Tea and harmony: Cultural sips for kids

(From left) Tobias Tan, Aidan Hudson, Samuel Ng, Kyosha Pillai, Zaccheus Poh and Celestine Tan learning to make tea during a KidsAccomplish session on Sri Lanka.
(From left) Tobias Tan, Aidan Hudson, Samuel Ng, Kyosha Pillai, Zaccheus Poh and Celestine Tan learning to make tea during a KidsAccomplish session on Sri Lanka.PHOTO: YALE-NUS COLLEGE

Initiative by Yale-NUS College students aims to expose schoolkids to world around them

Celestine has spent many Saturday afternoons this year "travelling" the world, and has been to nearly 10 countries so far.

She has written her name in Sinhalese, learnt about Viking history, made sushi and acted as a Berber, one of the ethnic groups in Morocco, a country in North Africa.

The 11-year-old has even imagined a country of her own, with a history, national flag and anthem.

This is all part of an enrichment programme started by a group of Yale-NUS College students.

Known as KidsAccomplish, it aims to expose upper primary school pupils to the world around them, and let them discuss issues.

LIFE LESSONS

Our focus for him is to understand and learn that the world is not just school and home, and involves more than television and computer games.

MADAM CAROL NG, 43, a business consultant, on looking for non-academic activities for her 10-year-old son Tobias

BEYOND THE WORLD OF BOOKS

Good grades are really not enough, you need to be knowledgeable about the world around you and be inquisitive.

MR YOGESH TULSI, a co-founder of the student interest group, on activities to engage children's interest

About 12 pupils, aged eight to 12, have attended 20 sessions held at the college campus since February.

Each Saturday, they spent 21/2 hour uncovering snippets about different countries, exploring their culture, language and history. They did this through activities such as games and art and craft.

Ms Saza Faradilla, 20, a second-year student and the group's president, was inspired to start a children's programme after four months as a volunteer tutor at a Tampines Family Service Centre last year after her A levels.

The group has three other co-founders - Ms Lim Chu Hsien, 20, its vice-president, and two of Ms Faradilla's former junior college schoolmates, Mr Yogesh Tulsi, 21, and Ms Lisabelle Tan, 20.

The programme taps the diverse mix at Yale-NUS, which has students from 38 countries .

Ms Lim said that international schoolmates are invited every week to talk with the children about their home countries.

Mr Tulsi, who is entering Yale- NUS next year, said the sessions "give kids space to consider and come up with ideas".

"We try not make it prescriptive (but) more discussion-based."

For instance, after learning about tea cultures of racial groups in Sri Lanka, the children discuss how the groups interact.

Session topics are varied - from modern Japanese electronic inventions to the chipko movement, an organised resistance to forest destruction in India in the 1970s.

KidsAccomplish, which has 25 volunteers, was registered as a student interest group in August last year, and receives funding from the college to run its activities.

Parents who signed their children up for the programme, which has a one-time registration fee of $20, said they liked its focus on a variety of issues .

Celestine's mother, Madam Vivian Kwek, 43, a life coach, said she is always on the lookout for ways to highlight global issues and social responsibility to her children.

She added that her daughter enjoyed learning about different cultures. For instance, she liked making Sri Lankan tea, as well as Swedish Viking and flower crowns.

Madam Carol Ng, 43, a business consultant, said she was looking for non-academic activities for her 10-year-old son ,Tobias.

"Our focus for him is to understand and learn that the world is not just school and home, and involves more than television and computer games," she said.

The group hopes to reach out to preschoolers and children from lower-income families who may not have the chance to go abroad.

It will begin its second run of sessions in February next year.

Said Mr Tulsi: "Good grades are really not enough, you need to be knowledgeable about the world around you and be inquisitive."

• To register, please go to http://kidsaccomplish.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Tea and harmony: Cultural sips for kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe