8tors’. We create a learning ecosystem where conditions exist to support the development of The Grange Kid through a unique Cre8tors-in-Action philosophy that focuses on developing eight key competencies and eight key personal attributes” The Grange Kid Cre8tes!Let’s take a look firstly at the eight key competencies that The Grange Kid is expected to develop. What I like about these is that none of them are academic. Instead, they are transferrable skills that are foundational for creating other successes in life:Construction and design: The ability to conceptualise an idea and take it from design to the final product.Respecting the environment: The ability to implement sustainable practices to respect, care for and protect the environment.Entrepreneurial spirit: The ability to identify a niche, then market and deliver an idea for a product or a cause to a target audience.Active citizenship: The ability to take personal, localised or far-reaching action for causes they are passionate about.Teamwork and partnership: The ability to collaborate with different partners and to adopt different roles in a group to achieve a common goal.Original ideas: The ability to challenge their thinking to come up with new and original ideas.Recognising issues: The ability to research and be aware of issues affecting humanity on a personal, community or global basis.Service leadership: The ability and passion to devote time and energy to community causes that they are passionate about. The Grange Kid is curious!Personal goalsThese are eight personal goals that the school wants The Grange Kid to aspire to:Adaptability: “I can cope with unfamiliar situations and approach tasks from different perspectives and explore different strategies.”Communication: “I can use a variety of tools and technologies to communicate my ideas and thoughts in different contexts and for different audiences.”Collaboration: “I can work with different people and adopt different roles depending on the needs of the group and the tasks at hand.”Critical Thinking: “I can identify and think through issues by considering different perspectives and developing my reasoned point of view.”Inquiry: “I can ask and consider searching questions related to my learning and to carry out research and investigations related to those questions.”Integrity: “I am honest. I act appropriately according to my moral standpoint and can explain the reasons for my actions.”Resilience: “I can stick with a task from beginning to end. I can cope with disappointment when I fail. I aim to keep trying and not give up easily.”Respect: “I can maintain self-discipline and show empathy and care for other people, living things and the environment.”These blueprints have children in mind. But it’s worth remembering that these are characteristics that we could all use as a compass, even as adults. These are the ingredients for a truly engaged citizen of the 21st century.Find out moreIf you would like your child to experience this approach that embraces holistic education, The Grange Institution is taking enrolments for Semester 2 of the 2020-2021 academic year. Click here to learn more about the team there!The Grange Institution is at 449 Yio Chu Kang Roadthegrange.edu.sg | 6817 3630Interested in reading more about schools in Singapore? Check out our Schools section, and then read on for more: Keep the kids busy over the holidays at these holiday campsNeed some fresh air? Check out these outdoor gems!

Meet the new principal of MSIS

26th June 2020 by Kate Marsden 2 Min ReadAfter 25 years of living in the UK, SUKH COLEBOURNE has returned to Singapore to take up her new role as Principal of Melbourne Specialist International School (MSIS), a special education needs school in Singapore.Sukh trained in mainstream education here and in 1991, her nephew Ashwin was diagnosed with autism. “It broke my heart,” says Sukh, about being exposed firsthand to the challenges that Ashwin and his family faced. Shortly afterwards, she moved to the UK and seized every opportunity to get experience in special needs education. While teaching at an international school in London, she had the opportunity to work with a high-functioning student with autism in a mainstream setting. This experience gave her the confidence to take the plunge. Sukh approached a special needs school and the rest is history!“What started out as answers for my nephew and his family turned into a mission to share my knowledge and experiences,” she says. “I didn’t want another parent to go through the level of difficulty they had to. His parents, like many parents today, weren’t provided with answers or a succinct plan on how to progress him along. I started out by wanting those answers for them.”Fast forward to now, and she is approaching her new title with the same empathy and child-centred focus. “Education for our children should encompass the outdoors, engage all senses and include their interests as much as possible. I like to see our pupils lead their own personalised learning journey and our teachers match their varied learning styles. At MSIS, we encourage each individual to lead their own learning platform. If a child is motivated and has a special interest in art, their skills will be developed using that motivation. We will continue to follow their lead until they change direction or focus. This fosters a sense of ownership in their own learning journey.” There is no doubt about how excited she is about the path ahead. “Twenty-five years ago, there was little knowledge or interest in special needs schools or special needs education in Singapore. But now there’s clear interest, which I’m thrilled about. MSIS has a great pool of teachers with amazing dedication and focus. And for me it’s always about the students. Children and adolescents with special needs are the most interesting people in the world – I can engage with them all day long. I look forward to seeing them every day and I’m privileged that I get to spend time with them.”Melbourne Specialist International School is at 75C Loewen Road.6634 8891 | msis.edu.sgSee more in our Schools section!

