Friday, 14th June 2024

Friday, 14th June 2024

Welcome to secondary school, here’s a plant

14 Feb 2023

Student life and growing plants – there is a lot in common, from persisting amidst setbacks, growing at your own pace, and how it is important to be strongly rooted. Secondary 1 students at Deyi Secondary discover this for themselves as they receive a plant as their orientation gift.

By Lee Qing Ping


When Secondary 1 students join Deyi Secondary School, each of them gets a welcome gift of none other than a plant.

It is an unusual present, but here is why the school started the initiative two years ago. “We normally give water bottles, but then the students keep losing them anyway,” says Mdm April Chen, Deyi’s Lower Secondary Year Head. These plants, on the other hand, are kept in school and accompany the children  until they graduate, she explains.

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Plants in upcycled ‘pots’ line the corridor outside a Sec 1 class in Deyi Secondary.

More than just greenery to spruce up the hallways, they house lessons in responsibility for the students at the start of their secondary school journey. 

Deyi’s teachers dreamt up this initiative last year, as a way to encourage their students to begin this new chapter by learning to care for another living thing. “The plants are also symbols of the students’ growth in Deyi, and remind them that they must care and contribute to their own learning,” Mdm Chen adds.

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Woven into this are also opportunities for students to learn about sustainability, as well as to exercise their creative muscles; the plant pots are made of upcycled plastic bottles, which students personalise during Art class.

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And what if a student’s plant isn’t doing well? Do they just throw it away? Not at all, says Mdm Chen, because there are learning opportunities for the students even in these challenging situations. She recounts how some pots were toppled last year by strong winds. The plants suffered consequently, but with their teacher’s guidance, the students worked together to care for their plants and restore them to health. Some students whose plants were not affected even volunteered to help their classmates in the care of their plants!

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Last year, three students Jay Lim, Chin Zi En, and Sharlyn Wee wrote about their experiences caring for their plants. Here’s a look into their plant journal:

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Jay, Zi En, and Sharlyn, now in Secondary 2 and seasoned plant parents.

Jay learnt resilience.

“My plant got brutally split in half by a strong gust of wind, but it persevered and grew healthily since my plant had long roots. It symbolised to me the value of being resilient and not letting setbacks ‘uproot’ me,” said Jay Lim.

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Jay proudly toting his plant that is going strong a year after adopting it.

Zi En learnt to be patient with growth, even and especially when it looks like nothing is happening.

“My plant took a very long time to grow, although I was watering it often. It didn’t show any signs of growing even when other students’ plants had already grown much larger. But after a long time, my plant finally grew!” wrote Zi En.

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Sec 2 Zi En with her plant that finally shot up.

Sharlyn learnt to push on in the face of uncertainty.

“The experience was unexpectedly fun. I’m not someone who’s really into upcycling or planting, but once I started, I was so interested I didn’t want to stop!” wrote Sharlyn. “One of my favourite parts of this activity was being able to paint my pot. I also could make friends when I had to ask around for paint from my classmates.”

Not having a natural green thumb, Sharlyn doubted her ability to care for the plant. “Part of my plant broke, and I already wasn’t confident of my planting skills. But I continued and managed to grow it well!”

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Sharlyn beaming with her plant that sits in a pot she painted.

Looking ahead

Evidently a hit with the students, the initiative sparked ideas among them on how they could take it further.

Jay wrote in his journal that they were ready to adopt a larger plant together as a class and a shared responsibility.

He has even thought about what he would do with his plant when he graduates – gift it to a Secondary 1 student, to start a friendship. The plant would then continue to keep the school green and its beauty will not go unnoticed, he says.

Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

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 A page from Jay’s journal capturing his ideas on how to grow Deyi’s gift-a-plant initiative.