We learn about a smart initiative one of the top private schools in Singapore has introduced. Its aim is to bring students and families from around the globe together in the classroom.
Living the expat life in Singapore can be wonderful, but not being able to see our immediate families around the globe due to COVID-19 has been tough. As a bid to combat sadness, bring diverse cultures together through learning and encourage a feeling of community, Stamford American International School (SAIS) has devised a fun education initiative to unite students, their parents and their extended families, no matter where they are in the world.
Adapting to circumstances
As we all grappled with Zoom and other online portals at the start of the pandemic, the staff at SAIS, one of the large private schools in Singapore, quickly realised that this could potentially be a great way to virtually welcome parents, overseas grandparents and even much-missed pets into their classrooms. And, to engage with students through stories, songs and interactive activities. “We have always had an open-door policy for parents, but we adapted this when COVID hit in order to comply with regulations,” explains School Principal Michael Day.
“We’ve always valued the input of parents and grandparents. We wanted a way to continue to connect with families while giving our children a sense of belonging, identity and security. This is in keeping with our school’s ‘Be Well’ charter. When it came to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas at the end of last year, we found that we could involve families and celebrate our cultural diversity. Online family classroom sessions became an excellent way for students to learn about different cultures and to foster a feeling of unity.”
Overwhelmed by participation
As part of the school’s Early Years division located at the Early Learning Village, the online sessions have become a much-anticipated part of the weekly timetable. With over 70 different student nationalities, and around 30 different nationalities of teachers at the school, there’s a lot of knowledge to share and learn. “When we first asked families to join us virtually, I wasn’t sure what the response would be,” admits teacher Pooja Kakkar, “but we’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of participation.”
So far, mums and dads have logged on to interact in lessons through storytelling, playing instruments or imparting wisdom on topics covering everything from Chinese culture, arts and crafts, and animals in New Zealand, to local songs from the UK and America. “We even had one exciting live session from a parent who is a surgeon at a hospital. He showed us an operating room and some medical instruments, which the children loved,” says Pooja. “Another time, we joined one student’s grandfather in the US to celebrate his 89th birthday!”
SAIS plans to continue with the online sessions. “Not only are they extremely engaging for children, but the students feel very proud when their family joins in – they really look forward to seeing them on screen,” shares teacher Virginia Franchini.
The school has also been mindful to increase communication with parents during this continuing tough time. They hold regular Community Information Sessions online every few weeks, where they spend 30 minutes sharing advice and discussing subjects such as learning through play, family fitness, understanding emotional intelligence, and caring for your child’s wellbeing during the pandemic.
While we hold out a little longer for a physical extended family group hug, it’s comforting to know that many families are not missing out on time together thanks to Stamford’s Early Learning Village.
This article first appeared in the April 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!