5 reasons to choose this Singapore preschool!

15th June 2020 by Kate Marsden 3 Min ReadFinding a preschool in Singapore (well, anywhere!) that ticks all of the boxes can be tough. With 16 centres across the island, we’ve got five solid reasons to check out this Singapore preschool group – Kinderland – plus a bonus recipe! Got your attention now? Read on!#1 Kinderland preschools started with a musical missionKinderland was founded in 1978 with a mission to provide a program that had music at its core. Integrated curriculums that incorporate movement and music have been shown to enhance children’s language literacy. So far, Kinderland has stayed true to its founding philosophy – the children take music classes and learn keyboard, percussion, singing and rhythm. Sounds fun, right?#2 Finding a preschool in Singapore where your child can become an all-rounder!Besides the music-based program, Kinderland offers a range of classes for preschoolers; a bilingual programme teaching English and Chinese, literacy using IT and tech, KinderFit Cardio-Wellness and STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading and wRiting, Engineering, Arts and Maths). These help to develop children as a whole, exposing them to a variety of activities. This gives them a chance to land on a few things that they enjoy and love, which is important for building their confidence.By the age of six when a Kinderland child graduates from their Singapore preschool, they will minimally be able to play an instrument, read, write and express their thoughts fluently. Just the start every kid needs! It’s never too early to learn to love learning#3 Kinderland has corporate partnerships (hint… you may be able to get a discount!)Imagine finding a preschool in Singapore where pick-up and drop-off can be done at your place of work. That’s the dream, right? Kinderland provides preschool and also infant care services to several organisations by having centres located in the building where those offices are. Most of these centres in the workplace are open for enrolment to members of the public as well.If there isn’t a centre available in your building, no worries! They also have a corporate tie-up programme with many companies, offering a preferential rate to the staff of these partners. Visit the website to find out more about these corporate partnerships and to get in touch with Kinderland about them.#4 Kinderland is accredited as a Healthy Preschool!What is a ‘Healthy Preschool’ anyway? Well, the Healthy Preschool Accreditation recognises pre-schools that tick the boxes of having comprehensive school health promotion practices for students, parents and staff. A Healthy Preschool passes these ABCs:A: The preschool needs to be a supportive environment that provides healthy meals and actively promotes time for movement.B: The school will help build positive habits for sustained health in kids.C: The preschool educates and equips the staff and parents with the right information to promote these behaviours both in and outside the classroom. Grub’s up at this certified Healthy Preschool!#5 The menu has been designed by an in-house nutrition professional!Every dish on the Kinderland menu is planned by a certified nutrition professional. The balanced menu provides everything that a growing preschooler needs to be active and to thrive. Kinderland believes that exercise and a nutritious diet is essential for a child’s physical development. It’s also important to tie in a balanced diet with exercise and positive habit-forming behaviour. The regular exercise and meal times also put children into the right headspace for learning; active and engaged.The food is so good at Kinderland, we thought we’d give you sneak peek of what’s on offer! So, we’ve included one of the kid’s favourite recipes below. This one is an excellent source of vitamins E and C, while also packed with antioxidants, and rich in protein and important minerals such as zinc and selenium – all the goodies to keep young bodies nourished and healthy, and ready to learn and play!! (And who doesn’t love some avo and eggs on toast?)Avocado ToastIngredients: wholemeal toast, avocado, egg, fresh baby spinach (serves one)Instructions:Cook fresh baby spinach over medium heat in a frying pan, then set aside.Crack an egg into the same frying pan and cook over medium heat until fully cooked. Set aside.Mash the avocado with a fork and spread evenly on a piece of wholemeal toast.Top the avocado toast with spinach and egg.Season with salt and black pepper to taste.Kinderland has 16 centres across the island.6881 8818 | kinderland.com.sg If you’re looking for more articles on early childhood, then have a look at these:Great online activities and classes to do at homeSTEM and STEAM: What are they? And how are they taught? 

