Art for Love and Love for Art – our new gallery is up!

After months and years of evolving, yep since I started OURF, learnt Chinese painting in 2008 and realised that people do want to buy these stuff, we are happy to launch this website as a social effort under OURF.

We are a group of amateur artists who dabble in art for the Love of Art and we do it to help children and communities from World Vision Singapore.
Art for Love is founded on the premise that we can use art to help children.
OURF is an education consultancy that believes in ploughing a portion of our profits and time into worthwhile causes.
Meet our contributors and browse through their gallery. If you feel inspired to draw for a good cause, join us. If you want to commission us to draw for you and raise funds for a good cause, do drop us an email: pinlay@ourf.sg

Enjoy 🙂Art for Love

A gallery to showcase art pieces by our contributors

Building the creative confidence in your child

The recent TED talk by Dr David Kelley: “How to build your creative confidence” interests me greatly. I liked the idea that the world is not divided into the ‘practical’ and the ‘creatives’. According to his bio on TED.com, he is the “founder of legendary design firm IDEO. He built the company that created many icons of the digital generation — the first mouse, the first Treo, the thumbs up/thumbs down button on your Tivo’s remote control, to name a few. But what matters even more to him is unlocking the creative potential of people and organizations so they can innovate routinely.” (Source: http://www.ted.com/speakers/david_kelley.html)

Innovate routinely. A paradox of terms. We think people who do routine work cannot innovate and vice-versa. Yet the term itself speaks volumes.

Innovation is present in all of us. It is up to us to create the confidence in the child to allow him space to think. To create. To innovate. Within the current constraints.

I believe that having constraints helped us to be more creative and innovative.

To have an abundance of resources – time, money and goods can make us lazy and takes things for granted. A scarcity of resources make us more acutely aware of our “cost” for doing something. Budgeting and cutting down cost to build a viable business becomes my priority when I went to business. I had to find out the best way to do things to maximise my limited resources. I also wanted to give time to people since I have a more flexible schedule. So how do I creatively weave my work, my development of materials and also volunteering in non-profits and lead educational trips into my 24 hours? I find that I work best in pockets of time. In between my meetings with other people to bounce off ideas, share dreams or just to be present for them. Hoarding my time makes me less productive. By giving my time liberally and yet being strict to maintain routines to get good work done makes me appreciate structures. Structures help us scaffold things. Yet how often we worship structures and neglect developing our creative self? Striking a balance is important.

In his TED talk Dr David Kelley mentioned about how a certain psychologist, Dr Albert Bandura who helped his participants overcome their phobia of snakes. Dr Bandura is a renown psychologist from Stanford.  “In 1963 he published Social Learning and Personality Development. In 1974 Stanford University awarded him an endowed chair and he became David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology. In 1977, he published Social Learning Theory, a book that altered the direction psychology took in the 1980s.

While investigating the processes by which modeling alleviates phobic disorders in snake-phobics, he found that self-efficacy beliefs (which the phobic individuals had in their own capabilities to alleviate their phobia) mediated changes in behavior and in fear-arousal. He launched a major program of research examining the influential role of self-referent thought in psychological functioning. Although he continued to explore and write on theoretical problems relating to myriad topics, from the late 1970s he devoted much attention to exploring the role of self-efficacy beliefs in human functioning. ” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bandura)

The experiment involved helping the participants to get rid of their phobias of snakes through a series of steps, which he named, guided mastery. Dr Bandura was able to help the participants get rid of their phobia within a short period of 4 hours! He found that once the participants have overcome their phobia of snakes, they become less anxious, try harder, persevere and have new confidence! We have phobia because of our fear of judgement. 

Forest
Forest

We live in a world where our beliefs shaped our thinking. For example, for a long time, I thought my English was not good. How can I blog about things? I knew I can never draw anything presentable. I also had a phobia of big dogs. I remember once I quickly shut the door on a big dog at a friend’s house cos when the dog stood on its hind legs, it was very intimidating! I was afraid of the dog! It was as tall as me as look ferocious. (okay, granted I am really not very tall in the first place!)

