Dancing, cooking after homework is done

At Rhapsody @ Pek Kio Community Centre, pupils get to pick up culinary skills, learn dancing and attend handicraft lessons - activities meant to teach them responsibility and team work.
At Rhapsody @ Pek Kio Community Centre, pupils get to pick up culinary skills, learn dancing and attend handicraft lessons - activities meant to teach them responsibility and team work. ST PHOTO: CALVIN YANG

At Rhapsody @ Pek Kio Community Centre, the student-care staff - or life coaches as they are called - not only help the pupils with their homework, but also teach them how to dance and cook.

Started two years ago, the after-school care centre located in the community centre near Farrer Park MRT station looks after about 60 pupils from nearby primary schools such as Farrer Park Primary School.

The centre has been offering dance workshops and cookery lessons as enrichment activities to allow pupils to unwind after a long school day.

On a typical day, the pupils attend classes from 7.30am to 1.30pm before going to the centre for the rest of the afternoon.

They have their meals, take naps and complete their homework at the centre.

TRYING IT OUT

The kids may not have the opportunities to do these things at home, so we let them try out when they are here.

MS YAU SOW SHAN, a divisional manager with QSF The Enablers, which runs Rhapsody and six other care centres

The enrichment programmes, which sometimes include handicraft lessons and singing sessions, take place daily between 5pm and 6pm, after they have finished their homework.

Ms Yau Sow Shan, a divisional manager with QSF The Enablers, which runs Rhapsody and six other care centres, said: "Kids being kids, they want alternatives other than just studying. They already have enough stress in school. These activities give them an outlet."

The programmes vary throughout the year, but dance lessons and culinary classes are the more common ones at the centre.

During the dance workshops, pupils learn the steps to various dance genres, from K-pop to hip-hop.

Occasionally, they are invited to perform at community events.Some of them have even formed groups and taken part in dance competitions.

In cookery classes, the pupils are able to try their hand at whipping up simple dishes such as spaghetti and sushi, and baking mooncakes and pineapple tarts.

Fees at the centre are about $320 a month. The activities generally do not come at any extra cost.

Ms Yau, 45, explained: "The kids may not have the opportunities to do these things at home, so we let them try out when they are here."

But the activities are not carried out just to entertain the pupils. They are also meant to teach them values such as responsibility and team work.

After each activity, the pupils have to write reflections or share their thoughts.

"It is difficult to teach pupils, for example, that they have to be responsible, so we use activities to help teach these values," said Ms Yau, adding that cooking, for instance, requires them to take care of the cookware and utensils that they use.

Parents, too, have seen positive changes in their children.

Housewife Zhang Yun Ying, 41, whose nine-year-old daughter attends Rhapsody, said that her only child has picked up many life skills and made new friends at the centre.

"She can't keep studying, and not pursue any fun activities outside of school. I want her childhood to be a happy one," Madam Zhang added.


Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2015, with the headline 'Dancing, cooking after homework is done'. Print Edition | Subscribe