Learning Chinese with the pandas

Ms Low Yen Ling with Zhang Bao Wen (centre) and Li En Xu from PCF Sparkletots Preschool watching Kai Kai in the panda enclosure.
Ms Low Yen Ling with Zhang Bao Wen (centre) and Li En Xu from PCF Sparkletots Preschool watching Kai Kai in the panda enclosure.ST PHOTO: DAVE LIM

A trip to the zoo to see giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia is the latest in a teacher's bag of tricks to help pre-schoolers learn Chinese.

Officially launched yesterday by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling, the Wow Wild Learn Programme is a collaboration between the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning (CPCLL) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) to bring the language alive for pre-school children.

Said Ms Low: "We hope this programme can engage and excite pre-schoolers through learning in a fun way to stimulate their senses."

Before the trip, teachers attend a one-day training workshop at the River Safari, which equips them with material about the pandas, and two supplementary readers about animals at the river-themed zoo.

There are few workshops offered in Chinese for Chinese pre-school teachers in Singapore. The training allows teachers to make the children's learning journeys unique as they adapt the information.

Yesterday, 68 pre-schoolers from My First Skool at Block 571, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, and PCF Sparkletots Preschool @ Bukit Timah in Clementi Avenue 4 took part in the session. Along with Ms Low, they sang a Chinese song about the pandas' diet, and watched Kai Kai eat a stalk of bamboo and play.

Said My First Skool pre-school teacher Lu Lan Yin, 46: "This programme is very helpful in teaching lessons applicable to daily life. For example, I used the recent Segar monkey attacks to teach the kids not to feed wild animals. The timing was good as we were going to the River Safari, which also houses monkeys."

Mr Teo Woei Jye, 42, whose daughter Min En, aged five, is at PCF Sparkletots, said: "Now that China is emerging, Chinese is becoming increasingly important. Chinese is not just a language - it also teaches us about moral values that are important to a child's upbringing."

Initially open to 60 pre-schools during the pilot roll-out last year, the programme has since expanded to 80 pre-schools. CPCLL aims to reach out to 400 teachers and 3,000 pre-school children as well as their parents by the end of the year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Learning Chinese with the pandas'. Print Edition | Subscribe