In the first of a three-part series, The Straits Times looks at the Values In Action programme in schools.
This week, we look at how Haig Girls' School and South View Primary School engage pupils in learning outside of the classroom.
South View: Dare to dream
To the popular tune of South Korean band Big Bang's Bang Bang Bang, the young performers showed off their dance moves in front of a capacity crowd.
More than 200 performers, most of them Primary 2 to 6 pupils from South View Primary School, spent six months preparing for the 90-minute show.
What made this concert last Tuesday different was the inclusion of 17 performers from D'Artistes, a volunteer group set up in 2005 to provide performance opportunities for those with special needs.
One highlight of the show was when the school choir was joined by dancers from both sides in performing Canadian singer Celine Dion's Power Of The Dream. The school's principal and teachers also took part in the music video produced for the show.
The concert at Republic Polytechnic's The Republic Cultural Centre was the school's first collaboration with people with special needs for its Values In Action programme.
Principal Sharida Batcha Sahib, 42, said taking part in the concert allowed the South View pupils to become more aware of the less privileged, and allowed them to put into practice some of the values they had learnt, such as resilience.
"We want our children to realise that they can give back to the community. In this instance, it's about inclusiveness, embracing everybody regardless of where they come from," said Madam Sharida.
We want our children to realise that they can give back to the community. In this instance, it's about inclusiveness, embracing everybody regardless of where they come from.
MADAM SHARIDA BATCHA SAHIB, principal of South View Primary School.
Although the performers moved in harmony with one another on the stage, there were some difficulties in the beginning.
"The first meeting (between the South View pupils and the special needs performers) was not easy. They had to get rid of their own preconceptions, and the teachers literally had to hold their hands to introduce them to the special needs children," said Madam Sharida.
However, this learning process was intentional.
"Right from the start, we knew we wanted to have the special needs performers and the South View Primary pupils dancing together, not separately in different items," said D'Artistes' president Wong Hin Choy, 73.
His son Wong Cheok Hon, 36, who has Down syndrome, performed for D'Artistes.
"There's still some stigma associated with special needs children, and it is good to let students know from a young age that they are not so different after all," added the older Mr Wong, who was one of the group's founding members in 2005.
Primary 6 pupil Ang Jiajun, 12, who opened the show with another dancer from D'Artistes, Timothy Lee, 18, said: "I learnt never to judge someone by how they look, because the D'Artistes performers are even more talented and enthusiastic than some of us."
Madam Sharida said: "If we engage the pupils' hearts in this way, they will take away values that will last a lot longer, even after they leave school."
Haig Girls': Dare to explore
After viewing a video installation depicting a loss of familial connections in modern society, a Primary 4 class from Haig Girls' School was asked to respond by making an artwork.
The class took eight weeks to create a patchwork quilt symbolising harmony and togetherness, in response to artist Sarah Choo Jing's artwork, Hidden Dimensions II. Each pupil contributed at least one piece of the quilt.
"My quilt showed a coffee cup to represent my mum, as I learnt something new about her - that she always has to drink coffee as her 'remedy'," said Chantal Setyok, 10, now in Primary 5.
The class' artwork of about 1.2m by 1m was exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) last year. Chantal and a classmate were the ambassadors for their class, explaining their artwork to visitors.
Called Timeout - short for The Inspired Museum Explorer, Our Unique Travels - the scheme is Haig Girls' School's signature Values In Action programme, which has been running for six years.
Under Timeout, the school's Primary 4 pupils spend two weeks each at the Singapore Art Museum and the National Gallery where they take their art, English and social studies lessons. Conceptualising and creating their artwork, a collaborative effort in each class of about 40 pupils, takes another eight weeks.
Through selected artworks at the museum and gallery, pupils learn about topics such as environmental protection, and under-appreciated roles such as that of maids.
Madam Anwara Khatun Moklis Khan, 55, the lead art teacher in charge of the programme, said: "What they learn at the museums is something that cannot be achieved in the classroom. Rather than just a very traditional, structured and text-based form of learning, they are allowed to explore and be very imaginative and creative."
Ms Shirley Khng, 33, manager of programmes (education) at SAM, said: "During our observation of Haig Girls' School's lessons, we noticed that the pupils have many ideas, and have become more eloquent and confident speakers. There is also increased awareness of and interest in contemporary art of Singapore and South-east Asia. "
Primary 5 pupil Jasneet Randhawa, 10, said she learnt not to take workers around her for granted. "For example, there are cleaners in the school who always pick up rubbish after us. We should appreciate them more and not overlook them."
Lim Min Zhang