At these international institutions, much of the learning goes on off campus.
Most educators will tell you that learning doesn’t have to be confined to the classroom – with travel being one of the best ways to encourage a child’s holistic development. Why? It helps kids become more cultured, while also encouraging curiosity and stimulating the senses. Here’s how some of SG’s top international schools use off-campus excursions to aid students’ learning.
“The Year 9 India Trip was, without doubt, one of the best trips I’ve ever been on,” shares Hannah, a Year 11 student at Tanglin. “From hiking for three hours to ziplining across the Ganges, I have memories that will stay with me forever!” Each year, between 80 to 100 groups of older students like Hannah embark overseas for such adventurous expeditions and service learning. But, local out-of-classroom excursions occur almost every week. Senior School expeditions provide training in specific outdoor skills like kayaking, mountain biking, climbing and jungle trekking, and children learn to step outside of their comfort zones, build resilience and achieve personal growth. Additionally, Tanglin offers a plethora of optional enrichment activities – think European homestays; music, arts and sports competitions; as well as International Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions.
At AIS, there are two types of excursions to consider: curriculum-based offerings and outdoor education. Both are designed to instil leadership and followship, help students develop self-awareness and build a deeper appreciation of the outdoor environment. In the outdoor education excursions, younger students venture to places such as the St. John’s Island or Dairy Farm Nature Park. Older students get to participate in multiday programmes in countries like Malaysia, India or Thailand. These programmes teach life and expedition skills through activities like whitewater rafting, hiking, shopping at local wet markets and more. The curriculum-based excursions typically see students venture overseas to gain real-world work experience in their fields of choice and complete their academic papers.
Each year group gets at least one excursion per term that ties in with the topic being taught at the time, ranging from theatre and museum visits to activities at the Science Centre Singapore; they even get to practise Mandarin skills at a local hawker centre. Older students can enjoy overnight stays at Kota Rainforest Resort and Tioman Island in Malaysia, and even Udon Thani in Thailand, where they are involved in a range of agriculture and environmental projects and true nature experiences. Additionally, the school’s Citizenship Expedition allows students to participate in construction and sustainable development programmes and engage with local villagers in Tanzania. These excursions help them develop confidence and skills, like responsibility, resilience, organisation and collaboration.
While little learners enjoy age-appropriate excursions to SG farms, art exhibitions and historical sites, students from year 4 (aged 8) and up have the chance to complete an overseas residential trip as well. These trips expand on the curriculum content in an authentic, outdoor social setting, and older students get to choose the kind of residential trip they want to participate in. The options within the Dulwich College International network are varied, too, as students can select from an annual Music, Art, Drama and Dance trip; an Olympiad trip which happens every four years; the Dulwich Primary Games; and much more. “These off-campus excursions allow students to go on a journey to make positive connections with themselves, others and their environment, while pushing boundaries, taking on new challenges and continually adapting to changing situations,” shares Jennifer Martin, Head of Outdoor Learning at Dulwich College.
At ISS International School, local field trips cover experiential learning or hands-on workshops, and typically tie in to a unit or class the children are enrolled in while at school. Students from Grades 6 to 11 can also join the annual Week Without Walls (WWW) trips in Singapore or abroad. WWW aims to foster cultural exchange and learning through service and authentic, practical experiences. A typical WWW trip may include working with villages, schools and agencies in and around the region to understand larger social or environmental issues. In addition, they take part in community service and outdoor sports activities, while learning about other cultures, cuisines and languages.
The Holiday Intensive Camps (HIC) at Kinderland are linked to its curriculum themes, but aren’t limited to specific areas of learning. Instead, they focus on giving little ones various out-of-classroom experiences that are fun and adventurous. Held during the term holidays, HIC activities can include experiences like insect discovery at HortPark, learning about sustainable living at Marina Barrage, rock climbing, etiquette classes, visual arts appreciation at museums and robotics utilising LEGO bricks. The camps usually cater to those between Nursery and K2, and are collaborative efforts with trusted vendors who are experienced in working with young children.
Day trips at Nexus International School see students participate in outdoor activities like kayaking, water rafting, caving or exploring historical sites. Some trips also focus on making a positive impact on the local community with a service activity at a local village or by understanding sustainable practices in the area. For older students, these trips provide significant contributions to their Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) programme; National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) as well as the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) curriculum. Biology and Environmental Systems and Societies learners from Year 12 also benefit, as the materials studied in their classes are linked to the field work they will undertake in their International Baccalaureate (IB) coursework excursion.
At SMMIS, off-campus excursions are called Learning Journeys, and they go hand-in-hand with students’ classroom instruction. Each grade enjoys at least three field trips within SG each year. These may include a day of cycling in Pulau Ubin exploring the biodiversity of Singapore, or going on a trip to Semakau Island where students can learn about Singapore’s recycling programme. Secondary School students attend one overseas Service Journey per year to places such as Laos or Vietnam. “These Journeys are designed to embed a belief that we each have a responsibility to heal the world,” explains Elaine Robinson, Principal of SMMIS. “Students are expected to spend a large proportion of their time in service activities, such as building libraries for schools or teaching English to young children.”
“It’s critical to extend what happens in the classroom to the real world and then back again,” says Dr. Scott Schumann, the Head of Outdoor and Experiential Education of Stamford American International School and the Cognita Asia Schools group. Of the off-campus options at Stamford, he notes that there are multiple trips each year in various fields, countries and areas for students of all age groups. “These are immersive and challenging field study experiences,” states Dr. Scott, adding that students develop self-efficacy beliefs, leadership traits, and communication and learning skills – important for them to thrive in a complex world and achieve their own unique goals.
Educators here take a mixed-age learning approach with day trips and overseas expeditions. These can include attending a theatre play, visiting a dental clinic or going on a buddy outing – younger and older students are mixed together – to Admiralty Park or Haw Par Villa. These trips allow students from the German and French streams to interact with each other, encouraging them to pick up important social skills. Additionally, P3 and P4 students typically head to Malaysia for an adventure camp once a year, while P5 and P6 students go to Telunas, Indonesia for a writers’ camp.
By Hazel Vincent De Paul, The Finder Issue 301, December 2019
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