Kindergartners across Singapore will be signing themselves up to Canadian International School’s Lakeside Campus once they hear all about its super-cool new Outdoor Discovery Centre. With a mud kitchen, vegetable patch, eco-pond, crow’s nest, sound garden, a bike and running track, and art walls, the state-of-the-art space fits in perfectly with the school’s play-based approach to learning for 3-5-year-olds (grounded in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, but they don’t need to know that). Aside from the obvious by-product of fun, the natural environment nurtures little learners’ creativity, sense of wonder and strong connections with nature. Andrea Strachan, CIS Kindergarten Vice Principal, tells us more.
What’s so special about CIS’ Outdoor Discovery Centre?
It’s much more than just a playground where children run around freely without rules, negotiations and essential agreements. Instead, it’s an extension of our indoor classroom. The centre is a purpose-built area, specifically designed with different learning spaces to develop important skills that they can build on throughout life. These include encouraging creativity, curiosity and confidence as well as math, science, literacy, and social and gross motor skills. There are also great spaces where children can be quiet and reflective and withdraw to if they need to.
Why did CIS decide to develop a new Outdoor Discovery Centre?
There are several key reasons. Firstly, we place significant importance on providing our Kindergarten students with a stimulating and safe, play-based learning environment that nurtures all the key learning skills our Outdoor Discovery Centre is specifically designed around.
Other reasons include wanting to give our children greater opportunity to develop healthy and active lifestyles, gain a better understanding and respect for nature, and engage more frequently with the amazing textures, sounds, smells and sights unique to the outdoors. This is especially meaningful since children living in Singapore often have little opportunity to enjoy all the wonderful sensory experiences gained when engaging with nature because of the island’s limited natural environments and many families living in high-rise condos.
So, what do you feel are the Outdoor Discovery Centre’s top features?
1. Natural pond, waterfall and small flowing river
Little explorers are instantly drawn to this chemical-free area of the Outdoor Discovery Centre to observe the aquatic plants, fish, turtles, dragonflies, beetles, snails and other insects. Here, children can learn first-hand about water ecosystems and the important environmental functions they perform. The soothing effects of the waterfall are a bonus for busy bodies, too!
2. Mud kitchen
This is a great place for children to experiment and learn about math concepts such as pouring, measuring and capacity, all of which fosters the the development of creative thinking, problem solving and communication skills. But, more than anything, it’s also the perfect spot to go barefoot and experience what it feels like to have mud between their toes.
3. Vegetable and herb garden
By tending to the gardens, children learn to appreciate and care about the environment. At the same time, they’re also developing their observation, early science and research skills, and gaining an understanding of where our food comes from and the importance of health and nutrition.
4. Sound garden
Children discover and enjoy wonderful sounds generated by playing with chimes, plastic buckets and other items attached to the purpose-built walls. Special cables allow these items to be easily switched with alternative elements to produce new sounds.
5. Art walls
Just like many famous artists, children at CIS also have the opportunity to be inspired by nature and experience art outdoors. First, mini Picassos investigate their surrounding to find suitable items for their art pieces and then they collaborate or work side-by-side producing large murals using different types of media (chalk and paint, together with leaves, flowers and sticks drawn from the garden). While working out which items work together, children are developing their exploration and evaluation skills, and literacy skills are fostered as children are encouraged to write and create shapes on walls.
6. Bicycle track, grassy hills and tunnels
These features are perfect for developing children’s gross motor skills and playing lots of fun games like ‘king of the hill’ and ‘hide and seek’. Children can also use the tunnels as a place to withdraw to for peace and reflection.
Want to find out more about CIS’ Kindergarten programme and view the Outdoor Discovery Centre at Lakeside Campus for yourself? Book a personal tour or register for their Open House. And don’t forget CIS has a brilliant campus at Tanjong Katong, too!
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