Being a headmaster in a crisis

My father was the headmaster of a tiny little school in the middle of nowhere in Africa, but I can’t imagine what it would be like being in charge of a large international school in Singapore. Especially in times of a crisis! I recently spoke with NICK MAGNUS, headmaster of Dulwich College (Singapore). Dulwich is one of the newer international schools in Singapore, but already regarded as one of the top international schools on the island. Its “mothership”, Dulwich College in London, is one of the oldest schools in the world.Dulwich College was founded by Edward Alleyn, a contemporary of Shakespeare, in 1619. Alleyn decided to establish a school in London that would provide sound learning, strong artistic pursuits and good manners. And that thread is still prevalent today throughout its international network of colleges, with a rich curriculum that not only focuses on academics but also sport, music, the performing arts and global citizenship. I asked Nick a few questions about how he and his team managed through the pandemic, from the challenges they faced to the things they learnt.Dulwich has schools in different parts of the world; did this help in preparing for the onset of the COVID-19 crisis?            Thanks to our connections with our sister schools in China, we received word around Chinese New Year that things were likely to get a lot worse. We started planning right away and were fortunate to benefit from the experiences of our international network of schools who were ahead of the curve and had already switched to e-learning. This gave us a significant head start; so when the Circuit Breaker kicked in eight weeks later, we were well prepared with our own e-learning programme.Once the penny had dropped that this was going to be fairly serious, what were your first steps? There are many crisis management exercises that organisations go through as part of leadership and management training, but schools and their leaders are particularly well prepared for such eventualities. Crises occur in different guises and schools must be proactive in trying to predict what will happen. We planned and then adjusted plans in line with what was happening on the ground, and kept communicating to make sure everyone was informed. It’s important to always have a clear reason and purpose for our actions, to support the students at the College. Nick Magnus, the headmaster of Dulwich College Singapore with some early years students.What were the key challenges for the teachers with home-based learning?Online learning for children under the age of seven can be challenging due to the level of personal interaction that this age needs with adults. My sympathies go out to parents who were trying to support their children’s learning at home while juggling their day jobs and worrying about loved ones all over the world.The wellbeing of our teachers, students and parents was always our priority, and getting involved in community initiatives helped to keep spirits high. We have had parents sewing masks, students organising deliveries of essential items and teachers volunteering their time with local charities. We are all in this together. The inventiveness, commitment and work ethic of teachers is always something I reflect on and it fills me with hope to see this in challenging times like these.What have been the main points to come out of home-based learning for you as the headmaster of Dulwich College (Singapore)?I think that certain elements of it are here to stay. Although we’re fortunate enough to live in a country where community cases of the virus are under control, I predict that other places around the world will be less fortunate; spikes and school closures may occur again. There is a temptation with e-learning to get caught up in the technology, but the technology is just the vehicle: it’s the teachers who make the difference. Teaching is at its best when it’s interactive and engaging, so the focus, whether it be face-to-face in the classroom or remotely through e-learning, should always remain on what makes good teaching and learning. How do children learn best? What inspires and interests them? If you continue to focus on this, then learning and a love of learning can take place anywhere.What feedback – positive or negative – have you had from parents? This has been a difficult and challenging time for everyone, and we’ve seen a huge change to the norm. That always brings anxiety. But our parents have been magnificent and incredibly resilient; their loyalty and support have been truly humbling as has the kindness and appreciation that they’ve demonstrated towards our teachers. We have sought feedback on a regular basis from students and parents, and where changes have been suggested we have adjusted the e-learning offering wherever possible. We’ve tried hard to remain flexible and adaptable, and to be nimble in adjusting course where necessary. Our partnership between home and school has never been stronger as a result. Dulwich College SingaporeWhat have you learnt from these last few months, and how does it affect your vision going forward? It has enabled us to have greater clarity on what the Dulwich difference will be moving forward. The world has changed, but necessity is the mother of all invention, and switching to online learning has forced us to think creatively. What we have realised is that there are actually many positives from our e-learning experience, some elements of which we will choose to retain as we go forward.Universities have long been promoting hybrid learning and we believe this should be our model for the future – a hybrid learning programme rooted in the best pedagogical research that draws upon the feedback of students on how they learn best. This is a pathway to personalised learning in the 21st century. One size has never fitted all and our children deserve the best. We’re already implementing this, and we’re calling it “The Dulwich Difference”.What do you love most about being headmaster of Dulwich? The future of education has never been so exciting. We’re at a crossroads. We can turn our backs on recent events and carry on as before or we can draw upon our recent experiences and proactively look forward to a brave new world. The kindness and support that I’ve received from our Dulwich family over the last four months means that there is no place in the world I would rather be. As parents, my wife and I consider ourselves so fortunate that our own children have the opportunity to go to a school like ours.singapore.dulwich.org[embedded content]

