Climbing and crawling to learn life skills

St Hilda's Primary School pupil Nadine Sng Wen Ting rushing to fill a bottle with water using a cup with holes while competing in the National Super Outdoor Adventure Race last week.
St Hilda's Primary School pupil Nadine Sng Wen Ting rushing to fill a bottle with water using a cup with holes while competing in the National Super Outdoor Adventure Race last week.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Pupils at Concord Primary have outdoor education modules for at least an hour a week

Opportunities to go caving may be rare in Singapore.

But at Concord Primary School, pupils learn how to climb and crawl through a long, dark tunnel in a simulated experience, armed with torches and helmets.

The school joins 65 other primary schools and 32 secondary schools with distinctive programmes in sports and outdoor education.

As part of its Learning for Life Programme, endorsed by the Ministry of Education in 2014, pupils in Primary 1 to 6 have outdoor education modules for at least one to two hours a week.

Covering topics ranging from nature trails and basic navigation to climbing, the lessons take place during curriculum time or as part of extra after-school activities.

"When pupils learn to overcome challenges, such as conquering their fear of the dark or of being alone during the caving experience, they develop their rugged resilience," said the school's principal, Mrs Tonnine Chua, adding that this could have an impact on their attitude towards learning and their outlook on life.

Values they learn, like resilience and persistence, will also go a long way when the pupils face testing situations later in life, she said.

Some of these classes also take on an inter-disciplinary perspective. During art class, pupils are taken to the school's landscape gardens and they learn to appreciate the different textures in nature, drawing on surfaces like stones or tree bark.

Teachers are trained to conduct outdoor activities and the school collaborates with professional vendors to ensure the quality of large programmes.

The school also has a rock wall that is almost four storeys high that is regularly inspected by experts.

Pupils from different schools also get a chance to interact at large- scale outdoor events. Just last week, Concord Primary hosted the National Super Outdoor Adventure Race. Teams of five pupils from 13 schools competed against one another in activities like abseiling.

Primary 6 pupil Lee Yi Xuan, 12, said some of her favourite outdoor activities at Concord Primary, like climbing and abseiling, have strengthened her determination to succeed even in other areas.

"It is very challenging and I learnt to overcome my fear of heights, and develop confidence in myself," she said. "If I encounter a difficult maths question at school, I won't give up and will try to remember what my teachers have taught me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Climbing and crawling to learn life skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe