Fairchild Kindergarten: Sculpting the Path of Learning for Future Intellectuals
Fairchild Kindergarten | the education magazine

Learning at a pre-school, plays a significant role in a child’s development. The doors to immeasurable knowledge and invaluable education are opened and the child steps inside a world full of opportunities. Inevitably, a pre-school takes form of a fertile land where tiny seeds of innocence are sown, nurtured and wherein their roots grow firm, preparing them to bloom in all their glory. To justify this metaphorical representation of a pre-school, we at The Knowledge Review, would like to introduce you to a prime example which we’ve come across in our endeavor seeking the 10 most valuable pre-schools in Hong Kong. Befitting this representation most adequately is Fairchild Kindergarten, Sai Ying Pun. Established in January 2017, Fairchild Kindergarten is an EDB registered Kindergarten, serving Western and Central Hong Kong and beyond, with programs for children from age 2 to 6 years. This is Fairchild’s second educational venue in Hong Kong, with its successful early learning centre, Fairchild Junior Academy well established in Tin Hau.

Fairchild Kindergarten is an astoundingly open, bright and spacious campus that encompasses 6 classrooms, a water-play area, a sensory and creative arts area, a STEM lab, a shared discovery area, a cooking area, and a custom-built indoor tree house playground. Fairchild brings ‘the outdoors in’ in an urban setting, providing great learning opportunities in natural environments that promote a child’s innate instinct to play, inquire and learn. When you enter a Fairchild campus, you will notice the warmth, calmness and beauty that emanates from the architectural use of natural elements that included daylight, wood, water, sand and soil. There are corners and stations to fuel children’s imagination, filled with natural learning materials such as wooden blocks, shells, gemstones and numerous other open-ended play resources and manipulatives to pique children’s interests.

Delivering Reformative Education

Fairchild Kindergarten aims at cultivating curiosity, creativity and confidence in its children through use of the Reggio Emilia approach in Hong Kong. It believes that life is a journey and not a race. The school’s learning approach has an inquiry focus. The ‘Hundred Languages’ of Children is one aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach, and emphasizes hands-on discovery learning allowing children to use all their senses and different ‘languages’ to learn and express themselves.

The school believes that children are capable of constructing their own learning and are driven by their interests to wonder and understand more. Through providing children with a sensory-rich learning environment with multiple learning experiences at Fairchild, using different natural resources, through creative arts, music and movement, STEM activities, its children achieve academic skills such as reading and numeracy in a much more authentic and meaningful way.

Combined with the Canadian (Ontario) Kindergarten Program, Fairchild Kindergarten’s teachers allow children to follow their interests and be engaged in a wide range of learning experiences to promote their development.  As active participants in their own learning, children are more engaged and are exposed to many more meaningful life experiences which build their foundation towards being responsible citizens of the future.

Fairchild believes that through children being involved in applying innovative and creative ways to problem solve, they will develop critical thinking skills and achieve good all round development in four areas of learning, VIZ., Belonging and Contributing,  Self-Regulation and Well-Being, Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours, and Problem-Solving and Innovating.

A Prolific Epitome of Leadership

Fairchild Kindergarten’s eternal flame is safeguarded by Betty Yau, the Principal, who has been in the role for nearly two years and before that, the Founding Vice-Principal of the school. Her background is in local government administration in the United Kingdom, and she retrained as an Educator and as a Registered Early Years Teacher and Principal in Hong Kong. Ms. Yau’s leadership style is a collaborative style, democratic and involving team members in decisions which affect them, to ensure better ownership and engagement from the team, and to help encourage their creativity and make them feel valued.

Through a supportive, flexible and positive approach, mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities and the basis for constructive feedback. With an open communication style, and high visibility around the school, she endeavors to take into account differing stakeholder needs.  “While in agreement with the transformational leadership style, we strive to achieve a passionate leadership approach, a belief that every child can learn and will learn. Through our social justice belief, we are optimistic that we can make a difference to the education sector in Hong Kong,” Ms. Yau expresses.

