• Old but well-maintained campus
• Friendly and welcoming
• Celebrates student learning and achievement across the campus
Compared to some of Singapore’s newer schools, which can dazzle with their chrome and glass, Nexus has a more lived-in, traditional feel about it. That will change from January 2020 when the school moves to a shiny new campus in Geylang – but during our visit we were able to see just how the school has breathed new methods of teaching into an old, government school building.
Read our review of Nexus here.
Located in Bukit Timah, Nexus is easily accessible from the Clementi Road and 30 minute-walk from the Buona Vista MRT. Its cheerful blue, green and white exterior really sums up the positive, happy environment you feel at this school. As soon as you walk into reception, the student displays of art, the indoor fish pond and plants, and the glass-fronted offices all make you feel welcome.
• Well-equipped makerspace
• Student work displayed across the school
• Self-contained nursery and kindergarten
• Signs of wear and tear, ready to move into new campus
Nexus is not a large school – but there is plenty going on. It’s a ‘busy’ campus that’s proud to display its student work, brings nature inside, and feels innovative and interesting. Since moving to this site in 2011, Nexus has created a positive and happy learning environment for its 1,200 students; although it may now be outgrowing this campus, it is making full use of every nook and cranny.
There’s a huge amount of student work on display throughout the school, ranging from project work to sculptures — and from the moment you walk in you’ll see a hologram that was built by students for an Alice in Wonderland production. There are also plenty of lovely community touches, including a large fish pond, a vegetable garden, and plenty of plant pots.
“We’ll always include these features in our new campus. It’s part of who we are and what we are. We want students to take on their own projects, it gives them a sense of ownership.”
One of the first rooms we walked into was Nexus’ makerspace, which feels like the heart of the school. We saw plenty of evidence of hands-on learning here in this busy, chaotic space that is constantly changing, including a skateboard park built from 3D printers, a Lego robotics track and mobiles made from Strawbee construction sets. It’s a well-equipped room with kit ranging from 3D printers to sewing kits, a tools cupboard to laser cutters.
All teachers have access to this facility, so it wouldn’t be unusual to see a geography or maths class in here, and it’s used by several after-school clubs such as robotics, engineering, and car-building. We’ll be interested to see the growth of makerspaces at the new campus, which will have areas for each year group that are dedicated to STEAM.
There’s a large sense of space throughout Nexus, and all the rooms are well-resourced with books, technology and other equipment. Overall it feels bright, cheerful and colourful. It’s very well suited to the IB’s inquiry-led learning, and we could see students of all ages developing both their academic and social skills.
In contrast to the open-plan classrooms, the language rooms are still closed-off; this highlights just how much vision the school has had in renovating the rest of this existing site. It doesn’t mean that language lessons always stay in the classroom, though; we heard how a lesson could be held in the cooking lab, where students followed a recipe in French. It’s another example of how integrated the learning is here.
The self-contained nursery and kindergarten is open plan, and includes a separate cafeteria and play area. There are even a few resident chickens roaming around in the outdoor garden, which certainly looks ready for a refresh. There are learning walls, project work hanging from the ceiling and on the walls, and plenty of role play equipment, dress up racks, tents, reading corners and activity stations. It feels like a space that’s clearly driven by the teachers in early years, who have created an inviting space that feels colourful, inspiring and fun.
Moving outside, and Nexus has a large grass playing field for sport and break times, equipped with football goals, cricket net and some basic play equipment. The new campus may have less space, but we’re told that it will be a “better designed space”.
• Open-plan classrooms with flexible learning spaces
• Each year group works within one learning pod
Nexus may be located within an older campus but it is pioneering some of the newest approaches to teaching in Singapore. Here’s a school that is so dedicated to flexible learning it has knocked down walls to create large, open-plan learning pods. Instead of rows of desks, individual classrooms, and teachers leading from the front, we saw a Google office-type design where a year group will learn in one open-plan space. The school uses furniture to break up spaces, and puts the control of the classroom in the hands of the teacher and students.
We visited Year 5 and 6 as an example, where we saw students from several classes working in one large space. There are no walls or separate classrooms but instead different height desk, stools, chairs, beanbags and sofas, and TVs on moveable wheels. We some students sitting on the carpet being instructed by a teacher at one of several whiteboards, other working in groups around a bench, and some working alone on laptops. What you feel here is a positive energy; surprisingly it’s not too noisy, the students are focused not disruptive, and there seems to be a huge amount of respect between peers. Students were engaged, able to call upon a teacher when needed, given the freedom work at different speeds and levels.
Both teachers and students all appeared to be embracing the school’s innovative approach to learning. We saw one group of students together at a bench, working out how much carbon Year 6 students use and writing their formulas on a desk that doubles up as a whiteboard; elsewhere, a teacher was guiding a group of students through a lesson about the human body.
It was interesting to hear during our visit just how invested many of the teachers are in the school, its learning style, and its growth. For example, they have been involved in the design process for the new school; from the Nexus' swim coaches making suggestions for the new aquatic centre with its Olympic-sized pool and time-keeping touch pads to the arts department recommending space for kilns and art exhibitions.
Overall, there are signs of wear and tear across the school, and it’s clearly ready for renovation in some areas, so the move next year is well-timed. However, there’s a wonderful lived-in feel to this school that will be lost when it moves to the new campus – and the challenge will be for Nexus to capture this warm and welcoming feel within its shiny new building.
Get a sneak peek at the new Nexus campus here.
Nexus International School (Singapore) is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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