In-Depth: Outdoor Education in Singapore

Classrooms Without Walls: From kayaking a raft along the Ganges River to exploring the Singapore Botanic Gardens for a science project – outdoor education offers students of all ages the opportunity to learn beyond the borders of their classroom. WhichSchoolAdvisor looks at how international schools in Singapore are embracing this way of teaching and encouraging students to take on unfamiliar challenges and develop lifelong skills.
In-Depth: Outdoor Education in Singapore
By Carli Allan
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CCAs: Outdoor learning after the bell rings

Rock climbing is one of the many CCAs at Tanglin Trust School that take learning outdoors

For many years, outdoor education was seen by many only as a co-curricular activity – a time for outdoor play that could be squeezed in after school. Today, while outdoor learning may not need to be the first thing on a child’s agenda once the bell rings at the end of the day, it is moving into a broader (and often more adventurous) spectrum of CCAs.

Martin Foakes (Tanglin) says:

“We are actively exploring new opportunities for specific outdoor activities to include in the CCA programme such as archery and kayaking – and it has been exciting to find new partners and organisations to work with while we are unable to travel outside of Singapore.
“The pandemic has brought our exciting residential school trips and overseas expeditions to a juddering halt, but we have found lots of new ways to experience adventure and outdoor learning on our own doorstep, and in the long term this will enable our students to be better prepared for the day when we can travel to other countries and destinations.”

Outdoor CCAs are also increasingly focused on sustainability. At CIS, for example, there are several student-led clubs – including Primary Eco-warriors and Pondkeepers – that include composting, gardening, caring for the ponds and eco-systems in the school’s outdoor discovery centres and East Coast beach clean-ups.

One of the longest-running extra-curricular activities, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, remains one of the most popular outdoor activity programmes offered within schools worldwide. The Award encourages young people to learn new skills, get physically active, volunteer within their communities and discover a sense of adventure – all outside the classroom.

At Tanglin, over half of Year 10 have signed up for the DofE, and completion rates are high (with around 120 successful Bronze participants in the last academic year).

Mr Foakes explains why:

“DofE is inclusive and voluntary. It must also be flexible – so there is no fixed ‘one size fits all’ pathway that each student has to adhere to. They set their own goals and select the activities that best suit their interests and school days. To complete it all requires significant guts and tenacity – so it is really encouraging to see them signing up and sticking with it to the end.”

Read more: Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award: What, Why, How?

DofE students from Dover Court take to the water on one of their expeditions

While students only have a degree of academic freedom when studying A Levels or the IB Diploma Programme, the DofE Award framework is not prescriptive; it can be tailored to a student’s interests, which could be anything from figure skating to dragon boating

In the words of one Gold participant, Pranav (a student at Dover Court International School):

“The award has been an outlet for me to try out new things I would not have otherwise partaken in. The expedition was the most notable challenge. Overcoming this challenge taught me the skills of teamwork and collaboration as well as the importance of perseverance.”

Next: Good news: The benefits of taking learning outdoors

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