Preschool education plays a vital role in laying the foundation for a child’s future. It sets the stage for academic success, social competence, and emotional well-being. By nurturing early development and fostering a love for learning, preschools help children to become confident, capable learners who are better equipped to navigate the challenges of formal education and life ahead.
It is essential to expose children to early literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills. It includes learning letters, numbers, shapes, and colours and developing early math and language skills. These early cognitive abilities form the building blocks for future academic success.
Preschools offer opportunities for children to interact with their peers and teachers, fostering social skills such as sharing, taking turns and working collaboratively. They learn how to manage their emotions, develop empathy, and communicate effectively. These skills are essential for building positive relationships and navigating social situations throughout life. They learn how to make choices, solve problems, and complete tasks independently. Through positive reinforcement and support from teachers, children build self-confidence and a sense of competence, which are vital for future learning and personal growth.
A language-rich environment where children can expand their vocabulary, enhance their communication skills, and develop early literacy abilities is essential in laying an ideal foundation for the future of kids. They engage in storytelling, rhyming, and conversations, laying a strong foundation for reading, writing, and effective communication in later years.
In Singapore, Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten, an inclusive school, has created a unique curriculum from both parents’ and educators’ perspectives.
The mission of the Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten is to put the EQ into IQ.
Its vision is to nurture students who are open-minded enquirers who will have the independence of spirit to explore and maintain their love of learning.
Its core values are:
- Build on a child’s innate sense of wonder and awe.
- Keep learning fun, inclusive and relevant.
- Create confident, independent learners.
- Make the SAA experience happy, caring and safe.
Fostering Regular Success Experiences
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten believe that educating children is not just about getting ready for Primary 1 (IQ). It is about curiosity, exploration, self-esteem and care for others – the EQ. It is about creating a classroom environment for preschool children that gives the children regular success experiences. In turn, this keeps up their morale, enthusiasm and attention span for learning.
Luckily for children, ‘play’ is not just the best way. It is essential for children to develop high-level social strategies as well as physical and mental skills. At Swallows and Amazons, education is fun, which promotes the love of learning, so work becomes child’s play!
One of the key differentiating factors at Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten is the high teacher-to-child ratio. The industry norm is fifteen students to one teacher, and in the Ministry of Education (MOE) guidelines, it is one teacher to twenty-five children.
The school has a ratio of 1:5 for the pre-nursery-aged children (18 months to 2 years old) 1: 6 for nursery children (aged 3 to 4 years old), and 1:8 for the kindergarten children (5-to-6-year-olds). This teacher-to-child ratio allows it to do is to treat each child as an individual and create Individual Learning Plans to suit their skills and needs. Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten does not cater to the average; it caters to the individual.
Nurtures the Habits of the Mind Approach
In developing the pedagogy, Swallows and Amazons, looked at it from the parent’s perspective as well as from an educator’s viewpoint. It is an inclusive school, and also it nurtures the Habits of the Mind approach to creating early learning environments. Through the structure of the classroom and the day, its early childhood educators promote strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity and craftsmanship through the 16 habits of the mind.
These life skills are persistence; listening with understanding and empathy; managing impulsivity; thinking flexibly; thinking about thinking; striving for accuracy; questioning and posing problems; applying past knowledge to new situations; thinking and communicating with clarity and precision; gathering data through all senses; creating, imagining, and innovating; responding with wonderment and awe; taking responsible risks; finding humour; thinking independently; and remaining open to continuous learning.
Old-fashioned values of respect for elders and each other, as well as good manners, are reinforced at Swallows and Amazons. Children have fun exploring and practising new things, but they also have fun tidying up afterwards and clearing their lunch plates away too.
Fostering a Love for Learning
An inquiry-based curriculum and the accompanying teaching methodologies play a crucial role in providing a holistic and well-rounded education for young learners by nurturing curiosity by tapping into children’s natural curiosity, fostering a love for learning, and encouraging them to ask questions, explore, and investigate. It ignites their intrinsic motivation, making education an engaging and exciting experience.
Rather than passively receiving information, young learners actively participate in their education. Through hands-on activities, experiments, and projects, they become active creators of knowledge. This approach promotes deeper understanding, critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
Inquiry-based learning recognises that children’s development encompasses more than just academics. It addresses their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth. Incorporating various subjects, hands-on experiences, and collaboration supports the holistic development of young learners.
Each child has unique strengths, interests, and learning styles. Inquiry-based approaches allow for individualized instruction, catering to the diverse needs of young learners. Teachers can provide differentiated activities and resources, ensuring that every child is appropriately challenged and supported.
Instilling Essential Life Skills
In Swallows and Amazons curriculum, children develop essential skills that extend beyond the classroom. They learn how to ask thoughtful questions, gather information, evaluate evidence, communicate ideas, collaborate with others, and adapt to new situations. These skills lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success in the future.
Collaborative learning experiences and reflection at the school promote the development of social and emotional skills. Young learners learn to work effectively in groups, communicate their thoughts and feelings, empathize with others, and resolve conflicts. These skills contribute to their overall well-being and future success in social contexts.