I also knew I was quite good in Science, in teaching and also in technology planning. And my work history testify to that. People are willing to pay me good money for work in Science and technology. But is that all I am good at?

It took a good art teacher and mentor to helped me see that I can paint. It was an accidental discovery. But this teacher believed that every student can paint. Simple as that. When he first asked everyone in the class to submit their paintings for his exhibition, I was shocked! Can I? I just started learning. But his belief in us, his students were amazing. He simply believed that everyone that he taught can paint. A couple of years later, I paint to raise funds, to give as gifts and to use for talks. I even illustrate the Yong Tau Foo team© and did a couple of logos plus incorporate in my workshops the beauty of using Chinese ink:) Not because I am good or the best but because it is a series of guided mastery that my teacher did. Plus my willingness to try new things. To persevere. To put in the hours.

My phobia of dogs took a longer time. It took me more than 10 years. Yet it was through a friend’s dog, Forest, a spitzer that I learnt to overcome my fear of dogs. Forest was a white and beautiful dog who always welcome me unreservedly when I go to my friend’s house. I would have never imagine myself, filming with big dogs and giving a talk on World Animal Day. A person who have never owned a pet in her whole life!

Building creative confidence in your child is not easy but it is not difficult either. Do you scaffold events for him to innovate routinely?

I believe every child, every person has the creative capacity. Recently after filming at my bro’s house, I witness first hand

With the homemade magnet (solenoid)
With the homemade magnet (solenoid)

how scaffolding helps my nephew, Johanand. He was supposed to be studying for his exam. His science exam. After taking a quick look at his book, he put it down and declare to his sis that he needs to make the magnet. It is part of his assignment for his science. His older sis, a Sec 1 student shook her head in disbelief. She did not believe that he needs to do the project.

I was observing their behaviour. It was an interesting case study for me. After some 10 mins of haggling, the sis left to study for her own exams. I then told Johanand to draw for me the science experiment he is supposed to do. He drew quite a good pix of a solenoid. Ok, knowing that he is an active boy, I said, “let’s do it!” For him the best way to learn could be just doing the experiment

We went to the nearby DIY shop and bought some nails, some pieces of copper wire and batteries. I helped him with the setup. The experiment worked! He was so happy and grinning from year to year. He proudly showed off how the magnetised nail could pick up a small piece of staple.

The small achievement makes him work harder. He started trying to use 2 batteries to test the strength. When he finally went to play football with his friends, he put his “magnet” near to him, a precious testament to him that science works:)

As educators, what are we teaching the people around us? Those young minds? Are we imparting that they can achieve? Or are we slotting them into analytical thinkers, creative thinkers, and if you are in one category, you cannot be in another.

I believe our minds are dynamic. Our habits can be changed. As schools move into the 21st century, let’s be mindful of our subtle hidden message. If a child does not achieve in a paper examination, is he stupid? Is he lazy or simply not motivated enough?

Each of us can be a complete Yong Tau Foo Team© with capacity to collaborate, communicate, be creative and think critically. Let us be humble enough to accept that when things go wrong, it can sometimes be that we need to adjust the way we look at people.

Are our habits of thinking about students effective in promoting an innovative and creative culture in schools?

Useful links:

Dr David Kelly: How to build your creative confidence? 

Dr Albert Bandura: Biography

Unschooling – Is that part of our 21st century toolkit?

Joy and Jeremy at Arcade
Joy and Jeremy at Arcade Game

Have you heard of the phrase “Unschool“?  I stumbled across this term when researching on “asking questions, learning” which I typed in my search box. Dr Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College in his blogpost on Psychology Today, defined “unschooling” as follows:

“Defined most simply, unschooling is not schooling. Unschoolers do not send their children to school and they do not do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, they do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and they do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They also, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child’s learning. Life and learning do not occur in a vacuum; they occur in the context of a cultural environment, and unschooling parents help define and bring the child into contact with that environment.

All in all, unschoolers have a view of education that is 180 degrees different from that of our standard system of schooling. They believe that education is something that children (and people of all ages) do for themselves, not something done to them, and they believe that education is a normal part of all of life, not something separate from life that occurs at special times in special places.”

