Beating obstacles with a dose of fun

NYJC students learning problem-solving through teamwork by steadying each other while walking on steel cables strung 1m above ground.
NYJC students learning problem-solving through teamwork by steadying each other while walking on steel cables strung 1m above ground. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CYNTHIA TAN
A student trying out the speed wall at Outram Secondary School as part of rock-climbing lessons.
A student trying out the speed wall at Outram Secondary School as part of rock-climbing lessons.ST PHOTO: HANNAH LIM

Schools are rolling out adventure challenges during curriculum time

Some schools here are giving children an adrenaline rush.

From 2020, all Secondary 3 students will undergo a new, five-day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) expedition-based camp, but some schools have already made adventure part of their daily routines.

Schools such as Nanyang Junior College (NYJC), Outram Secondary School (OSS) and Christ Church Secondary School (CHR) have already rolled out their own form of OBS, introducing rock climbing, navigating high elements and riding a flying fox, among other things, as part of curriculum time.

Schools interviewed said they are moving beyond the usual sports facilities, such as running tracks or badminton courts, by adding adventure challenge obstacles during periods such as physical education classes.

BUILDING RESILIENCE

They have mental fears, but once they overcome them, they can complete the course. These translate to examinations, where they learn to overcome their academic fears.

MR GURMIT SINGH, a PE teacher at Nanyang Junior College.

Ms Tang Ching Yun, a PE teacher from NYJC, said improvements in technology, such as automatic belaying systems, allow more people to use an adventure course at a time, making it now feasible for large-scale use. NYJC built its adventure course in 2013.

Among the highlights: a practice station for belaying - where all students are trained to belay so they can take turns supporting one another; and a challenge pole suspended five storeys above ground, from which students leap to try and touch a ball hung about 3m away.

Besides the five-week adventure module which is part of PE, conducted twice a week, every class has an adventure representative, who is trained to use the equipment - so students can freely use the facilities for fun during recess, under their representative's supervision.

Sometimes, students from schools near the college, such as Cedar Girls' Secondary School and Zhonghua Secondary School, also visit to use the facilities, which cost $60,000 to build, Ms Tang added.

At CHR, the school began a Learning for Life Programme in outdoor education in 2015. However, it found that booking external facilities with vendors was inconvenient and inflexible. So it built its own facilities. These include an abseiling wall, rock wall, flying fox station, a challenge rope course - with high elements about five storeys above ground - and team-building stations, such as a low wall where students climb and hoist others.

CHR's facilities are well used. Throughout the year, its lower secondary students participate in class camps, where the facilities are used for team-building activities.

In addition, the school's bouldering wall and team-building stations can be accessed by students freely during recess, after school or as part of uniformed groups' training.

Having the facilities in school also builds perseverance, said Mr Gurmit Singh, a PE teacher at NYJC.

Unlike OBS, usually a "one-off" programme, the easy access to the facilities within one's own school allows a student to try the obstacles multiple times over a long period, allowing him to not just become adept, but also gain confidence and resilience over time.

"They have mental fears, but once they overcome them, they can complete the course. These translate to examinations, where they learn to overcome their academic fears," he said. Furthermore, the adventure elements bring out a different side of students - which they discover for themselves.

CHR student Nurin Hadirah Hussain, 15, said: "You are what you think you are... You should be willing to try even if you are scared."

OSS student Mariah Batrisyia, 16, shared a story of a competition she participated in when she was in Sec 2 two years ago. Being competitive, she focused more on winning instead of climbing and, as a result, dropped to second place.

"I was so angry that I refused to shake hands with my competitor," she said. "Afterwards, I felt very guilty and apologised. I learnt that the competition and results aren't the most important parts of climbing; sportsmanship is."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Beating obstacles with a dose of fun'. Print Edition | Subscribe