Singapore epidemics over the years

In the 95 years of the school’s history, Tanglin Trust School Singapore has gone through at least four other epidemic hiatuses, civil unrest and a world war! FIONA RITSON talks us through the community resilience these experiences have built.Tanglin’s experiences of polio in the 1940s, SARS in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009, all serve as reminders that the novel coronavirus is not as unprecedented as it might seem. This in itself might bring some comfort, but when we are all in need of some good news stories, the positives that came out of these past challenges might also give (comfort) food for thought… #1 Poliomyelitis (polio)While the world was teetering on the edge of World War II, another grave threat was gathering force across Singapore and Malaya. Sporadic cases of polio that were reported in the 1930s spiralled into two larger outbreaks in the 1940s, causing school closures in the region.In 1941, Tanglin’s Cameron Highlands Boarding School closed due to the epidemic, and remained closed during the WWII occupation. Tanglin alumna, Dorothy (Webber) Weigall, who attended the school from 1940-1941, remembers: “We finished school early in November 1941 because of a polio outbreak, and shortly after that the war started in Malaya with the fall of Singapore on 14 February 1942.”Mrs E. M. Turner, who was a teacher there from 1939 to 1941, also remembers the epidemic in a diary she wrote during her wartime internment in Sumatra. This diary is now in the Documents Department of the Imperial War Museum and was used as a basis for the TV series Tenko:“… breaking out just before the evacuation of Cameron Highlands, there was a terrible tragedy, in no way connected with the war, but its repercussions collided with the invasion of the Japanese: this catastrophe had been the outbreak of a polio epidemic … We had all been obliged to go into quarantine. I am only briefly touching on these tragic days, since they were irrelevant to the war situation. The one and only ‘iron lung’ in the whole of Malaya, was rushed to Batu Gadju Hospital, but was too late to save the life of [the] first girl.” Before closing the school in 1941 due to the polio epidemicAfter the war, Tanglin’s Singapore school and Cameron Highlands Boarding School reopened. But in 1948 the disease resurged in Malaya, and the Cameron Highlands campus closed again.The Straits Times, in a bulletin reminiscent of recent COVID-19 updates, reported the school’s reopening on 10 June 1948: “Tanglin School in the Cameron Highlands will reopen on June 21. The school has been closed because of the infantile paralysis epidemic. Neither any new cases nor any deaths from infantile paralysis were reported in Singapore yesterday. The number of cases so far is 95.” (Polio is also known as infantile paralysis due to its propensity to affect children.)On 22 July 1948, another bulletin from the Straits Times records how health screenings and travel bans were used to prevent the spread of infection, just as they are today: “Australia is taking every precaution to prevent poliomyelitis infection from Malaya … every person entering Australia by ship or by plane is subjected to strict examination. The only effective way to control the import of such a disease is to ban all travel between the affected countries and Australia, officials say.” And the positives?The polio epidemics of the first half of the 20th century irreparably altered the lives of survivors, but they also brought about profound medical and cultural changes. In fact, intensive care medicine has its origin in the fight against polio. Most hospitals at the time had limited access to iron lungs for patients unable to breathe without mechanical assistance. Respiratory centres designed to assist severely affected patients were established in 1952 in Denmark by Danish anesthesiologist Bjørn Ibsen; a year later, Ibsen would establish the world’s first intensive care unit. The were the precursors of modern ICUs that are so crucial in treating severely ill patients in the current pandemic.What’s more, the vast community of disabled polio survivors propelled the development of rehabilitation therapy, and advanced the disability rights movement. ‘Iron lungs’ in a children’s polio ward in the 1950s (Photo: Flickr)#2 SARSBefore coronavirus, there was another severe acute respiratory syndrome – better known as SARS. It came to Singapore in March 2003. At that point, little information had been shared about the new disease. The first patient spent five days in an open ward before the MOH was informed of a case of infection that was not responding to antibiotics. It was enough time to seed community transmission. From then on, the government moved swiftly to put in measures that gave Singapore a reputation for having the toughest strategies against the virus.And the positives?Singapore learnt a lot from SARS. With quicker and more organised deployment, the same measures used then (contact tracing, quarantine, travel advisories and health checks) have been used to great effect in limiting the spread of coronavirus in 2020.Closer to home, Tanglin teacher and alumna Nadia Candy has these memories of distance learning during SARS:“I was in Year 9 when it happened. The school sent us home with what felt like a textbook worth of learning. (As a teacher, I now know the amount of last-minute organisation involved. But as a child I wasn’t happy about lugging home pages of work!)“My sister and I sat at the dining table for ‘school hours’ and my mum timetabled our day. The whole thing lasted two or three weeks, and I remember a lot of fear around the country; being told not to take taxis and buses, and people stocking up on canned goods and water. Singapore has learnt a lot from that, and I think it’s why everything is so calm and organised. We’ve been through it before!“I have fond memories of that time. My whole family was at home more, I played with my sister in our garden, and my mum created little games for us. The internet wasn’t used to the same extent, so we were shielded from the news and our parents didn’t talk about it around us. We created our own little bubble, so the experience wasn’t a negative one. I hope that in 17 years, when our children are adults, they’ll remember all the fun things they got to do too!” Nadia Candy’s class at Tanglin#3 H1N1Singapore confirmed its first case of H1N1 – or Swine Flu – in late May 2009. Prior to the outbreak, there was already a disease surveillance system and influenza pandemic preparedness plan in place: the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON). This five-colour alert system progresses from green to yellow, orange, red and black.On 28 April 2009, MOH raised the alert mode to yellow for the first time. Two days later, it was raised to orange. While H1N1 was very contagious, infected persons experienced mild illness. So there wasn’t the same threat to health service capacity as there is with COVID-19. MOH downgraded the alert to yellow on 11 May 2009.Omar Chaudhuri, alumnus and Head Boy in 2009, has this anecdote about his H1N1 experience:“I was on an end-of-year trip with my year group to Phuket when I started to feel ill. On my return to Singapore, I passed the temperature check, but that night my fever was extremely high, and I was taken to Gleneagles Hospital. I tested positive the next day. About a dozen students from my group contracted the disease, so graduation had to be postponed until September. I made a speech as Head Boy where I referenced Swine Flu, but what I really remember is feeling sad that not all the students could attend as many had already travelled to the UK to start university. The silver lining was that it made a good anecdote at Freshers Week!” Omar’s 6th Form photo; he’s in the back row, seventh from the rightAnd the positives?Tanglin‘s Lead Nurse Sarah Le Grice describes how the school’s pandemic plan was further developed in the aftermath of H1N1:“We developed the temperature sticker system during H1N1. I remember standing by the car line on the first day it was used, hoping it was going to work, and seeing a sea of blue stickers on children getting out of cars. Such a relief. And then being complimented by a parent who worked at a big international company in Singapore who’d taken the same system on.We put together a more robust Pandemic Plan straight after H1N1, along with a Pandemic Box with stickers, thermometers and other equipment. This has been regularly checked and updated over the years. So, the initial reaction on hearing about COVID-19 was to check the box and see what other equipment we needed.”Being intergenerational learners has provided some foresight. As we learn how to manage in the moment, we are always reimagining how to thrive in the future.This article first appeared in the June 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Technology, with respect!