It is believed that 10% of homeschoolers are unschoolers in USA. Which translates to 150,000 students and more.

I supposed unschool takes the concept of homeschool one step further. For homeschooling, there is a prescribed syllabus and you teach your child according to what the syllabus prescribes. There is a network for homeschoolers and you can purchase the syllabus online.

Unschooling is based on the premise that every child is curious and talented in some ways. The parents help to shape their learning. I like the sentence that “they believe that education is a normal part of all of life, not something separate from life that occurs at special times in special places“.

So is there a place for unschooling a child in Singapore? We have founders like the founders of Kampung Temasek who are trying a new way of learning. We have homeschool organisations who provide families a systematic way to ensure their child gets a validated curriculum for their education.We have parents who chose homeschool to inculcate certain values in their children.

But there again, do parents need to homeschool or unschool their children to teach them values? Is there value in a formal school education?

Recently I have the privilege to host an ex-colleague and her two children in Singapore. Her boy(P3) and girl (P5) studies in Hong Kong(HK) Singapore International School, a school based in HK and uses the Singapore syllabus. They were here on for Easter vacation.

Here’s what I observe when I was “babysitting” her two children while she was having her much deserved break and facial. Jeremy(the boy) and Joy(the girl) were given ten dollars each to spend.

I was a bit worried. I am not sure if we should go to the new JCube to do ice skating or walk around IMM where my friend was having her facial. IMM seems like an adult place and what is there to see and do at IMM? kiddy rides? Popular? But we had been at Popular just yesterday to buy some assessment books.

Well, I just asked the kids what they want to do and they told me so innocently, “Aiyah….we cannot ice-skate as you dunno know to. Never mind lah, Auntie Pin Lay, we just walk around IMM.” What a logical answer 🙂

So we were at IMM. Walking aimlessly.

Surprise no 1. The first stop was at Mini Toons. They wanted to buy some sweets. But what was surprising to me was that they chose to buy so little that it cannot even make up the minimum quantity of sweets. It was only 30g compared to 100g requirement for the least amount they need to buy! We did buy the min 100g in the end but they both did not finish the sweets. I think they only ate about 50g or less:)

Surprise no 2. The second stop was at an Arcade place. Jeremy did not want to spend his money at all. In fact he was upset that Joy bought tokens to play together. He was annoyed and said “But you never ask me if I wanted to play!” He was not interested to play in the games as he wanted to keep his $10 intact. Joy, being the sharing and caring big sister, got him interested. She shared how great it will be if they play together. He still refused, not convinced. However, towards the end of the session, they were playing well together. It was a simple game of hitting the belly of an ugly looking frog. It was such a good kiddie game that with their combined skills they scored well and the tickets start rolling. Soon J and J were so motivated to get more tickets that they played the same game 5 times! The end result – they managed to win some nice prizes to share with their mum:)

Surprise no 3. My friend was not done with her facial yet. We walked over to take a drink at Ah Mei, a local food joint. I told them, “Hey time for a little iPad game..no need $$. Just use my iPad while I take my fix of tea halial and chwee kueh.” Imagine my pleasant surprise where Joy took out her remaining $2 and waved at the auntie to use her $2 to pay. Well, $2 was not enough to pay. I started to take out my wallet to pay.

“No, no, Auntie Pin lay, you keep your money!” Both of them said almost simultaneously. Jeremy started to fish for his ununsed $10 to rush to pay for me. I wished you were there to see the amused look of the auntie serving us at the counter. So my $5.10 refreshment of tea plus chwee kueh were totally paid for by them. Not a small amount considering that it is 51% of Jeremy’s pocket money!

I later told my friend that she has really brought up her children well. “Baby-sitting” for her was a real joy 🙂

So to what extent should the the parent’s involvement in their children’s education be? Do you think “unschooling” is a good option for your child? If not, why not? Or should it be part of the suite that is available for Singapore parents to choose from? What type of support do you think you will need? What type of skills? How do you teach values to your children so that even when you are absent they will bring happiness to others and joy to their “baby sitters”.

Your view?

Useful links:

What is unschooling?

