Activities for the June holidays: Homeschoolers' playful way to learn about design

Mrs Sarah Lee-Wong with her sons Elisha (left) and Ezekiel at a watermelon mosaic playground in Tampines. The homeschoolers have been studying playgrounds as part of a project exploring play spaces.
Mrs Sarah Lee-Wong with her sons Elisha (left) and Ezekiel at a watermelon mosaic playground in Tampines. The homeschoolers have been studying playgrounds as part of a project exploring play spaces.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Architecture has long held the interest of homeschooling mother Sarah Lee-Wong, 38.

"I've always felt that it's an important part of our urban life, as it affects how we live and interact with one another, and with the environment," she said.

At the same time, she wanted more opportunities for outdoor play with her two sons, aged six and eight.

Last month, she started DreamBig Playgrounds for a group of 15 children, aged six to 10. The group includes her sons as well as homeschooling parents from eight other families.

It is her very own "maker" project which will be showcased at the Maker Faire next month, a two-day event that celebrates innovation and creativity.

Consisting of five weekly sessions, the teaching project is aimed at getting children to learn about design by visiting and studying playgrounds - "a place that children naturally enjoy going to", said Mrs Lee-Wong. Through observation and reflection, children think critically about what the concept of "play" means, she added.

Over the past two months, the children visited a variety of playgrounds - from those bearing design traits of the 1970s in Dakota Crescent, to the Future World exhibition at the ArtScience Museum, which is marketed as a "digital playground" and has immersive high-tech art installations.

They were asked to compare and contrast the designs, and observe the materials used in the "playgrounds" and the purposes they served.

"One child said that we were travelling through the 'time-tunnels' of playgrounds," said Mrs Lee-Wong.

Questions such as "Where can people play?" and "Where can we create places for people to play?" also got them thinking broadly about what play can encompass, and the need for inclusivity in different play spaces.

The children also visited design consultancy firm Ortus Design, and were invited to come up with their own designs for playgrounds or playground equipment at the end of the project.

Mrs Lee-Wong, who first attended Maker Faire last year, said this experience has taught her a lot about what the "maker movement" is. "It empowers the children with the knowledge, confidence and skills to make and create things. They know that they can be not just a victim of the environment and can do something to change it," she said.

She hopes to develop and refine the programme for the education market, starting with pre-schools.

She encouraged other parents to take their children to Maker Faire.

"Even adults will find themselves becoming curious about new projects that they encounter, and they can join their children as learners at the same time," she said.

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Homeschoolers' playful way to learn about design'. Print Edition | Subscribe