To mould young minds, the Da Vinci Group advocates taking a hands-on approach to learning, getting preschoolers to use clay to illustrate what they have learnt. So rather than reading about sea creatures or colouring pictures of them, children get to make their own.
Mr Saravanan Manorkorum, Director of the Da Vinci Group, said this is a form of what is known as neuroeducation. “When you are learning something, what you are doing is you are only engaging one part of the brain. But when you are touching something, it fires up all the different sensory aspects, so you’re engaging multiple parts of the brain,” he said.
“When that happens, and you introduce a new idea or a new concept, it gets retained better because of the strengthening of neuro networks. What we are trying to do is we’re trying to incorporate a platform that is going to give the maximum amount of touch to brain activity,” he added.
Having tangible, finished products also helps the children remember what they have learnt. It is similar to how photographs can trigger memories, teachers said.
The Da Vinci Group started these pottery workshops in 2012. It offers them on its own premises, and has also partnered with various preschools and kindergartens to carry out enrichment classes off-site.
Mother of two, Nisha Mohammad Ibrahim, said her children respond well to this method.
“Especially when they see their art pieces at home, they try to relate whatever they’ve learnt in the class. They talk a lot about it. They incorporate or infuse themes into their work, so it’s very practical, and very creative as well,” she said.
Her daughter, five-year-old Deinara Deira Mahesh, proudly showed off her creations – including a starfish. “I learnt about other creatures, like a crab, starfish, great white shark and turtle,” she said.
LEARNING THE ART OF MEDITATION
At My Little Gems Preschool, students learn to take deep breaths to improve their concentration. It is part of the curriculum for the children to meditate with teachers every day. Sessions go on for about 15 minutes, and children keep their fingers on their lips to help them focus on their breathing.
Said Mr Sim Chong, a father of three: “We found that there was a remarkable improvement in their ability to focus and concentrate, even if it’s for a family meal or in the evenings, when we sit down to read story books.”
Mr Sim’s daughter, Kay Ann, said she practises meditation as it helps her to think faster and clearer. “When mummy and daddy read story books, I can pay attention,” she said.
“Those children with training in mindfulness and meditation would be able to be more perceptive of the environment, and hence have a choice in focusing their attention in what they need to do,” said Mr Ben Lim, the principal at My Little Gems Preschool.
Singaporeans we spoke with were generally in favour of such alternative teaching methods. Said Mr David Chia: “I hope my daughter will be able to access more of such choices. Different ways of learning would be good.”
Said Ms Adelyn Chan: “I think that’ll be very interesting, like having yoga activities to take their minds off just memory work.”
Others said even with less-conventional methods of teaching, traditional classroom lessons are still important to them.