Learning without schooling

Hong Kong Singapore International School

A post by Jack Sim: What is the purpose of school education?

Jack Sim aka the Toilet Guy, asked the question “What is the purpose of school education?” I got to know Jack through being involved as a volunteer with Kampung Temasek, a NGO of which Jack is a founder. When I asked if any one in the KT group will like to share their views on 21st Century education on this blog, he was the first to respond, even though he was with his family in Disneyland Orlando USA! What a passionate guy:)

Here’s a little info about Jack if you are not familiar with him:

“Jack Sim (simplified Chinese: 沈锐华; traditional Chinese: 沈銳華; pinyin: Shěn Ruìhuá) is the founder of the Restroom Association of Singapore and World Toilet Organization. Formerly in the construction industry, he left to found the Toilet Organization in 2001.[1] For “creating good will and bringing the subject into the open” and “mobilizing national support in providing on-the-ground expertise” he received the Schwab Foundation award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year, also in 2001.[2] He was elected a Fellow of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in 2007, and as of Fall 2007 he was assisting in the United Nations plans for the International Year of Sanitation in 2008.[3]” (Source: Wikipedia).

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It’s time MOE revisits what is the purpose of school education:

-Do scoring high academic marks mean the child will be a good leader? Why do we reward academic excellence IQ when what we want are leaders with more EQ?

-What is the competitive edge of our nation? Is it the ability to be more efficient or to be more innovative?
If it is both, why are we not able to identify the innovative ones and instead condemn them as naughty boys?

-At the national level, how do we compete with the world when information is a commodity available to all on internet? Where universities degrees can be obtained through downloading best answers and changing the grammar to technically avoid plagiarism but is in de facto copying?

-At a personal level, are there other pathways to a fulfilling life besides the self-destructive Rat-Race?

-What is it that is uniquely Singapore in our ability to punch above our weight?

In my view, a strong society is one that cares for each other and holds itself together through a sense of community. The competitive edge of a nation is rooted in the virtues of its people: Hard work, ethics, learning culture, sense of responsibility, a strong family nucleus, love, compassion, patriotism, open-thinking and communication, and the strategic integration of all these virtues into a cohesive power plus the wisdom to exploit opportunities presented to us everyday without turning us into the prostitutes of the Rat-Race.

Merry X’mas,

Jack&Family@DisneyOrlando
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Reflections on “Sewing the seeds of Kindness”

An inspiring mentor, Ms Ong
An inspiring mentor, Ms Ong

Reflections by students from Singapore Sports School – by Ms Lisa Ong, SST teacher

What were your initial thoughts when you were invited to sew a felt donkey for SPANA?

1. “Initially, I didn’t think this project would help SPANA much and would be a failure because many of us can’t sew well and would not be bothered to learn. But now, I realized that although we were not great at sewing, everyone showed enthusiasm and made an effort to sew the felt donkeys whole-heartedly. I have confidence we can contribute to SPANA successfully.” – Gladys Wong 1B

2. “I was excited because it’s been a long time since I’ve done sewing and I also thought to myself; Well it’s better than normal homework.” Sabrina Chau 1C

3. “I was very excited as I’ve never done something on my own for charity except to give away some money. And when I knew that we were sewing to help animals, I was happy because I love animals and love helping them.” Anastasia 1E

4. “At first I thought that this project was just a joke as it is a huge project. But after that I realized it wasn’t because it involved a lot of work. And I thought this is serious and decided it is going to be fun.” – Boaz 1C

How has this sewing project made you feel about helping animals?

