Parents had the chance to see innovative ways of teaching and learning at ExCEL Fest 2008.
Read part 1 of Schoolbag's coverage here.
People often say, "Let your ideas take flight and soar to new heights." Well, students and teachers at Ping Yi Secondary School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) have taken this advice both literally and in a literary sense. For their gumption, the two schools bagged Innergy Awards and shared the spotlight at this year's ExCEL Fest, which honours outstanding educators who have found creative ways to take teaching further.
Design takes off at Ping Yi
When Ping Yi Secondary School took home a Bronze in this year's Innergy Awards for its Design & Technology curriculum, it was the latest feather in its cap for the school's Craft & Technology Department. At this year's National Toy Design Competition, its students walked away with the top prize in the Flying Toy category. Then they scooped up three awards at the MOE Design & Technology Awards 2008. On top of that, the school fielded six entries which were shortlisted in Citibank's In Action 2008 competition; three eventually secured grants to develop project prototypes.
How did they do it?
Students from Ping Yi Secondary School with their Air Buggy, an invention that clinched top prize in the Flying Toy Design Category at the National Toy Design Competition.
What stands out at the school is its strong culture for design, thanks to a curriculum that incorporates core lessons from the real-world engineering value chain. As a result, students hone their ability to innovate and readily adapt to the fast-changing demands of a technology-based environment.
Mr Remington Chen, head of the school's Craft & Technology Department, points out that learning goes beyond the school to include field trips that expose students to new ideas. "For example, we may bring them to IKEA for a project to design a lamp," he says. As the students examine different lamps, record and sketch ideas, they "develop strong observation skills and learn that there are other ways to do research besides using the internet."
One of the department's strengths is that most of its teachers have worked in the engineering industry in various positions. This has enabled the department to develop a robust design curriculum that mirrors real-world processes. To emulate how design firms work in the industry, the school has even put together facilities like an R&D Lab, Design Studio and Work Studio.
5 Takes is a collection of poems by five SCGS students from the school's Touchstone Writing Programme.
Passion for the written word
An Innergy Award (Commendation) winner was SCGS, with its Touchstone Writing Programme. Started last year as a writing project, it uncovers and nurtures students' literary talent, while helping them link classroom lessons to real-world experience. Working with the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), Sec 1 students attended workshops by museum staff and learnt how to conduct independent research on historical artefacts, to find facts and accounts that they can use in their writing.
"ACM is a venue unexploited by schools," explains teacher-in-charge Ms Sie Ha Wai, "but it has a wealth of potential for activities to engage students." As a result of the partnership, the best 25 literary works by the students were chosen for an exhibition at the foyer of ACM Empress Place .
Another project entailed a mentorship with Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo, poet and Cultural Medallion winner for literature. First, the students met Professor Thumboo as a group to discuss one another's poems. He then mentored them individually, offering constructive criticism and advice. The exercise culminated in a book entitled 5 Takes, which features poems from by five students. They hope to donate some of the proceeds from the sale of the books to UNICEF for Sudanese war refugees in Darfur.
Student Jesslyn Chee sums up her experience, saying, "Working with Professor Thumboo has been a lovely experience. His words and his wisdom have taught me so much!"
Mrs Emily Liew demonstrating how to use the Maths Kit she designed for Pri 1 students in Fengshan Primary School.
Fun through Maths
Besides the exhibition booths, ExCEL Fest also held over 60 Classroom Experience sessions that were a hit with parents. These covered a wide range of topics and offered practical insights into effective learning methods.
One session was a presentation by Mrs Emily Liew of Fengshan Primary School. Using a Maths Kit she designed for Pri 1 students, Mrs Liew demonstrated how parents can turn the teaching of various mathematical concepts into a fun activity at home. The audience liked the Maths Kit so much that many were eager to purchase a set.
Mr Gavin Tay, a parent who attended the talk, reveals that he used to find it a challenge to teach his 7-year-old daughter Maths. "I hope to pick up some skills to enhance my teaching methods and Mrs Liew has shared some useful strategies," he says, adding that learning with his daughter is a good way to establish a close bond with her.
All in all, ExCEL Fest 2008 was a celebration of the best innovative teaching practices in schools today. For the parents and educators who attended the event, they just might find the seeds of next year's success stories in this year's projects of passion.