NTUC First Campus Opens My First Skool Large Childcare Centre at Zhenghua Nature Park
Children will have deeper appreciation of nature through programmes developed with the Nature Society of Singapore and National Parks Board
This morning, guest-of-honour Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, officially opened NTUC First Campus’ (NFC) My First Skool (MFS) at 6 Segar Road. The pre-school is located within Zhenghua Nature Park, giving children and teachers at the centre direct access to nature.
The 3,000 sqm large childcare centre has a capacity for 400 children from two-months to six-years old and its opening brings MFS’ total outreach to some 20,000 children across Singapore.
NFC continues to bring more quality pre-schools to every Singapore neighbourhood to better serve young families. This centre in Segar is the fourth MFS centre to be opened in 2018, bringing the total number of MFS pre-schools to 140. MFS will have added 2,800 new childcare places by the end of this year, significantly easing demand, especially in developing estates.
Every Singaporean a Naturalist
Through a partnership between MFS and the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS), the centre’s children will be able to learn and appreciate nature through customised programmes that take learning beyond textbooks, and will see nature come to life with the park as their classroom.
The ‘Every Singaporean a Naturalist’ (ESN) programme will equip MFS children and teachers with the knowledge of local plants and animals through NSS’ professional development training, enabling them to develop an awareness and deeper appreciation of nature. This is the first such educational initiative by a pre-school operator in Singapore with NSS.
Zhenghua Nature Park and the surrounding Nature Reserve area are home to some 37 species of birds that live and regularly pass through it. Through the ESN programme, teachers and children will be monitoring a number of these birds and gradually learn more about the vast biodiversity of wildlife in the park.
As part of this initiative, MFS developed a specially customised learning kit together with NSS to introduce young children to the monitoring of wildlife around them. This toolkit is also accessible1 to members of the public that wish to learn more about the natural environment around the MFS at Segar centre.
Nurturing a love for nature from young
Moving forward, young children attending MFS pre-schools located at all the various locations, be it at HDB void decks, shopping malls, or are standalone, will have more opportunities to interact with and appreciate nature. Currently, more than 30 MFS pre-school centres have developed Community in Bloom (CIB)2 programmes with input from the National Parks Board (NParks) and MFS plans to set up a CIB garden at all of its pre-school centres.
Nature-based training for MFS teachers
MFS is also partnering NParks to impart knowledge of Singapore’s biodiversity to its teachers. NParks provides storybooks specially developed for pre-schoolers that feature local flora and fauna and trains teachers to use these educational resources effectively. Beyond the set-up of a garden at the pre-school centre, the CIB programme also includes training material that support teachers in nurturing a love for nature and gardening in young children. NParks also organises gardening workshops to equip teachers with skills and knowledge on plants. Together with the training provided by NSS, these form an important aspect in the professional development of MFS teachers.
MFS’ signatory programme
At this morning’s opening, guests had the opportunity to experience the ESN programme and other MFS-developed activities.
One of these signatory programmes is the “Segar’s Listening Trails”. A first-hand learning activity, children stand amongst the park’s greenery with their eyes closed and listen out to the sounds they hear, naming their sources such as the wind and animals around them. This offers multisensory and experiential learning experiences for our young children.
Outdoor learning for children
Ms Thian Ai Ling, Deputy General Manager of My First Skool, said, “We developed these programmes with the deep appreciation that outdoor and nature-based learning is important for holistic and healthy early childhood development.”
“It has numerous benefits, from building resilience to developing collaborative and communication skills, as well as a sense of curiosity and care for the community and environment. This also provides both physical and mental health benefits, assists gross and fine-motor development and develops in our young children a lifelong love of the outdoors.”
“We are very excited to have the children from My First Skool participating in the ‘Every Singaporean a Naturalist’ programme,” said Dr Shawn Lum, President of the Nature Society (Singapore). “In addition to collecting and contributing to important long-term biodiversity data, the children will acquire many valuable abilities such as observation and comparison skills, as well as increased awareness of their surroundings.”
“Beyond these skills, the children are also able to learn values such as respect and compassion for others, a love for learning, stewardship over our environment and developing a bond with nature.”
At the centre opening this morning, Minister Lee also joined parents and children for a picnic at the pre-school. He also toured the pre-school facilities and worked on drawing and craft activities together with the children.
Ms Thian added, “The strong support and positive responses from our parents and partners for these outdoor and nature-based learning activities have been very encouraging. Our parents understand how our outdoor learning programme is unique and how it benefits our children.”
1 . The learning toolkit can be viewed at http://bit.do/ew7B6.
2 . The NParks Community in Bloom nationwide gardening movement aims to foster a community spirit, and bring together both the young and old to make Singapore our garden. Today, there are more than 1,300 CIB Gardens across Singapore involving over 36,000 community gardeners.