1. “I feel useful because by sewing a felt donkey to raise funds for SPANA, I’ve converted my knowledge into an act of kindness.” – Nadia 1C

2. “By sewing the felt donkeys, we are reminded that there are animals out there in pain and we can do something to help them.” – Elizabeth Chia 1B

3. “I’ve used my precious time and energy to sew a felt donkey to raise funds for the working animals which are suffering because of inadequate care. I feel happy to be able to do something for them and not just pity them.” – Choi Seon Hee 1B

4. “I learnt that when we put in effort to sew the felt donkey properly, we are showing we care. And the real donkeys will feel our care.” – Prakash 1E

5. “I was determined to sew the felt donkeys properly so I went online to find out how to do it well. I’ve even helped a few of my friends who can’t sew properly complete their felt donkeys.” – Jay 1C

6. “ My mother had to show me again and again how to do a blanket stitch but she was very patient with me so I managed to sew a felt donkey at last.” – Darwisy 1C

7. “I brought my felt donkey onto the plane to sew as I was flying home to Thailand for the Sept break. But I dropped a ear while I was on flight and my donkey ended up with only one ear. But still, somebody bought it to help SPANA” – Teekayu 1E

and for Assembly Programme for World Animal Day

Feedback on WAD Assembly Programme Items 

1.  “I was impressed by the beautiful pictures of cute dogs and cats that the speaker, Ms Chi showed us. I also respect her as I know that it is not easy to change from a person who is not especially fond of animals to somebody who goes to a dog’s birthday party.” – Jing Lei 1C

2. “I was surprised that our WAD speaker, Ms Chi does not have a pet and is sometimes scared of some animals. Yet she is still able to help animals in need.” – Keith Tan 1C

“I find the most memorable part of the assembly for me was when my friends performed Charlotte’s Web Readers’ Theatre. It was captivating for me because of the teamwork and the way they projected their voices. They sounded synchronized, loud and convincing. They must have put in a lot of work at their rehearsals.” – Ryan 1C

3. “Watching my friends read calmly on stage inspires me to read better and improve on my English.” – Wei Lu 1C

4. “Listening to Diane Ackerman’s poem, School Prayer helped me see that I too can protect nature, cure misery, bring wonder and build peace.” – Pearlina 1C

5. “My reading was interrupted by an itchy throat and everyone in the auditorium laughed. I felt embarrassed but my teacher said it was a minor problem and I still did well.” – Raaziq 1C

6. “I’m very proud of my friends who performed in front of the whole school. And I felt touched by the SPANA video. I really enjoyed today’s assembly.” Amirul, 1E

7. “I like the Charity Begins at SSP power point show. It inspired me to become a more caring person and to care for animals. And it feels good to be in a school where staff and students have a heart for animals.” Cher Sinn 1C

8. “It gives me a warm feeling of joy when I learnt that SSP decided to adopt the kittens that were born in our school compound. At least I need not keep worrying about the cats’ well-being. I’m glad to belong to a school where everyone plays a part in the cats’ welfare over the past few years.” – Aerina 1C

Useful link:

Singapore Sports School

Sewing the seeds of kindness….World Animal Day 2011


Sec 4 students supporting their juniors
Sec 4 students supporting their juniors

What a contrast of sorts…Sports guys and gals sewing felt donkeys for a good cause. If you think sewing are for wimps, think again…the students at Singapore Sports School have been busy stitching donkeys to raise awareness for World Animal Day, which was celebrated on 10th Oct 2011 at SSS.

Here is the story as told to me by Ms Lisa Ong, the teacher-in-charge of the event. The story to help animals started long ago, in a chapel at St Joseph’s Institution in 1994. When she shared with me her journey, it was such an amazing story of inspiration, courage and perseverance that I felt that it is only good that I share how this inspiration has panned out into the reality of teaching good character and values. The story also tells me how one teacher, spent her own time, her own money and resources to build a community awareness for animals over the years.

It shows me that we do not need committees to be formed for good ideas to take off. All it takes is just one teacher and a passion to do a little good…yes, it sounded cliche but I have known Ms Ong since the days when we were both rather young teachers at SJI and then @Nanyang Girls’ High where we were colleagues again…

The completed felt donkey
The completed felt donkey

Google has a system that allows each staff to spend 20% of their time (or so) on a project they believed in. This project if feasible, can be grown into something that Google will take on as a corporate project.. 80% of the googlers time is for the “real google work” they were employed to do…in a similar way, Mrs Tan the current Principal must have allowed this project to sprout and grow so that it benefits the whole school community…

Here’s the story on World Animal Day 2011 in Ms Ong SC’s words:

Besides the 500 strong students and staff, the audience included the school principal, Mrs Deborah Tan, the various Directors from the academic, sports and corporate wings as well as sports coaches from both the local and expatriate communities. The focus this year was on working animals in the world. And SPANA (Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) was the beneficiary of all funds and awareness raised through this event.

