School marks 60th year with scents of Memories, Hopes

Queenstown Secondary students (from left) Zephaniah Lim, Koung Zin and Zoe Tan demonstrating how they mixed essential oils with ethanol and glycerin to create scents.
Queenstown Secondary students (from left) Zephaniah Lim, Koung Zin and Zoe Tan demonstrating how they mixed essential oils with ethanol and glycerin to create scents.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

Students, staff and alumni of Queenstown Secondary School will now be able to describe memories of and hopes for their school in terms of smells.

For its 60th anniversary this year, the school melded lessons with the making of commemorative souvenirs, including two perfumes that will be sold as a set for $10 each at its anniversary dinner tomorrow.

Bergamot, rose and lemon make up the scent called Memories, while notes of cedarwood, rose, green tea and lemon are found in the scent named Hopes.

To incorporate authentic experiences into students' learning to make it more meaningful, among other things, the school got its Secondary 3 chemistry students to concoct those scents using scientific principles - such as esterification (a type of chemical reaction) and steam distillation - which they had learnt from their textbooks.

Principal Rasidah Rahim, 40, said the school did not want to produce items solely for celebrating its milestone. It wanted to involve students and to "integrate learning into what they do, so they can apply what they learn to real life".

To that end, class 3A, which takes pure chemistry as a subject, attended a perfume-making workshop during the March holidays. The students then experimented in the school laboratory as part of lessons and put in extra hours after classes.

With each try, they had to wait 48 hours for the mixtures to set and the smells to form, they said, and there were many failures.

Student Koung Zin, 15, said of one incident: "While mixing the oils one by one, I accidentally created a medicated oil scent."

His classmate Zephaniah Lim, 15, liked the hands-on aspect of creating the scents, but said that a challenge was to come up with one that was pleasant to everyone.

It took about three months - from July to last month- before they came up with scents they were happy with.

To choose the final two scents, about 800 Sec 1 to Sec 3 students voted for their favourites from three shortlisted ones.

Other souvenirs made with students' input include credit- card-size flash drives that come with artwork by the school's lower secondary students based on what they learnt in art lessons, and which were chosen through an Instagram voting competition. Three hundred flash drives were made and will be sold at cost at $10 each.

Past and present staff, students and their parents also contributed recipes, as well as snippets of their memories of the school, to a cookbook of 60 recipes. Of the 1,000 cookbooks printed, 600 will be given out as door gifts at the anniversary dinner while the remaining ones will be sold at cost at $7 each to those who are interested.

Madam Rasidah said: "I want to imbue in students a strong connection to the school by giving them a voice and for these experiences to value-add to what they learn in their textbooks."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'School marks 60th year with scents of Memories, Hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe