Joining Mulberry Learning preschool for a day
If you're a parent, you'll know that setting a good foundation for your child's cognitive development doesn't just kick in when he or she enters Primary 1. It starts as even as early as 18 months old. And with so many kindergartens out there, selecting one can sometimes be a tall order.
New to the whole kindergarten ball game, a couple of mothers from TSL decided to sit in on a day at school at award-winning Mulberry Learning’s Jurong East campus to see what it’s all about. My colleague, Sabrina, even brought along her son Gareth (age 3) to join one of their nursery classes for an afternoon to experience their Habits of Mind™ framework and Reggio-Emilia approach.
Little Gareth going through the motions of mandatory temperature taking and sanitising his hands before joining his new class
Here’s what we learnt about the school after an afternoon shadowing their N2 class:
1. Their 1:10 teacher-student ratio means your child gets more individual attention
Hu Lao Shi introducing little Gareth to his new classmates for the day
One of the main concerns of any parent when it comes to school is whether or not your child is getting enough dedicated attention. After all, children at that age still do require a fair bit of guidance to be able to absorb well in a classroom setting.
Every single child was given a chance to come to the front of the class to get one-on-one time with the teacher to participate in the class activity
At Mulberry Learning, every class appoints two language teachers - an English and Chinese teacher - to a group of no more than 10 students to ensure each child gets an equal amount of attention and care. At any point in time, either teacher is available to translate the lesson to ensure no one gets left behind.
2. Lessons ensure your child is fluent in both English and Mandarin
As a parent who often worries her child will grow up not knowing how to properly order cai fan, the strong emphasis on bilingual literacy did wonders to quell my fears. The first half of the school day was dedicated to Chinese learning where the children where classes, songs and story-telling were carried out in full Chinese.
Each language lesson is planned with the purpose of helping the children recognise the varying tonal sounds of the characters whilst familiarising themselves with new words. The goal here is to have each child be able to recognise over 2,000 Chinese words, 80 idioms and even be able to recite several pieces of Chinese poetry.
Fun fact: The school also uses the classic Di Zi Gui (弟子规) to help put in place good morals and good behaviour.
The day’s lesson was a marriage of language learning and craft that included “assembling” their direct and extended family members to help them better grasp each term. The children were also involved in role-playing and prompted by their teachers to form sentences with their new-found knowledge.
Even Gareth got a chance to form his sentence in front of the class
Similarly, for English, their signature Literacy Fun™ programme works to equip children with a vocabulary of more than 4,500 words by the time they hit the age of 6.
3. Children are empowered to lead their own “projects” and field trips
Some of their previous field trips include visits to Pizza Hut and a police station all upon the students’ requests!
Image credit: Mulberry Learning
Another interesting programme that takes centre stage is “Project Inquiry” - a biannual collaborative project that allows the class to spearhead their own learning. Reppin’ the Reggio Emilia approach, it begins with a massive brainstorming session where every child is encouraged to list out topics of interest they wish to delve into.
Learning the process of pizza making
Image credit: Mulberry Learning
The winning pick is then crowned as the “theme” for that project and shapes and inspires the lesson content for the 6-month term making every class that bit more exciting. Moreover, their planned field trips are also student-initiated allowing the kids to harness their curiosity and take charge of their own learning.
From building their confidence to helping them tackle problems on their own, the projects help kids grow resilient and bloom into responsible individuals. It also shapes them to take on bigger challenges in Primary school.
4. Each lesson shapes your child into a critical thinker
If you’re new to the Habits of Mind framework, here’s a rundown: It’s a famed methodology hailing from the US which promotes 16 habits, ranging from “Managing Impulsivity” and “Thinking Flexibly” to “Taking Responsible Risks” and “Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations” to help children become critical thinkers.
Before you start questioning its effectiveness, just know that MOE uses the exact same framework to groom the crème de la crème of Singapore’s gifted. And till date, Mulberry Learning is the only preschool in Singapore to have adopted the Habits of Mind framework.
We got to see first hand how Habits of Mind was reinforced during the Sorting Letter Sounds Association activity where a traffic light game was used to children to pause for a moment to identify the right answer instead of acting on impulse and their competitiveness.
Every lesson, activity and revision session in Mulberry Learning’s daily curriculum is conscientiously planned to inculcate these habits in the children’s minds, gifting them the necessary set of skills to be able to make well-calculated decisions to excel in the future.
5. Activities are tweaked on the spot to match each child’s speed of learning
It's not all work either. Lessons are punctuated with an outdoor play session planned by the teachers. Unlike the free play I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised to see more structure in Mulberry Learning's outdoor play sessions.
Similar to the relay races of our Primary school lives, the "Bean Bag Race" had children arranged in two teams in neat lines while Teacher Bea walked them through the rules of the game.
Designed to improve the children's locomotor skills and perception, the game required each child to run to the cone on the opposite end of the field with a bean bag in hand, loop around it and run back. But when some of the children struggled to keep up with the mechanics of the game, the teachers seamlessly swapped to an easier game.
In the revised game, the children were supposed to run up and touch the coloured cone Teacher Bea called out.
6. Meals are planned by nutritionists from GNC and Nature’s Farm
We all know nutrition is a crucial building block in raising a healthy and robust child, but mealtimes can be a stressful affair for some parents, especially if you’ve got a little picky eater on your hands. If your little one constantly demands a variety, then the four rotational menus at Mulberry Learning will help.
Curated by professional nutritionists from GNC and Nature’s Farm, meals are cooked freshly to ensure that your child consumes a balanced diet to meet his or her growing nutritional requirements.
Prep your children for the future at Mulberry Learning
As a mother whose child is well on her way to preschool, it was an eye-opening experience to sit in and see what actually goes on behind school doors at Mulberry Learning. And though preschools that offer your child a quality education are a dime a dozen, what really sets Mulberry Learning aside is its Habits of Mind™ framework.
The school's many play zones such as the Construction Piazza, Discovery Cove and Imaginary Playscape act as windows to the real world by letting the children immerse themselves in similar situations like running their own grocery store.
Combined with the Reggio Emilia approach, its sprawling campus and planned curriculum make Mulberry Learning a perfect match for parents looking to harness the full potential of their children's imagination and empower them to make their own decisions from a young age.
This post was brought to you by Mulberry Learning. Photo credit: Pichan Cruz