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Picture 1: A section of World Animal Day 2011 homeroom display

SPANA and a surprise visit!

Air flown SPANA leaflets, posters and publications were displayed in each sec one homeroom since August 2011 to the build-up of World Animal Day 2011 assembly at SSP. It was an amazing stroke of luck that our mascot for the Thai Sports School Games this year was a horse, which fitted in nicely with our working animal focus. This beautiful mascot was donated by our science teacher, Mr Kwok Kah Weng, who felt that its presence should enhance the display further. And it did as students who viewed the display marveled at the coincidence.

On 5 Oct, prior to the WAD assembly, Professor Ralph Pim, Director of Competitive Sports at the United States Military Academy visited the Sec Ones students to congratulate them for their contribution to SPANA through the SSP Sewing For SPANA Project. He also bought 3 felt donkeys for himself, for his wife and for his office at the military academy.

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Picture 2: Darwisy (sec 1E, soccer academy) posing with his hand-made fantastic felt donkey and SPANA leaflet.

The Sewers

Darwisy was one of the 100 felt donkey makers who used their September break to sew a felt donkey for SPANA. Behind him are the handiworks of his classmates. Prof Pim bought Darwisy’s donkey as well as two others sewn by his classmates, Khoo Xin Yi and Ann Teng. He then personally shook their hands and commended them for their compassion. The Professor later emailed the teacher to say, “I was very touched by the mission of SPANA. I was not aware of SPANA prior to coming to Singapore.  It was delightful meeting your class and please let them know that their donkeys traveled safely and have special “homes” here in the USA.” – Prof Pim.

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Picture 3 (L to R): Aqidah (1E, bowling academy, not in picture) Audrey (2D,shooting academy), Sabrina (1C, golf academy), Syasya (1C, bowling academy).

The World Animal Day 2011 assembly began with the sweet voices of four students (Aqidah, Audrey, Sabrina and Syasya) from lower secondary level reciting Diane Ackerman’s poem entitled, “School Prayer.”  These young ladies rehearsed their lines faithfully to their family members and were very determined to create a contemplative mood amongst the audience through their recitation. It helped especially when one of their parents told them that this was a very beautiful poem and they should make a real effort to do justice to the poet and to the assembly audience.

School Prayer by Diane Ackerman

In the name of the daybreak

and the eyelids of morning

and the wayfaring moon

and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor

my soul with hatred,

but offer myself humbly

as a guardian of nature,

as a healer of misery,

as a messenger of wonder,

as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors

and the day that embraces it

and the cloud veils drawn over it

and the uttermost night

and the male and the female

and the plants bursting with seed

and the crowning seasons

of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life

—wherever and in whatever form

it may dwell—on Earth my home,

and in the mansions of the stars.

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Picture 4: Ms Chi Pin Lay's talk, “My Journey with Animals,” generated much interest from her city-raised audience.

What’s a geeky person (who owns no animals or pets) doing as guest speaker of World Animal Day?

After the poem recitation, our guest speaker, Ms Chi Pin Lay, who was IT-trained and came from a science background, exhorted the audience to be open to opportunities of helping animals through a “My Journey with Animals” presentation. Although Ms Chi did not own any pet, she was able to engage the audience with slides of her nieces, nephews and friends with their beloved animals. Her sincere account of how she would drive her friends on animal-related errands as well as donate IT supplies to animal causes touched many students who were city-bred like her, but were nevertheless keen to help animals and the environment. Through her presentation, students learnt that there were numerous ways of helping animals as long as they were open to knowledge of animal sufferings and had the compassion to render assistance.

