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School holiday fun at home: Kids can go online to stargaze, study about animals, do science experiments

SINGAPORE — Before Covid-19 upended everyone’s lives, Ms Priscilla Quek, 37, visited the Science Centre Singapore every weekend with her two children, aged six and eight, to explore the new exhibitions and revisit old ones. During previous school holidays, they made more frequent trips to the various parks islandwide and the Singapore Zoo.

Ms Priscilla Quek’s children Reuel, 6, (left) and Anneli Teo, 8, doing a home-based experiment provided online by the Science Centre Singapore.

Ms Priscilla Quek’s children Reuel, 6, (left) and Anneli Teo, 8, doing a home-based experiment provided online by the Science Centre Singapore.

SINGAPORE — Before Covid-19 upended everyone’s lives, Ms Priscilla Quek, 37, visited the Science Centre Singapore every weekend with her two children, aged six and eight, to explore the new exhibitions and revisit old ones. During previous school holidays, they made more frequent trips to the various parks islandwide and the Singapore Zoo.

“We are not home bodies. I like to take them out to explore nature and wildlife,” Ms Quek told TODAY on Sunday (May 10).

“When the circuit breaker was announced and I found out that all these establishments would be closed, I was very worried that I would go crazy and so would they from not having anything to do at home,” she said.

Fortunately, she came across a series of online activities the Science Centre has come up with to occupy children of different ages amid the circuit breaker period.

Ms Quek and her children first tried out an experiment taught via the “Science O’Clock” series, where a video of a science experiment is uploaded on the Science Centre’s DNA Learning Lab Facebook page every Wednesday at 9am for parents and kids to try at home.

“The presenter taught us how to create rainbow paper towels at home where the kids could watch how water travels from one cup to another. I saw how interested they were watching the video,” said Ms Quek.

“They were very entertained by the presenter and were following her instructions very closely. Then I realised there’s so much learning that can be done at home with your own household materials,” she said.

“They will tell you step by step what materials you need, how you can go about doing the experiment and they will explain how the end result is achieved. It’s very clear,” she added.

Ms Raine Too, 39, used to take her two sons, aged four and six, to the Singapore Zoo “almost every other week” and was excited to find out that the zoo’s operator, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), has also come up with its own online activities, such as the “Animals We Love” series, which is about animals from another WRS attraction, the River Safari, and the Zoo.

The series allows children to find out more about animals in the comfort of their homes with play-based learning activities. Parents are also provided with materials to guide discussions with their children around wildlife conservation.

“My children know the animals’ names and they’re very familiar with all the animals," she said.

"When WRS came up with the videos, I thought it was really wonderful because it’s local, something that we’re already familiar with. I like how they structure the materials as it’s really easy to carry out,” added Ms Too, whose children participate in the activities once a week.

Here are some of the activities provided by Singapore organisations that parents and children can participate in:

SCIENCE CENTRE SINGAPORE

Apart from the “Science O’Clock” experiments, a “Science O'Clock Junior” series offered by the Science Centre is also available for children aged eight and below, and new videos are posted twice a week.

Children can also turn their gaze to the heavens with the “Astronomy 102” live vodcast and the “Live Stargazing” series by the Science Centre’s observatory team which take place every Friday, alternating between a live vodcast and a live stargazing session.

“Since our astronomy enthusiasts can’t visit the observatory, we thought we’d give them an insightful alternative through the vodcast series, where our science educators discuss topics in relation to the solar system,” explained Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, chief executive of the Science Centre Singapore.

“Complementing this is a live telescope streaming, where the public get to enjoy a spectacular view of the Singapore night sky all from the comfort of their own homes.”

Another digital initiative that caters to a wide range of interests is the “Young Scientist Badge Programme”, which aims to stimulate interest in science activities among young learners by getting them to carry out self-directed tasks in various disciplines of science.

With each programme there is a badge to be earned. To date, 19 different badges have been made available such as the Young Zoologist, Young Astronomer, Young Chemist, Young Ecologist and Young IT Whiz, all of which can be earned online.

