Our opening unit of the inquiry for the year is ‘human exploration results in new discoveries’ with a particular focus on Singapore and the different waves of migration that have shaped the country’s history.
There are two aspects to this unit that the children would likely find challenging.
- Firstly that waves of people from different people have come to Singapore
- Secondly that time changes our physical environment.
In the process of Tuning in… to tuning in I wondered ‘What were the misconceptions the children might have about Singapore?’ How will they understand how time has shaped the cultures and space of the city?
As a form of pre-assessment I had the children create a Pinterest board of places newcomers to Singapore should go to learn more about the country. The children’s choices reflected their experience with their environment:
- Universal studios
- Sentosa Island
- Vivo city
- Marina Bay Sands
Rather than see this as a deficit in knowledge, I saw it as a huge opportunity for learning. I had the class think about what they thought an explorer might do or be. We put those dispositions into action with a trip through Singapore’s ethnic neighbourhoods. Uncovering the attitudes would help the children understand there is more to Singapore beyond their experience. Having undertaken the trip earlier in the year for a photography unit, I knew the journey would provide a huge opportunity for the children to learn more about different cultures through being out in the city.
However, I worried about how children would make connections to the physical space and the abstract concept of time. The children needed to blend the past with the present – to see the now but also what has come before.
Looking at old photos of the past would give the children some reference point, but I wondered how we could make the experience more deep and meaningful. I wondered how the children could take a concrete experience and turn into a real one.
Enter the photo mashup.
I found some historic photos of places we would visit on the trip, and the children could use their iPads to blend photos of the past with the present. The beauty of the iPad is that the kids can take their technology with them and get great results quickly. We used Instashake – which would enable the children to blend photos with their fingers. The mash up gave children a chance to see the past while standing in the present. The opportunity to create, to take perspectives, to really think about how the space they were standing in had changed over the decades. It enabled the children to put themselves into the past.
Were the mash-ups perfect? No. But they provided an important tool for thinking.As the children looked for reference points between the old pictures and the spaces they were standing in, exclamations of ‘wow!’ ‘it’s changed’ ‘oh there it is’ ‘oh now I see it.’ They were the sounds of children using their concrete experience to make sense of the abstract.
The trip is just the start. It will provide a great springboard for further inquiry – foods, buildings, architecture are all influenced through the different people who have come to call Singapore home.
I feel so hugely privileged to teach in a city where a child’s day might start in a Hindu temple, walk past a century-old church to visit a mosque before navigating the towering skyscrapers along the Singapore river.
One of the children in my class summed up the trip best; There’s now way we’d be able to do this England Mum!