In terms of values, the team at Fairchild builds a culture of trust and respect among themselves, with a shared belief in the organisation that it can achieve the school’s mission and vision to ‘cultivate curiosity, creativity and confidence’ in children. All team members work with honesty, integrity and within a positive and inclusive organisational culture. Team members feel a welcoming approach, and find an open door policy, but also know they are accountable. On a personal level, Ms. Yau’s own values are to ensure kindness, demonstrate commitment to any task undertaken, and strive toward excellence and to be fair.

With regard to leadership vision, through building empowerment of team members, and a sense of belonging in the team, Fairchild believes it can flourish as a happy place not only for children, but also for staff. “When the staff is fully behind the school, we can continue to build both capacity and community,” says Ms. Yau. The school’s team strives to be a leading light in sharing the philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Approach in Hong Kong, through continuing to build bridges to support the Hong Kong and Macau Reggio Emilia Study Group as part of a professional learning community (PLC). “Leadership is about relationships and this is one aspect our school really believes in. With a very supportive parent community, we will build on our school’s good reputation for being genuine and trustworthy and continue to welcome feedback as a way to help us reflect and improve further,” adds Ms. Yau.

Comprehensive Learning

Fairchild Kindergarten prepares its students to be socially confident and to be good, responsible students who are culturally aware of the world around them. They are able to think creatively.   Central to Fairchild’s relationship with children and parents is a respectful school culture, and through daily social peer and teacher interaction, children learn social skills which give them the confidence to know what is right and what is wrong. Fairchild uses a resource called Kelso’s Choice to promote conflict resolution between children; if there is a disagreement, it encourages children to try to resolve the problem themselves by perhaps walking away, or making a deal with another child. This builds children’s self-esteem too.

Fairchild uses the school environment as the third teacher, comprehending it to be a key aspect of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Its thoughtfully designed schools provide unique learning spaces. Fairchild brings the outdoors in with the use of lots of natural light, wood and open-ended resources including sand, water, soil and quality teaching materials to pique children’s interests.

Fairchild encourages children’s collaboration, communication and exploration while respecting the capability of children, and their interests. It honours children’s right to play, with dedicated and experienced educators supporting the building of strong relationships through rich, hands on learning. At Fairchild, the development of the whole child in a play-focused environment is central to everything the school does. Play has key neurological, cognitive, socio-emotional and physiological benefits for children’s health.

The school’s Tin Hau campus, Fairchild Junior Academy, offers a spacious and welcoming learning environment for the youngest learners encompassing children starting from 6 months to 4 years old. Facilities there include a tree house, the discovery loft, a vertical garden and terrarium – an ideal place for young children to play and learn. “If you plan for your child to attend a place where they are happy coming to school, we encourage your child to start their learning journey with us from a playgroup class to help prepare them for their preschool journey ahead,” Ms. Yau expresses.

Resetting Benchmarks

Fairchild Kindergarten is very collaborative and open to sharing its good practice. The school has hosted many professional exchange visits with other schools in Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and China, to share its play based inquiry approach. It collaborates with many local higher educational institutes to support teacher training placements and visits, to help inspire the new teachers joining the field.

Fairchild has also worked with hosting play sessions for the Hong Kong Downs Syndrome Association. It is also a key member of the Hong Kong and Macau Reggio Emilia Study Group, helping to arrange, host and organise bi-monthly meetings to promote and disseminate knowledge about the Reggio Emilia approach in Hong Kong and into the Greater Bay Area.

Fairchild Kindergarten’s long-term plan is to open more schools in Hong Kong, including a Primary School in due course. In the meantime, it is supporting education technology projects in through its Ednovation project and looks forward to strengthening its inquiry program as the school teams continues to grow. Fairchild will continue to collaborate with new educational providers to find ways to further enhance its programs, both in schools and in extra-curricular classes.

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