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Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire, so it’s as important for a child to develop an outgoing personality as to become a top academic performer. That’s the idea behind SDM-Chatsworth International Kindergarten, a collaboration between a top-ranked international school Chatsworth in Singapore and performing arts specialist SDM Group in Hong Kong. Founded this year, SDM-Chatsworth aims to start a new chapter in Hong Kong’s kindergarten education.
“We take the lead in integrating performing arts training with the traditional kindergarten curriculum to offer the best of both worlds,” says Peony Chan, school arts and operations director of SDM-Chatsworth. Chan worked at the SDM Jazz n Ballet Academie for a decade before heading up the new school.
Ms Peony Chan school arts and operations director (Left), Dr Joyce Chun school supervisor (Right)
A modern local kindergarten with an international foundation and perspective, SDM-Chatsworth creates a positive, caring and encouraging environment that motivates children to be innovative while inspiring their intellectual development holistically, Chan says. It nurtures the joy of learning, and enables children to discover their own interests, grow their passions, and build a strong foundation of confidence and positive attitude. “We believe in a child-centered approach that supports cultural diversity, fine arts, and performing arts, and a developmentally appropriate academic subject area,” Chan adds.
Project-based learning fosters self-motivation
SDM-Chatsworth, which is located on Cambridge Road in Kowloon Tong, is scheduled to open in November (application in progress). It offers an integrated curriculum in English and Putonghua. With highly qualified, passionate teachers, and small class sizes, it ensures that children will receive the attention they need to thrive.
What sets the school apart from others is the project-based approach embedded in its core curriculum. Students lead their own learning journey by conducting themed projects assigned by the teacher. Instead of burying themselves in books, they are free to explore the world, and experience life through practical studies. Communicative teachers encourage children to ask questions, and there is a focus on peer-to-peer co-operation, problem-solving, and self-motivation.''
The school will set specific learning targets for each student according to their capabilities. “The needs of every child are unique, so we customise learning goals with parents and children. We ensure that every goal is attainable, and valuable for growth,” says Chun. “Some goals are related to daily living, and can be as simple as helping out with the housework, or taking the initiative to say good morning to others.” Through observation, documentation, interaction, and collaboration, teachers create an informative record of each child’s progress and development.
Broadening horizons to the world
It’s sometimes said that travel brings about greater benefits than learning from books. With its strong focus on practical learning, SDM-Chatsworth has established the World Kids Programme to widen children’s perspectives on life, and unlock the door to wider learning.
“We set up a ‘Show-And-Tell’ video conference session every week for our students to chat remotely with their buddies in Singapore Chatsworth Kindergarten. They can share life experiences that way. This allows students to bond with international friends, gaining a better understanding of the world around them through cross-culture exchanges. They build up a thirst for knowledge, gain pleasure from speaking up, and develop curiosity,” Chun explains.
“We have also invited the ten most qualified children and their parents to join our World Kids Programme, which ran from April to June. This year, it’s a summer trip to Singapore,” says Chan. “Children visited their buddies’ hometowns, classes and even their homes, and took part in curriculum crossover projects. We took them to see an organic farm, and they performed at a local orphanage. Through the extra-curricular activities, they came into contact with different cultures, broadening their world vision.
According to Chan, the school also arranges performance activities for students outside the classroom, including voluntary shows for charitable organisations. It makes every effort to arouse the children’s interests in the world around them, for instance, by arranging visits to a fire station, and even letting them touch real snakes which, of course, is done in an absolutely safe way.
On stage every month
The school places great importance on the performance arts, and has built a stage to let every child shine. “Every student has the chance to come on stage at least twice a month,” says Peony Chan, School Arts and Operations Director. “They can choose to develop different types of performance arts capabilities according to their interests. There’s dancing, music, drama, creative arts, as well as communication skills like public speaking, presentation skills, and master of ceremonies.”
To cultivate the potential of future “star leaders”, SDM-Chatsworth has set up the SPARKLE programme to enhance children’s individual talent through professional training.
Divided into three main categories, consisting of sports, performing arts, and communication arts, the SPARKLE programme allows children to excel in both academic and extracurricular studies. It allows them to attain all-round development in the areas of perseverance, leadership, self-confidence, creativity, passion, etiquette, empathy, social skills, presentation skills and teamwork. This results in a strong foundation for future learning.
“We also help students attain the necessary certification via internationally accredited examination boards, and this helps strengthen early childhood foundations,” says Chan.
Happy kids make a happy world
A happy child makes for a happy family, and this contributes to a happy society and a happy world. Wanting to give children a happy childhood is a universal parental ambition. Experts also suggest that the experience of a happy childhood is associated with greater social connectedness, an enhanced sense of self, and healthy behaviour. In view of this, SDM-Chatsworth is committed to providing a loving and caring learning environment for every student.
“An integral element of our philosophy is that, if we want children to become proactive, creative, and influential leaders who can contribute to society in future, we must give them a happy and memorable childhood”, says Chun. “Nurturing children’s self-esteem and sense of pride, and allowing them to be who they are, with respect to their feelings, tastes, and ideas, is of paramount importance in laying the foundations for a successful primary education, and a life-long love of learning. This is what we at SDM-Chatsworth believe.”