Tanglin Pre-school: A Curious Approach

Tanglin Trust School is going back to basics and taking a new approach to playing and learning – The Curiosity Approach – and it’s the first international school in Asia to offer this unique child-led early years’ curriculum.
Tanglin Pre-school: A Curious Approach
By Carli Allan
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Pre-schoolers are encouraged to get ‘curious’ at Tanglin Trust School as it becomes the first in Singapore to adopt a back to basics approach to learning. Tanglin’s nursery for three to four-year-olds will open for the 2019-20 academic year with a new curriculum – The Curiosity Approach.

The Curiosity Approach takes parts from the Reggio Emilia, Steiner, Te Whariki and Montessori programmes and focuses on a child’s natural curiosity. It replaces plastic toys with natural resources, and moves away from formal planned activities to facilitate child-led play. Developed by two nursery owners in the UK, Lyndsay Hellyn and Stephanie Bennett, The Curiosity Approach brings recycled materials, ordinary household items and bric-a-brac into the classroom – and has been developed at Tanglin Trust to transform its nursery into “an even calmer and more tranquil learning environment with cosy, comfortable play spaces for our youngest learners”.

Read our review of Tanglin Trust School here.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com speaks to Tanglin’s head of nursery, Victoria Thomas, to find out how Tanglin is cultivating curiosity in the classroom.



How does the Curiosity Approach draw from different early years’ curricula?

The Curiosity Approach is a modern-day approach to Early Years taking parts from Reggio, Steiner, Te Whariki and Montessori. For example, one key principle of Reggio that is embraced is that there are three effective ‘teachers’ of children – adults, other children and their physical environment, with the latter commonly referred to as the ‘third teacher’. The Curiosity Approach reflects on this in creating joyful, purposeful and enabling educational play spaces for children.



Why have you decided to adopt The Curiosity Approach at Tanglin? What are the benefits?

The nursery at Tanglin is forward-thinking and has an innovative approach to learning. The process of implementing the Approach took 15 months and was an opportunity for our staff to reflect on what we were doing and why we were doing it, to action plan and to work through solutions for each of the Curiosity Approach’s six modules.

The Approach creates invitations and provocations to learning to inspire the ‘thinkers and doers of the future.’ Through our revamped environment, we are developing the innate skills of the children: curiosity, awe and wonder. Their excitement to play, engage and to learn is inspired.



Why have you decided to use wooden materials, natural resources, and neutral backgrounds rather than bright-coloured walls and plastic toys?

The Curiosity Approach supports the introduction of ‘loose parts’, ‘authentic resources’ and recycled materials into the learning environment in a practical and aesthetically pleasing way. Our nursery has been transformed into an even calmer and more tranquil learning environment for children to become engaged in deep levels of sustained thinking. It has a sense of ‘Hygge’ with cosy comfortable ‘Communication Friendly’ play spaces for our youngest learners. In addition, by recycling and reusing authentic resources we are being sustainable, and children learn to respect and value the resources and natural materials.



The Curiosity Approach is about developing independent thinking, stronger non-verbal communication, language and verbal communication, and problem-solving. How does this learning environment help that?

Our nursery team’s rigorous planning and reflection creates a carefully inspired learning environment which supports and enhances individual children’s interests and needs and extend their next steps of learning. Resources are open-ended leading to inquisitiveness, deep level thinking, communication.



So just how, for example, are you igniting curiosity?

Often children are presented with the finished material, resource or environment. Using ‘loose parts’ such as pinecones, sticks, corks, gems, allows children to use the materials as they choose, developing opportunities for creativity. Our play dough station not only allows children’s imagination to come to life, but also supports communication and social skills as children talk about what they’re making.

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