Starting kids young on culture

Children exploring the spaces at PLAY @ National Museum of Singapore, a new wing for children and young families which was launched on Saturday, May 24, 2014.

SINGAPORE - In an effort to nurture the next generation of art and culture lovers, a pilot scheme will bring 400 pre schoolers to the National Museum of Singapore.

They will also get special heritage lessons in school, where they will learn about Singapore's past through traditional and old-school items such as moulds used to make local pastries and rotary telephones.

The aim is "to get our very young children interested in arts and culture and heritage, so that we can start this sense of a museum-going culture even from young", said Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Lawrence Wong as he announced the scheme yesterday.

The hope, he added, is that the youngsters will continue to appreciate Singaporean culture and visit museums as they grow up. "And through that, I think they will also get to learn and appreciate more about who we are."

The pilot project, called Singapore's Little Treasures, will be run from this month till October by the National Heritage Board (NHB) in partnership with the Early Childhood Development Agency.

As part of the scheme, which involves 10 pre-schools, 20 teachers have already developed heritage lesson plans in workshops with museum educators.

One of the teachers is Ms Valerie Gan, vice-principal of Kiddiwinkie Schoolhouse.

She plans to get her pupils to take food to an old folks' home in tiffin carriers, one of eight heritage items given to pre-schools to conduct lessons around.

The children will learn about family values and their heritage at the same time, she said. And "when the old folks see the tiffin carrier, they will have a sense of familiarity".

Other heritage items include the Chinese glove puppet, the Malay kompang, wooden pillows and reprints of paintings on the flora and fauna of Singapore.

Depending on the results of the pilot, Singapore's Little Treasures may be extended to all interested pre-schools from next year. The NHB also hopes to rope in other museums.

Said the Early Childhood Development Agency's chief executive officer, Dr Lee Tung Jean: "It's never too young for a child to start learning about his or her culture or heritage."

The scheme was announced during the launch of PLAY @ National Museum of Singapore, a new wing of the museum for children and young families. Aimed at children aged three to seven, the new wing has three sections.

In one, children can explore themed spaces such as a living room, kitchen and garden to play in and learn about local culture. In the "kitchen", for instance, they can match ingredients to local dishes.

There is also an activity room where children can create artworks, and a space for the performing arts.

"It allows us a platform to bring in young pre-school children" who might not enjoy the rest of the museum that much, said Mr Wong.

PLAY @ National Museum of Singapore is open from 10am to 6pm daily on the third floor of the museum. Admission is free.

This article was first published on May 25, 2014.
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