Spanning the entire floor of a high-rise office block, MindChamps @ One Raffles Place has a surprisingly large amount of indoor and outdoor space. You step out of the lift, through the secure entrance, and into a rabbit warren of classrooms that wind their way towards a large rooftop garden.
There’s a library, gym, swimming pool, jungle gym and an eco garden with an aquaponics gardening system. There’s also a child-friendly, shaded outdoor kitchen, which is used for cooking classes, breakfast club and even birthday parties. The school is still in its infancy and there are plans to improve the outdoor area with a mini football pitch for ball games, and a renovated pool area where children can have after-school swimming lessons.
MindChamps says: “Our outdoor kitchen turns a traditional pre-school concept into a very modern space where learning is brought to another level. The cooking lessons, for example, focus on motor skills, creativity, numeracy and responsibility.”
While centre director Ray Ong talked a great deal about offering opportunities for exploration, fun and games, this was quickly followed with an explanation about the safety features in place to protect the young students. Even the flooring in all the corridors has an extra synthetic layer to help prevent injuries if falling over during those first wobbly steps.
Although the centre overlooks a skyline of skyscrapers, there’s a creative use of landscaping, colour and wall art to make it feel child-friendly, cosy and welcoming. Also, children here are encouraged to look at, touch and feel a wide variety of plants and herbs.
MindChamps says: “We’re giving the children a very green environment to explore at the heart of the business district.”
There’s plenty of scope for experiential learning here, from exploring the tomatoes, spinach, bananas and papaya in the eco garden to then cooking with them in the outdoor kitchen. The children also have plenty of opportunity to move between the facilities at the centre – there’s no risk of them being sat round a table in one classroom all day long.
Being brand new and purpose built, everything we saw felt fresh, clean and modern. The walls are painted white and, although bright colours are used, they are kept to a minimum; this helps to give the nursery a sense of calm. All rooms were well-equipped with high quality learning resources, and there was thoughtful planning of spaces both in and outside.
Most rooms have floor to ceiling windows, either overlooking the rooftop garden or the corridors, and there’s plenty of natural light streaming in. While some areas of the school felt perhaps too neat and tidy, others did show signs of more ‘messy play’. Ong did explain, though, that students in kindergarten are expected to keep the class orderly to help prepare them for attending primary school.
We were impressed by the creative layout of the classrooms. We saw plenty of stimulating learning zones and interactive displays such as word walls, which are helpful for pre-schoolers who are familiar with the alphabet and the written word.
MindChamps says: “MindChamps designs classrooms around different zones such as numeracy, construction, art and craft, drama, and inquiry. These are based on two key areas. Skills, where children can get hands-on with skills such as writing, and imagination, where children draw, act and so on.”
During our tour, we were greeted with many confident and polite ‘hellos’ from the children and smiling faces. We saw a class for four-year-olds, which was themed around that term’s topic of minibeasts and had just the right mixture of children’s work and teacher-made displays. The class was divided into smaller groups, each working in different ‘zones’ within the room.
We also visited a playgroup class and kindergarten class, each having its own age-appropriate facilities, wall displays and learning zones; outside there was a kindergarten class playing on the jungle gym, which several children said was “the best, most fun place to be”. All children were wearing the red Mindchamps uniform, which looked hardwearing, comfortable and practical.
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