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Picture 5 (L to R): Syukri (1E,soccer academy) played Templeton the Rat, Benedict(1D, bowling academy) played the Old Sheep and in the background were the 3 narrators played by Raaziq (1C, silat academy), Andrei (1D, bowling academy) and Shahrieza (1E, track & field academy)

The Readers of “Charlotte’s Web”

After Ms Chi’s presentation, 8 Sec One pupils took to the stage to perform a Readers’ Theatre based on a segment from “Charlotte’s Web”. They dedicated their performance to all the working animals in the world. The young sportsmen charmed the smiling and approving audience with their expressive interpretation of the novel.

The combination of readers from different sporting academy, ethnicities and language diversities reading in a common language, added a global touch to the performance. E.B. White would have been proud of us and touched by how his work, “Charlotte’s Web” was contributing to children’s lives and animal causes long after he was gone.

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Picture 6(LtoR): Narrators are Raaziq (1C, silat academy), Andrei (1D, bowling academy) and Shahrieza (1E, track & field academy)
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Picture 7: Haziq (1C, silat academy) played Fern Arable, Farmer Zukermann and Lurvy, the farm hand.

In this slip of a boy was a multitude of dramatic and expressive voices that prompted the audience to burst into spontaneous applause. He was later to write in his post -performance reflection that this experience had taught him to gather confidence by being calm. Like many students of SSP and elsewhere, Haziq was greatly disturbed by the unnecessary suffering of animals. Taking part in the SSP Sewing for SPANA project and being involved in Readers’ Theatre gives young people a sense of empowerment they now know they can contribute to relieving suffering and not be a helpless witness to animal misery.

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Picture 8(L to R): Arash as Wilbur the pig and Firdaus as Charlotte the spider.
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Picture 9: Dedicated SSP community cat care givers like pioneers, Priya and Noreen feed and water the school cats daily.

As the Reader’s Theatre performers took their leave amidst thunderous applause, a power point show entitled, “Charity Begins at SSP” was shown. It was dedicated to the management, staff and students of SSP for their compassion to animals, beginning with the adoption of 4 kittens born in our school compound in 2007. The slides showed how under the care of the SSP community, the kittens blossomed into handsome cats. This well matched duo, Arash and Firdaus came from parents who placed a high premium on reading well and speaking well. They were punctual in each rehearsal and inspired the cast with their focused professionalism. In their post performance reflection, they felt glad that their reading had brought joy to the SSP community and created awareness for working animals. They are looking forward to more challenging reading assignments to help animals next year.

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Picture 10: “Charity Begins at SSP”poster kitty, Topaz (age 4 years)

“Charity Begins at SSP’ then dovetailed onto the launch of the fantastic felt donkey sale for SPANA.

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Picture 11: Fantastic felt donkeys sold to help SPANA.

“SPANA wins the Lavin Cup” youtube video was the finale item on the World Animal day 2011 assembly programme. SPANA was the first organisation outside America to receive the Lavin Cup by AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners), an award that recognises groups working to improve equine welfare.

The SSP audience was touched by the conditions of working animals and most inspired by the compassion, courage and wisdom of the SPANA staff and volunteers who relentlessly seek ways to help the working animals and the poor people who depend on them.

This inspiring SPANA video was a fitting end to the World Animal Day 2011 assembly at Singapore Sports School. Senior students later commented that the whole assembly programme culminating in the SPANA video made them feel that the money they donated was well worth it. For the rest of the week after the assembly, students and staff continued to show interest in purchasing more felt donkeys, with a number of them generously making donations even when the donkeys were sold out.

The donkey goes to Brunei!
The donkey goes to Brunei!

At the time of this write-up, 3 of our felt donkeys have left Singapore and brought the SPANA message to the USA. Ms Chi, our WAD speaker has also presented her felt donkey (made by Ashley, IC) to a Bruneian delegate at an IT conference, so SPANA will be known in Brunei as well.

We have sold 85 felt donkeys so far and together with donations from staff and friends we have raised S$1120 for SPANA at the time of this report. Our fantastic felt donkey sale has ended as the students are now studying for the year end exams. A few students have expressed the wish to resume the sewing once the exams are over. A number of staff has also placed orders for future felt donkeys subject to maker availability.