Its classrooms are well-designed, with child-friendly spaces that prioritise safety. This includes age-appropriate furniture, child-sized equipment, and secure play areas. Creating a warm and welcoming environment helps children feel comfortable and encourages their active engagement in learning.
Supporting All Aspects of Development
The school has dedicated learning centres or areas that offer a variety of materials and resources to support different aspects of development. These centres include a reading corner, art station, sensory play area, block building area, dramatic play corner, and science exploration zone. Each centre is equipped with materials and resources that promote hands-on learning, creativity, and problem-solving.
Its well-designed outdoor play area is crucial for young learners. It provides opportunities for physical activities, gross motor development, and exploration of nature. Elements such as climbing structures, sand and water play areas, nature gardens, and open spaces for running and playing can enhance children’s overall well-being and development.
Swallows and Amazons Kindergarten has a library well stocked with a variety of age-appropriate books, magazines, and other reading materials. A wide range of genres, topics, and reading levels are available to cater to children’s different interests and abilities. This fosters a love for reading, language development, and literacy skills. The availability of art supplies, such as crayons, paints, brushes, paper, and various art materials, encourages creativity, self-expression, fine motor skills, and aesthetic appreciation. The school ensures that children have access to these materials and a designated space to engage in artistic activities.
Providing manipulatives and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) resources supports cognitive development and critical thinking skills. This can include puzzles, building blocks, construction sets, simple science kits, magnifying glasses, measuring tools, and age-appropriate technology resources like tablets or computers. These resources stimulate problem-solving, spatial reasoning, logical thinking, and scientific exploration.
Each classroom of the kindergarten has a supply of musical instruments and props for dancing and pretends play, as this enhances children’s sensory experiences, coordination, rhythm, and appreciation for music.
Fostering a Healthier Lifestyle
Swallows and Amazons prioritises children’s health and well-being. The school offers nutritious meals and snacks, access to clean drinking water, proper sanitation facilities, and a comfortable rest area for nap time. A healthy and hygienic environment contributes to children’s physical well-being and overall readiness for learning.
Providing Active Learning Experiences
Age-appropriate technology resources can support learning in today’s digital age. These include educational apps, interactive learning tools, and devices that introduce basic computer literacy skills. It is important to strike a balance and ensure that technology is used in a purposeful and supervised manner, complementing hands-on and active learning experiences.
The school provides spaces where children can collaborate on group projects and display their work. This fosters a sense of pride, ownership, and community. Bulletin boards, display cases, or designated areas to showcase children’s artwork, projects, and achievements promote a positive learning environment.
Creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for young learners involves careful planning, consideration of their developmental needs, and providing a wide range of facilities and resources. By offering a well-equipped, supportive, and engaging environment, preschools can enhance children’s learning, development, and overall well-being.
To be certified as an educator in kindergartens and childcare centres in Singapore, the teachers must meet the professional, academic and language requirements of the respective certification category.
The educator certification levels indicate the age group of children you can be deployed to teach. All Swallows and Amazons teachers are qualified in Early Childhood Education with a minimum Diploma in Early Childhood.
The school also has a policy of continuous professional development of at least 20 hours per year as well as a mentoring programme to help new or young teachers.
Parents as Integral Stakeholders
The school fosters strong partnerships with parents by establishing a warm and inviting environment where parents feel comfortable and valued. Strong home-school lines of communication and encouraging parents to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas make the ideal parental environment at Swallows and Amazons possible.
The school holds various class and school events and celebrations that parents are invited to attend, including sports day, graduation, field trips, mystery readers, celebratory assemblies, parent-teacher conferences etc.
The school has a range of extracurricular activities (ECAs) held at school, including sports, swimming, drama, gymnastics etc. These will change from time to time.
Swallows and Amazons is Accredited with SPARKS (Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework).
Its inquiry-based learning employs a variety of assessment methods that go beyond traditional tests. Teachers assess children’s understanding and application through observation, conversations, portfolios and projects. This approach allows for a more comprehensive and authentic evaluation of their knowledge, skills and growth.
Complying with 21st-Century Needs
By combining an inquiry-based curriculum with effective teaching methodologies, educators create an environment where young learners are active participants in their education. This approach nurtures their curiosity, promotes holistic development, fosters lifelong learning skills, and prepares them for success in the 21st century.
The school hires educators from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures and encourages diversity in the teaching team to provide role models that children can relate to and learn from.
Its curriculum is inclusive, as it reflects a wide range of cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Incorporate diverse books, toys, and learning materials that celebrate different ethnicities, genders, abilities, and family structures.
The school offers professional development opportunities for staff to increase their understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The school fosters an inclusive classroom environment where it values and respects individual differences. Children are taught to appreciate diversity, treat everyone with kindness, and discourage stereotypes or prejudices.
The school tries its best to ensure that the preschool environment is accessible for children with disabilities. It builds partnerships with therapy centres and special needs departments in the local children’s hospital.
The children at Swallows and Amazons understand basic recycling practices, such as throwing away plastic and paper items into the correct bins. The school also has a hydroponics garden. The school grows, harvests and cooks the vegetables for the children to eat.