49,000 pre-schoolers start small and dream big through community projects

Pre-school Market curriculum specialist Laavanya Gunasegaran with pre-schoolers from Little Footprints Preschool in a storytelling session during the Eco Kampung Carnival at Gardens by the Bay.
Pre-school Market curriculum specialist Laavanya Gunasegaran with pre-schoolers from Little Footprints Preschool in a storytelling session during the Eco Kampung Carnival at Gardens by the Bay.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The pouring rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of excited pre-schoolers gathered at Gardens by the Bay on Friday (26 April) for the launch of the President's Challenge "Start Small Dream Big" initiative.

The wide grins and orange bucket hats created a suitably bright atmosphere at the Bayfront Pavilion as Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee officially kicked off the event.

The annual initiative, now in its fifth year, involves pre-schools designing and implementing community service projects for children over a period of six months.

This year, 49,000 kids between the ages four and six will take part - a sixfold increase on the numbers who took part in the initiative's first year in 2015.

This year's theme - Learn from our Past, Dream of our Future - is aligned with the Singapore Bicentennial commemoration.

Projects will focus on promoting an appreciation of the nation's heritage through nature, marine life and cultural diversity.

Kids will also be encouraged to use their creativity and resources to give back to the community, which the organisers say is a way of teaching values such as care for others and compassion while encouraging them to aspire towards building a kind and inclusive society.

The Start Small Dream Big initiative, which is organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency, was launched amid the Eco Kampung Carnival, a two-day event run by the Preschool Market social enterprise and Gardens by the Bay.

The carnival has booths from terrarium building to "Painting with Nature", where children use natural objects such as flowers and feathers to make art pieces. It also features the Appreciating our Heritage in Nature learning trail, one of the projects under "Start Small Dream Big".

Teachers, who are equipped with an educator's guide developed by the carnival organisers and Little Footprints Preschool, take their pre-schoolers on an educational tour through the Heritage Gardens in Gardens by the Bay.

The activities curated in the guide provide children with opportunities to explore diverse cultures and learn about different types of local heritage plants.

While Friday's rain prevented classes from going on the trail, educators can easily conduct a walk any time once an e-version of the guide comes available on May 1 at www.preschoolmarket.com/ssdb

Another project under "Start Small Dream Big" involves growing a community heritage garden.

This is already underway at Little Footprints Preschool @ Teban Gardens, where 40 children each planted a seed. Classes take turns watering and weeding the plants, which include pandan and chili.

Once the plants have grown, they will be transferred into pots made from recycled bottles painted by the kids and then sold with funds going to the Singapore Children's Society.

Ms Raihanna Parjo, the pre-school's principal, said the children are not only enjoying themselves, but also learning responsibility as the tend their plants.

Mr Lee noted at the event launch: "That our pre-schools and teachers feel very energised to use the 'Start Small Dream Big' platform to push action-oriented, value-driven and forward-looking education is extremely encouraging. We hope that this initiative will grow from strength to strength, celebrating its fifth birthday today."