22nd May 2020 by Kate Marsden 3 Min ReadWe’ve all learnt plenty of things lately, and one is what a positive impact tech can make when it’s used meaningfully. At Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS), staff and students are showing the community exactly that. In the February issue of Expat Living, we profiled the school’s innovative use of technology in its STEAM initiative known as the Makerspace Programme. Now, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and the need for a remote online teaching programme, this is being used within the scope of technology for online schooling as well as ongoing student learning. Collaborate & ListenLike many schools over the past month or more, SMMIS has had to quickly plan and implement a remote online teaching programme. What helped, according to the team, was the rapid professional development of staff in preparation for this move to online. It meant that as soon as the school’s students began learning from home, the staff were able to shift their focus to the task of educating, rather than concentrating on mastering the technology itself.Emma Shulman is a Digital Innovation and Change Consultant for the school. She says, “SMMIS’s strategic plan incorporated elements of digital transformation and ICT integration well before COVID-19. So, when the move was made to learning online, they didn’t need to scramble for a solution.”For Grade 4 and above, Microsoft Teams is the platform facilitating staff and student communication. Every base is covered: face-to-face synchronous learning, collaboration, the deployment of the curriculum, assessment and feedback.With the younger years (Grade 3 and below), SeeSaw continues to be the game-changer. Students and teachers are using it to collaborate, create and go through the process of feedback and reflection. And they’re doing it in a way that’s easily accessible. What’s even more wonderful is that it opens up the learning so parents can see it, feel involved and support and encourage their children’s growth outside the classroom.A set of new responsibilities comes hand in hand with emerging tech. The safety of students online is always paramount, and the school says that it takes this very seriously. This means there is filtering on the Wi-Fi, and safe-searching is always turned on at the network level. Furthermore, students are taught about digital citizenship, and teachers constantly explore and reinforce topics of privacy, safety and netiquette. Brave New WorldThis response to the changes wrought by COVID-19 is presenting students with the opportunity to use technology to set themselves up for their world of work post-study. Their future workplaces, after all, will require them to have the ability to communicate effectively and collaborate using digital tools. They’ll also be required to evaluate and be critical of the deluge of information that they’ll be exposed to through digital sources.When technology is purposefully integrated into the curriculum, it increases student engagement. It also helps teachers to gather analytics needed to personalise learning for students. But, most importantly right now, technology is what is helping us fulfil that most basic need of humanity – connection.Sir Manasseh Meyer International School is located at 3 Jalan Ulu Sembawang.6331 4633 | smmis.edu.sgThis article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Meet Katherine Kendon

