SINGAPORE - It may be easy to preach the importance of abstract values like responsibility, yet putting them into practice could be an entirely different ball game.
But at Spectra Secondary School, students faithfully visit a rooftop garden at their school come rain or shine, sowing the seeds of vegetables like lettuce and kangkong and tending to them till they flourish and are ready to be harvested for sale to the public at a farmer's market, with proceeds going towards their peers who are on financial assistance.
It is through such hands-on work that they learn about what it means to respect nature, be responsible in carrying out their duties, and to give back to society.
This Garden-Based Service Learning programme for Secondary 1 students, part of the school's Citizenship and Character Education curriculum, was started last year (2015) by school staff developer Mrs Lyvenne Chong, who came up with the idea after reading about similar initiatives in the United States and Australia.
For her innovative teaching methods and commitment to her students, she received the President's Award for Teachers from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana on Thursday (Sept 1).
"When they see the vegetables growing and flourishing, the students feel a strong sense of connection to the garden and the school. They also told me they realised how important maths is when they had to calculate how much to charge customers for vegetables sold," she said. Five other teachers also received the award.
They are Madam Juliana Johari (Qihua Primary), Ms O Guat Bee (Temasek Primary), Mr Anil Vasudevan (Marsiling Secondary), Madam Michele Tang from Catholic High School (Secondary) and Mr Tharmendra Jeyaraman from Siglap Secondary.
The winners were selected by a panel chaired by Ms Denise Phua, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, out of a pool of 2,557 teachers nominated by school leaders, teachers, parents, and former and current students this year (2016). More than 70 teachers have received the award since its introduction in 1998.