For example, to earn a Young Astronomer badge, a child needs to make a calendar of their birthday month for the current year by drawing the phases of the moon on each day for that month. They will then have to figure out what the moon’s phase on their birthday is. The Science Centre staff and teachers will then grade the student’s work directly.

WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

“Our online resources include science, technology, environment, arts and maths components so that children learn other disciplines while learning about wildlife,” said Ms May Lok, WRS' director for education.

“Feedback has been encouraging and parents have welcomed the idea of bringing the zoo right into their homes to vary the learning experience for their children.”

Apart from the video content through the “Animals We Love” series, e-books on giraffes at the Singapore Zoo are available and WRS is lining up more content featuring tigers, elephants as well as the Zoo’s giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

The storybooks even come with a voiceover feature. All resources are available through the WRS website and social media pages.

ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

Many of the activities that can be found on The Esplanade’s website revolve around theatre, arts and culture.

For example, the "PLAYtime! Sing-along" trilogy features videos of songs from “PLAYtime!”, the Esplanade’s theatre series for children aged two to six, while the “I Kid You Not” video series shows kids who are experts in different art forms. They perform, play, teach and call the shots.

Story-based activities include “Asian myths, legends and folktales”, which showcases a series of stories, inspired by folktales, with quizzes. “Know before you go” is a series of quick reads for older children to introduce them to different art forms and genres before they dip their toes into the arts. The articles are accompanied by videos and quizzes.

“Adventures of PIP” is a comic series featuring the adventures of a character named PIP who fumbles, tumbles and learns about the world around him, accompanied by his newfound companions, the otters by the bay.

Lastly, “Cultural Heroes” is a series of quizzes that introduces children to the lives of notable people who have left a mark on the Singapore arts scene.

NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

Parents can also give their children a dose of arts and culture even as museums and heritage institutions are closed during this period, with the National Heritage Board (NHB) activities.

One such activity is a “ conversation starter kit” which consists of a selection of 40 images of buildings, landmarks, scenes and objects, accompanied by helpful questions to help facilitate meaningful conversations between grandparents and their grandchildren.

Through the “ Heritage Explorers Programme”, children can take on the role of a curator or a designer, and try their hand at tasks such as creating interesting captions for “artefacts” found at home or drawing their ideal exhibition. They can redeem a Heritage Explorers badge when the museums reopen.

Heritage-themed colouring sheets, featuring objects from the National Collection as well as National Monuments, are also available. The “Stay Home and (Re)create art” is a challenge from the Malay Heritage Centre and Indian Heritage Centre where children can recreate works of art posted on the centres’ Facebook albums with things that can be found around the house, and stand a chance to win attractive merchandise.

“During these challenging times, we hope that the digital offerings we have lined up will provide a much needed ‘culture boost’ to uplift spirits for all of us at home, and allow us to take the opportunity to learn something new about the world around us,” said Mr Jervais Choo, NHB's deputy director of organisation design and innovation.

“For families with children, with the May school holidays ongoing, we hope that these digital initiatives, which cover many facets of our heritage and culture, will provide them with fun and meaningful resources to explore and discover together.”

KIDZANIA SINGAPORE

Through the KidZania Facebook and Instagram pages, children and their parents can look out for #KidZaniaAtHome posts.

“All our role-play activities within KidZania Singapore are localised content so we need to adapt the activities to be mobile so it can be conducted within a home,” said Mr Wayne Lim, the acting general manager of KidZania Singapore.

“An example would be at KidZania Singapore, where kids are able to take part in a football match with ActiveSG at the stadium.

“However, there would be a space constraint at home, hence our home-based activity would let kids learn or try out a move where they have to try to keep the ball up in the air.”

For children hoping to one day become a healthcare professional, a recent #KidZaniaAtHome activity in collaboration with Mount Elizabeth Hospitals teaches them how to monitor their vital signs by counting their pulse rate and observing their respiratory rate.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus Singapore Zoo home-based learning School Holidays nhb

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