17th May 2020 by Kate Marsden 2 Min ReadSt. Joseph’s Institution International has a new team member! We spent some time with Australian expat Katherine Kendon, the new Head of Early Years at the Elementary School, to see how she’s settling in.What brought you to Singapore and SJI International?We’d travelled here several times over the years and we loved the city. When the opportunity arose to come and work at SJI International, we jumped at it! In the international sector, the school has an excellent reputation. I was advised that it had a dedicated team, students of high academic standard and a strong community feel. That’s been proven true, so far! What was your draw to early childhood education?I love being an early childhood educator. It’s such a crucial time in a young learner’s life, laying the groundwork for what’s to come. We must get the early years right and provide our children with the strongest foundation for their life of learning.Where have you taught before moving to Singapore?I started my career about 20 years ago as a Prep and then Kindergarten teacher. Just before moving to Singapore, I was Head of Junior School at an independent school in Sydney. This meant I oversaw Prep to Grade 6, in the context of a Prep to Grade 12 school, and the role allowed me to lead the school in a government action plan focused on early literacy and numeracy learning. This was a fabulous four-year study that enabled me to immerse myself back into early childhood education.What are you most excited about with your new role, and what are you hoping to achieve?Working with a team of teachers, parents and students that value and are as excited about early childhood education as I am. I’m excited to see how we can keep providing quality education for our youngest learners and supporting our families as they raise their children.I’m hoping that SJI International will be at the forefront of quality early childhood education. We’re creating spaces, both indoors and outdoors, that promote and inspire play and exploration – we’re intentional about what we do.What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a teacher?“You will never be bored!” I’ve learnt to have a plan – and to always be prepared for that plan to change!Three things you love about living in Singapore?The never-ending summer, the greenery – we love living on the edge of a reserve; there are so many trees, walking trails and bike paths – and the fact that there is always something happening. I feel like there’s always a buzz to the city!Three things you’re looking forward to ticking off your Singapore bucket list?Cocktails at the top of Marina Bay Sands, learning to make amazing dumplings with the perfect broth, and cycling as much of the island as I can!St. Joseph’s Institution International is at 490 Thomson Road.                                                             6353 9383 | sji-international.com.sgThis article first appeared in the April 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Learning the Perks of a Multicultural Society

