Started in 2009, Between Two Trees Preschool is tucked away in a small and cosy corner off Bukit Timah Road. Small, quaint and homely, B2T does not feel and look like your typical childcare centre. The preschool’s interiors are curated by the school’s visual artist, Hui Hua. Everything ranging from children’s work to the display and storage of materials are presented in an aesthetically beautiful manner.
After a tour around the school, The New Age Parents spoke to B2T’s director, Charmaine, to learn more about the preschool.
Reggio Emilia Inspired
B2T’s curriculum is inspired by the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy. In a nut shell, the Reggio Emilia preschools work around an educational philosophy founded by Loris Malaguzzi and the parents of those schools after World War II. This philosophy has become very relevant in the early years educational fields, particularly in North America, Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries in the recent years.
Charmaine summarises the essence of the philosophy, “It not only equips children with the knowledge to learn, but also encourages them to learn the process of learning and be excited about that.” At B2T, children embark on ongoing projects based on their interests. Each project is broken down into three learning stages: provocation, investigation and reflection. For example, the K2 class’ current interest (at press time) was about the “Supermarket”. The children were busy with trolleys, prototypes of which they had created using recycled materials. During the process, they learned concepts such as shapes and numbers while figuring out the various components in a trolley. As there are so many sub-categories to a theme, the learning in each stage is rich in all learning ways (physical, cognitive, intellectual, social/emotional) and subjects (English, Math, Science), and there is no fixed time frame.
Another highlight of the Reggio Emilia preschools is the role of the environment as a third teacher. Looking around B2T’s walls, it is evident that the children’s work at B2T are respected, appreciated and admired. Charmaine explains, “Documentation acts as a catalyst to spark off conversations in the classroom, and serve as a reminder to children of their own work and how far they have come during the project process.”
In addition, all the displays and arrangements in each classroom are designed to have an aesthetic appeal. Hui Hua works closely with the class teachers to have the walls “speak” to the children by being “provocative” enough to start conversations. The class layout is dynamic and changes frequently.
Charmaine adds, “A lot of things are modular. Our environment is always changing. This reflects one of our key concepts of our curriculum; on how there is no one right or wrong way of looking at something. We are always trying to figure “it” out by making “it” better. We want the environment to stimulate and foster thinking.” The resources and materials used in the preschool are not those which one would see in a normal preschool as well. For example, standard cubby holes have been replaced with baskets, and a large pipe was sawed into pieces and drilled together to form a shoe rack. Charmaine says, “We thought very seriously about how to make our space filled with natural materials which could be recycled. Some ideas are not new, and were inspired by others. We just thought of ways to make these ideas work for our space.”
Close Partnerships with Parents
B2T shares a close and personal relationship with their parents. The preschool organises monthly trips to the gardens nearby, where lessons are conducted outdoors and parents are encouraged to participate. The event is aptly named “B2T’s Out In The Park“. Children not only get to learn and play in nature, but also get to relate their work to the environment and share quality time with their parents.
An example of parent involvement was when some children were learning about colours. A father, who works in the Singapore Army, came down to talk about the colours of his uniform. The older children took this opportunity to ask him questions about his life as a soldier. In addition, I was told these same children were to start ballet lessons because a mother, a ballet teacher, had offered to come in to conduct a few classes for them.
One Hundred Languages
On B2T’s school website, you might stumble across a poem written by Loris Malaguzzi, titled “The 100 Hundred Languages of Children”. This poem is about how it is not just the languages we speak, but the possibility of how any form of communication can be a language to a child. It is a reminder of the infinite possibilities available and how children should be encouraged to use the different languages in their lives. This poem is about a philosophy which is clearly practised by the people at B2T.
For more information of B2T, log on to their website, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Director, Charmaine Teo
Charmaine was a corporate lawyer who became an early years educator by completing her masters in early childhood education. She is currently pursuing a Phd in the same area. She left legal practice after 8 years to found B2T.
About the School Artist, Koh Hui Hua
Hui Hua is a trained art therapist, with a Masters in art therapy. She left the Association for Early Childhood Educators after 8 years to start B2T.