I have to admit, when I was developing a presentation on the value of "informal" or extracurricular settings to share with our Singaporean colleagues, I thought I'd need to make a case from the ground up. I imagined that enrichment would be considered frivolous in Singapore, a country known for its academic rigor and high student achievement.
Boy was I wrong.
Day 1: Extracurricular Learning and AAPS's STEAM Framework
On the first day of our study program, the AAPS delegation to Singapore visited the Academy of Singapore Teachers for an orientation to the Singaporean educational system. In the afternoon, Superintendent Jeanice K. Swift, Executive Director of Instructional Technology Merri Lynn Colligan and I gave an overview presentation on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) in Ann Arbor.
|Dr. Swift shares AAPS's framework for STEAM at the Academy of |
Singapore Teachers. Rec & Ed's STEAM offerings fall under "Target."
Awareness, knowledge or understanding of STEM concepts, processes, or careers
Engagement or interest in STEM concepts, processes, or careers
Attitude towards STEM concepts, processes, or careers
Behavior related to STEM concepts, processes, or careers
Skills based on STEM concepts, processes, or careers
This information was a preview to the longer presentation I gave the following week called "Extended School Day and Informal Settings for STEAM Opportunities."
Day 2: Visit to School of Science and Technology (SST)
Enter Mr. Sin Kim Ho, Deputy Director, Ministry of Education Sciences Branch and Mr. Chua Chor Huat, Principal of SST. They quickly put my fears about extracurricular activities not being valued to rest.
In fact, the informal curriculum is highly valued as part of Singapore's "Learning Ecosystem." It includes three areas:
1. Co-curricular Activities (CCAs): Clubs and sports held after school.
2. Enrichment classes and programs offered by the Science Center Singapore.
3. Competitions in physics, robotics, art, etc.
Sound familiar? It should. AAPS offers the same three categories of extracurricular activities. A couple of big differences: in Singapore, participation in a CCA is compulsory for secondary students and they receive a grade based on participation. Also, the Science Center is part of the Ministry of Education and fully funded by it.
Singapore's informal and formal education settings support STEM-related disciplines. Of equal importance is the ability of extracurricular activities to support development of students' self directed learning, self motivation, resiliency and other skills.
Here's one example from Mr. Chua:
Science and Mathematics at the Primary Level
1. Co-curricular activities:
Science and Environment Club
2. Enrichment: provided by Science Center Singapore
Young Scientist Badge program
Kitchen Science Lab
Science in the mall (primary and lower secondary students)
Science Buskers Festival
3. STEM Competition
The Story Creative Science Award
National Junior Robotics Competition
The Amazing Science-X Challenge
Spelling out the connection between the formal and informal learning environments would be valuable for AAPS. For too long, we've considered Rec & Ed and K-12 instruction to be on separate islands in our district's learning ecosystem. Our Singaporean colleagues make this connection explicit and value the "soft skills" students develop in extracurricular environments.
I'm eager to work with my instructional colleagues to create more purposeful connections between Rec & Ed's after school/summer camp STEAM offerings and the AAPS K-12 instructional program.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Singa-Blog series: the AAPS delegation visits the Singapore Science Center and is "digested" through an oversized intestinal system.