14th May 2020 by Kate Marsden 3 Min ReadCurrent events have shown us that we all have far more in common than not. Through this global experience, we are seeing the positive impacts of fostering a multicultural society and working together across nations. This philosophy of multiculturalism is at the heart of Stamford American International School’s (SAIS) annual International Fiesta, an event that has long been a highlight on the school calendar. Given the current situation, however, a few tweaks to the format were required. The result? A different event than usual at this school in Singapore – but one that celebrated diversity just as strongly as in past years.Celebrating a multicultural society in a new wayFrom 23 to 27 March, SAIS students participated in an internal International Mindedness Week, in place of the annual Fiesta. The aim of the week was to further an understanding of multiculturalism in the school community. It was a reflection of how the students practice international-mindedness as part of the curriculum; they do this through multilingualism, multiculturalism, participating in intercultural activities and global engagement.On 25 March, for example, students and teachers alike came to school wearing their unique national dress and colours. In this way and others, the SAIS core values of Integrity, Courage, Ingenuity and Compassion were revisited throughout the event as a reminder to the school community of how connected everyone is – connected through belief systems, cultures and humanity. Consequently, students were able to see how collective cultural intelligence allows them to act as agents of change for a more peaceful and sustainable world. Friends across borders! A word from the teachersHow else did the SAIS community put these plans into action? In the Early Years, parents sent in books, videos and also artefacts from their home cultures to be used in classrooms to engage students in conversations about identity and international mindedness.The Middle School, meanwhile, took part in activities that embraced the diversity of SAIS’s student body:“Grade 7 has been celebrating International Mindedness Week in the knowledge that, with so much going on in the world around us, it’s good for us all to take a step back – to realise we’re a community from around the world and that is something to celebrate. Students have been engaging in a range of activities; these include international quizzes, listening to music from around the world and learning phrases from some of the SAIS community’s native languages. These remind students of the international community they’re part of, and how they can always give and receive support within this community during these troubled times.”– Mr Gavel and Mr Robson, Grade 7 teachers A classroom of cultures! “Despite the challenging circumstances, we’re all working through, on and off campus, it was uplifting to see so many Grade 8 students celebrating international-mindedness by proudly wearing country colours on Wednesday. They’re representing their own countries of origin, but also supporting the countries currently in a health crisis. All these activities are a timely reminder to SAIS students that they’re part of a global community. Most importantly, they’ve shown them that no matter where we live or where we’re from, we are all in this together.”– Ms Rkulovik and Mr Burrows, Grade 8 teachers SAIS is at 1 Woodleigh Lane | 6602 7247 Think this sounds like a great school? Read more about it here!What are your kids doing online? This school’s going green!

My Sunny Yellow Chair

So, it is a Thursday. The second last day of the school week; the second week of online schooling. The younger one has art next on the timetable. She must research a landscape artist from her home country and find three interesting things about the artist and their art.She uses the study table in our bedroom. It’s big enough to keep her ‘really have to’ multicoloured sticky notes, hand drawn rainbow covered blue notebook, a huge fuchsia file, a transparent folder, an azure sleeve, pencil colours, markers, water bottle, pencil pouch, and more. Their school decided to give students their ‘digital devices’ to take home for the term break just in case they had to switch to home based learning because of COVID-19. The first half of the term break was all excitement- 22 voices boomed alive as soon as a call was accepted. We had hamsters, siblings, chips, carrots, soft toys, slime, paintings, pups, kittens peering through screens. High pitched squeals broke the silence that was getting louder as the virus lurked around us. Then, two days before school was to reopen, the ‘circuit breaker’ was announced. The excitement of beginning a new term was diverted into discovering four daylong workable work areas at home. I worked in the study (as usual) for the first week. It became the most frequently visited spot by her. I decide to move in with her. I am now parked with the well-used kiddy table. Its top has aged beautifully, taking a hue of cream from years of extensive productive use. Playdough, pasta, pesto, pencils, paper, pudding have all been rolled and smeared on this table. Its legs are cobalt blue. The chair, a sunny yellow. The chair is meant for bottoms a third my size. Sitting on it ensures I move and reset every few minutes.She has discovered an artist. A woman who has made paintings of many women, she tells me. Curiosity carries me to her table. Several windows are open on the screen. None of them have any element of landscape art. Women, girls, people fill those frames. “Landscape?” I ask. “Landscape,” she answers, arms lightly resting on her waist and a grin that follows accomplishment. “Are you sure this is landscape?” I ask. A strong inhalation and a stronger exhalation follow. She puts out her hands, one over the other and then takes them about 30 centimeters apart, vertically – “Portrait,” she says. Then she has her two palms facing each other, about 30 centimeters apart, horizontally. “Landscape,” she emphasizes. A smirk escapes her lips; a laugh, mine.Maths is becoming complicated she sighs. It’s about vertices, edges, faces, cubes, cuboids and pyramids. The triangle cushion, lollipop jar, 30-day challenge cube, are all being put to good use. For the first time in a long time I am looking at things with a new eye.I leave my sunny yellow spot for a bit. I see two cupcake moulds filled with pale aqua liquid, a black overused plastic stirrer, a worn-out white pipette, a pair of indigo purple swimming goggles and our fast depleting precious collection of hotel toiletries around the washbasin. “What’s happening in here?” I call out. “I am turning shampoo into soap,” she answers, “We can use it when we run out of soap.” Soap follows toilet paper, after all.School’s over. She and her friend (through kindergarten and now upto Grade 3) are now playing a National Geographic Gemstone quiz. The video at both ends is on. She reads out the questions and her friend answers. “Where would you go if you won a free plane ticket?” she asks. “Where would you go?” asks her friend. “Hmm South Africa.” “Okay, I’ll take that too.” Her friend smiles through the video. “No, really, where would you go?” she asks again. “Okay I’ll take Brazil. I think I’ve been there. It’s in Canada, right?” “Is it, really?” she turns towards me, a frown riding her forehead. “No, lah, it’s not! Brazil’s a country in South America,” I say. “Oh! never mind,” she says and turns back to the screen. Another few clicks and, “Hey, you are a diamond! A diamond!” she announces animatedly. Arms go up in jubilation. “Oh man! I’ll now have to live in a cave; no wait, a mine!”  Giggle. Jiggle. Laughter. Joy.For dessert we have a surprise. Reaching for it I open the freezer door. Occupying center stage are two cupcake molds. “I put them in the freezer,” she says, “The soap will be ready sooner. Just in case…”Eyes light up at the sight of dessert. As if on cue, loose strumming of the ukulele spills into the room. Husband’s playlist is now on Israel Kamakawiwo’le’s ‘Over the Rainbow’.We will get through this, unmasking every tiny hidden joy.Sunanda Verma writes on diversity and inspiration. She is also the author of the Namaste! Series books.

