From schoolwork to soil work

From schoolwork to soil work

These four Xishan Primary School girls look neat and prim.

But take them to their school garden and they don't mind getting their hands dirty.

"We like the feeling of soil under our hands. After a while, your hands even feel softer," says Primary 4 pupil Alisha Shirin with a grin.

As Alisha and her three classmates, expertly demonstrate the transplanting of peanut plants from pot to plot, their enthusiasm is clear.

These budding gardeners were keen to try their hand at gardening as part of the SG50 School Gardening Project, tending to their plots every week.

Alisha says: "Before we joined the project, we would help our school gardener, Mr Ang, in the garden. My friend and I would feed the fishes and help pick out the weeds.

"Now that we have joined, it motivates us to help out in the garden."

The student volunteers are split into three main groups: One tends to sustainable crops, another creates the SG50 logo and the final group decorates the plots with cut-out horses.

Primary 4 students Javier Lim and Wasfi Azad, are in the SG50 logo team. For three weeks, the team has been collecting used water bottles and turning them into flower pots.

The bottles are painted red and white to represent the colours of the national flag. Money plants are transferred into the recycled bottles and arranged to form the pretty SG50 logo.


Students in the final group decided to make cut-outs from used tetrapacks in the shape of horses and line them around the perimeter of the plots.

Science teacher Iva Chia, 28, said: "During a learning journey to the Singapore Turf Club, the pupils had a memorable interaction with the horses. They decided to depict the horses in a merry-go-round."

Ms Chia, one of the teachers in charge of the SG50 School Gardening Project, admits that she was initially surprised that students were not afraid to get their hands muddied.

She is very proud of their enthusiasm.

"They always ask when I'm going to take them down to the garden again.

"They are more appreciative of the diversity of plants around them now," she says.

Mrs Chin Wai Peng, the school's principal, says she is impressed with the creativity and passion demonstrated by both teachers and students.

She says: "The SG50 School Gardening Project is a very meaningful one.

"It provides a very good platform for our teachers and pupils to work together as a team to drive innovation and to live out their values of resilience, service and excellence towards a sustainable Singapore.

"This project aligns well to our school's mission to create positive learning experiences for our pupils and to develop them into contributing citizens who can make a positive impact in their own ways to the community."

We like the feeling of soil under our hands. After awhile, your hands even feel softer. - Primary 4 pupil Alisha Shirin from Xishan Primary School

Gardens in schools

The SG50 School Gardening Project aims to encourage the development and use of school gardens in primary schools.

Singapore Turf Club (STC) provided each school with $1,000 seed money as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts and celebration of the nation's 50th year.

The New Paper, along with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), is the media partner of this SG50 project.

Gardens are judged according to several criteria:

l The quality of the garden, such as its creative design concept, and the care and maintenance it gets

l Involvement in the garden, such as its presence on social media and support from the community, from parents, neighbours and community organisations

l The relevance of the garden, such as the use of the garden for inter-disciplinary learning and references to STC such as horses and sports.

A panel comprising STC and SPH management representatives will judge the gardens in July.

The top three schools will win $5,000 each.

Science lessons take place outdoors

At Mee Toh Primary, science classes take place outdoors.

For the SG50 School Gardening Project, the school started a herb garden and a butterfly garden.

The herb garden has neat plots of chilli, mint, lemongrass plants and curry trees, among others. The butterfly garden, home to different species of butterflies, boasts more than 10 different types of flowers such as blood flowers and ixora.

Madam Jackie Ang, 40, the school's level head for science, says: "We want to match the plants grown to the curriculum, so that every student can make use of the garden to learn."

For Primary 4 pupils, science lessons take place outside the classroom. So when the pupils learn about the life cycle of the butterfly, they "will be observing all the stages of the butterfly at the actual site".

In the herb garden, QR codes can be found on the signs bearing the name of the flowers. Pupils are provided with iPads to scan the codes and get information about the plants.

The gardens are also teaching aids for Social Studies and English lessons.

"The Primary 2 pupils have an English storybook about the life cycle of the butterfly. The butterfly garden allows them to understand the terms used in the book, like 'flowering' and life cycle'," she explains.

Outside of lessons, the butterfly garden is a big attraction for students across all levels.

Madam Ang says the younger students flock to observe the butterflies in their own time.

Primary 3 pupil Ng Jun Kai says: "I was excited as it was my first time looking at caterpillars."


This article was first published on May 3, 2015.
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