Children to be taught pet care with plushies at newly reopened PCF Sparkletots@Joo Chiat

Feels like the kids get to do much cooler stuff in preschool these days.

Iain Tan | April 30, 2024, 10:20 AM


WhatsappPAP Community Foundation Sparkletots@Joo Chiat was officially opened on Apr. 26, 2024, with a newly-renovated campus and an updated curriculum that includes a new "pet care" course and an emphasis on outdoor learning.

The opening was launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who is a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Joo Chiat ward in Marine Parade GRC.

Plushies to help students learn how to handle animals

Under the "pet care" course, students at the Joo Chiat preschool will be taught basic pet care skills so as to inculcate a sense of responsibility.

This includes using guinea pig plushies to teach students how to gently pick up and handle the animals, and groom them with small combs.

During the opening, students were also shown how to set up and maintain an animal enclosure.

Instructors guide children on pet care as Edwin Tong looks on.

Phoebe Phang, the principal of PCF Sparkletots @ Joo Chiat, noted that in discussions with Sparkletots students, 80 per cent of them claimed they had pets at home.

The pet care course is therefore especially relevant as it would "provide an opportunity and platform for the children ... to cultivate a sense of responsibility," explained Phang.

Although the course mainly makes use of guinea pig plushies, several live guinea pigs were also brought in for the students to observe on Apr. 26.

Phang also mentioned that the preschool had conducted tie-ups with NParks to bring in live animals for the children to observe on other occasions.

Preschool students to be challenged with new modular obstacle course

Another highlight of the upgraded campus was the spacious outdoor play area.

Sitting in the centre of the grass patch was a "mini-obstacle course" - a large three-by-three-by-three cubical frame equipped with balance beams, hand holds, and hanging obstacles.

Edwin Tong guides a student through the obstacle course in a demonstration.

Tong explained that the frame is modular, meaning that obstacles can be added or removed from the frame to modify the difficulty and complexity of the course.

It is also portable, and can be disassembled and reassembled at other PCF Sparkletots, including within a void deck.

School decided to upgrade the curriculum during renovation

In a press release, PCF Sparkletots said that the Joo Chiat outlet previously consisted of a 50-year-old building and an expiring lease.

"There was an opportunity to not just upgrade the school but also see how more land could be acquired to allow for more outdoor learning, and to truly create a holistic approach to pre-school education," PCF Sparkletots said.

As such, more than S$2million was raised to develop and expand the school premises from 1,347 sqm to 1,928 sqm, following a rally by Tong for sponsors in 2018.

The renovation was subsequently completed in 2020.

Part of a larger vision to ensure quality and accessible early childhood education

Speaking to the media, Tong shared that he had always been an advocate for strong early childhood education programmes, ever since he first entered politics more than a decade ago.

When asked about next steps from here, Tong said that exploring expanding outdoor learning to other PCF Sparkletots schools in the Marine Parade estate was on the agenda.

In describing education as a "great leveller" for children, regardless of background, he explained his focus on early childhood education as such:

"I do believe that more could be done to start the process of inculcating core values and character development from an early age.

It has long been recognised that children from the ages of three to seven have a strong cognitive ability and that this can be nurtured through play at that age.

The pre-school years are a critical period for the development of our children. We must not lose them."

Top photo by Mothership