On behalf SPANA and the working animals that have since perished, that are now working in the world and those not yet born, I wish to thank Singapore Sports School administration for having the wisdom to put aside one assembly a year to celebrate World Animal Day, my academic and sporting colleagues for believing that compassion for animals is crucial to the character development of our sportsmen and sportswomen and to our parents, friends and well-wishers for clearing the way for our students to make a difference, even if it means only making a felt donkey.

Thank you all for using your talents, wisdom and compassion to make this world a place where every creature is respected.

Ms Lisa Ong
Singapore Sports School

NB: Pictures and Story by Ms Ong. ©All rights reserved.

Useful link:

Singapore Sports School

“LIM” schools

Following the recent blog on Social Mobility by JJ, he posted another one written by a reader based in Finland about the two systems – Singapore and Finland.”

In my more than two decades of associating with parents, students and fellow educators, and even recently when I did the education talks for property agents, I have always stoutly defend our education system. It works and it has brought many many people out of our poverty cycle. It is meritocratic and recognised talents. My family is one such example.

Yet our K12 education system, like a dear friend when interacted up close, does begin to show me some areas that can be improved on. Times have changed. We are now in the 21st Century. Mobile learning, social media are the new waves. Do we still teach in the same way? Do we still measure an educated person in the same way as the 20th Century?

I have taught in a neighbourhood school (Yishun Sec) for a brief period, St Thomas Sec (my first school which has closed down since), St Joseph’s Institution and Nanyang Girls’ High. I have travelled extensively to give talks to primary schools, visited many education institutions in USA, UK, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan etc and interacted with educators from many many parts of the world, the recent one being from Bhutan.
Which system is good for us?

I quite like the model where the students are not streamed until they are older, ie 15 and above. Many boys do not mature as fast as the girls. I used to have boys who entered with very low PSLE to SJI but yet were excellent top students when they finished Sec 4. I recently met up with an ex-student from GE scheme and she seem to have difficulty in adjusting to the work environment.

In Crescent Girls’ where I was a student, the day-to-day rubbing of shoulders with different races in a classroom has helped me adopt a more open view. In church, I get to mix with another lot of students from other schools – some from co-ed and others from all boys or all girls school.
On hind sight, these day-to-day peer interaction taught me about being open and accepting people from different backgrounds. When I first taught in Yishun Sec, I was again exposed to a different strata of students – people who are very different from the circle of friends I usually mix around with.

What is needed for our education system is to recognise that students need opportunities to mix around with different types of people. Mixing around only with similar types of people leads to group think.

My nephew studied in a neighbourhood school, Northland Pri which did a great work in grooming him. He graduated as one of the top students and entered Catholic High as the top student for his Sec 1 cohort, with a score of 274. He could easily qualify for RI but my dad’s idea was that since our PM comes from Catholic High, it must be good enough for him!

Recently, I was giving a presentation workshop on NE Mation – this year’s theme being “From Fathers to Sons”. NE Mation is an initiative with Nexus and organised by 3 young entrepeneurs who started Animagine. They are all graduates from Nanyang Polytechnic. Wei Xiong, one of the founders, is personable, hardworking and visionary in his approach.

While submitting a paper proposal for the upcoming iCTLT, it may seem that I have all the paper requirements. Yet, what he and his partners contributed to the nation through their company are significant to our nation’s growth!

I like the Finnish model where Polytechnics are put on an equal footing with Universities. In many developed countries, skill-based education is just as valued as academics. The good old days of masters and apprentices may be one model for us to consider!

We need to embrace a more diverse kind of education system. Streaming at a later stage and allocating good resources (teachers, hardware etc) to all schools until secondary level will enable a more level playing ground for all students.

It is no exaggeration that many teachers, parents, students are stressed by the current system. Is it time to re-look and really make “LIM – less is more” a reality for our schools? My friends and I like to tease one another about work, ‘let’s be creative, use LIM in our approach so that we have more time to “LIM” kopi and tea!’ (NB: “LIM” in hokkien means to “drink”, “kopi” is coffee in the local kopitiam)

Useful links:
Northland Primary School
Yishun Secondary School
St Joseph’s Institution
Nanyang Girls’ High School
Nanyang Polytechnic