A change of scene

SINGAPORE - The eight pupils gathered around a laptop and shyly greeted some of their counterparts from Hong Kong over a Skype online chat.

The pupils, who are from Huamin Primary, were taking part in a cultural exchange under their school's arts programme.

During the chat, a Singaporean student introduced the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, places of interests like Gardens by the Bay and various festivals that are celebrated in Singapore.

In turn, they were introduced to Hong Kong's flower emblem, the Bauhinia, and famous sights like Victoria Peak and Ocean Park.

It is exchanges like these that have earned Huamin Primary a National Arts Education Award (NAEA).

The school received the Glow award, which is equivalent to a Silver, last month.

This is the third time that Huamin Primary, which has a niche in creative arts, has taken part in the NAEA - it received a certificate of participation in 2007 and a Bronze award in 2009.

The cultural exchange with the Hong Kong pupils occurred a month before the pupils here went to Hong Kong for a cultural immersion programme last November.

The pupil leaders and members of the school's art club had an hour-long Skype session with pupils from the Hong Kong Taoist Association Wun Tsuen School.

Following the session, the Singaporean pupils decided on five Hong Kong scenes that they would create as artwork.

The Hong Kong students chose five Singapore scenes for their artwork.

They then met in Hong Kong.

Tay Yuen Ning, 12, recalled the challenges of completing some of the art pieces.

Big Buddha

"We had to draw the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, and it was so difficult to draw because there were so many circles. But I also enjoyed learning about the culture of a different country," she said.

This was not the first time that the school has taken part in an overseas art collaboration.

In 2012, the pupils took part in a Lego Arts project with junior high school students from Japan's Fukushima prefecture, which was hit by a tsunami after the Tohoku earthquake in 2011.

The Lego pieces were built to resemble a mini-town.

Principal Edmund Lim said: "Although the Japanese students were not fluent in English, art is a medium that can transcend language and culture.

"The Lego art was used as a symbol of hope and encouragement."

Huamin Primary pupils have also taken part in many art-related collaborations with the local community over the past few years.

For instance, they took part in folding origami with the elderly under a Lions Befrienders initiative last year during Chinese New Year.

This year, they decorated and wrote letters to servicemen from the 806th Battalion who had to work during the Chinese New Year holidays.

The teachers said the students have transformed positively as they undergo the arts programmes.

Aesthetics head of department Grace Ang said: "Some of the students were a bit apprehensive at first when they were interacting with the elderly but after a while, they became more confident.

"Through art, they gain a sense of pride and accomplishment.

"It also builds their character when they learn about values and teamwork."

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