Pitch-perfect innovation!

16th April 2020 by Kate Marsden 2 Min ReadThe students at this international school in Singapore are showing us all that their future’s so bright, they’ve gotta wear shades! The world as we know it today will be very different for our children in the future. This is a concept that GEMS World Academy (Singapore) is currently leading with in its learning, including the recent launch of its first-ever Innovation Week. The best bit? This idea for the event was pitched by a student!Sam’s ideaSam Poder, who’s in Grade 9 at the school, came up with the idea to launch an Innovation Week. The aim? To help accelerate innovative thinking and creativity. Sam pitched his idea to the Head of School together with his friend Diego and got full support from the Education Leadership team. He then forged partnerships with the Halogen Foundation, Free Software Foundation and Github. These relationships helped to provide students from GEMS (Singapore) with unique opportunities to learn about technology and develop transferable skills, and to connect them with experienced industry professionals. Oh, and they also scored some free software for the school! Seeking future solutionsThe students were tasked to identify issues related to the United Nations Global Goals. They also had look for opportunities to develop innovative solutions that could go towards eradicating these problems now and into the future.“I wanted to create a bite-size entrepreneurial journey for students that closely replicated the one that I took with my friends,” Sam says. “We won an entrepreneurship competition and started a company that would raise thousands of dollars.”This competition became the Innovation Challenge – the main event of the week. “We then built activities around the challenge, hoping to teach the participants the key skills needed for future innovators and entrepreneurs.”Workshops and mentorsWith the assistance of the Student Council, Sam and Diego came up with a myriad of workshops to fit around the Innovation Challenge. These included: learning how to navigate Google Sheets; experiencing what it’s like to command a 60-tonne jet airliner; and learning the programming language Python. Throughout the eight days, students interacted with industry mentors and collaborated on their ideas. They developed skills in design thinking, problem solving and entrepreneurialism. The whole week culminated in the Innovation Challenge itself. The students brainstormed ideas and then had a chance to build prototypes based on these ideas. They learnt how to pitch from the Halogen Foundation’s COO Timothy Low in an interactive pitching workshop. Then they pitched their projects to the judges.Sam says, “It was amazing to see the enthusiasm of these students to participate, their strong technical abilities, and the way they applied their classroom knowledge in a realworld situation.”GEMS (Singapore) is at 2 Yishun Street 42.6808 7300 | gwa.edu.sgWant more? See our Kids section!