STEM has been having a bit of a “moment” in education these past few years. Thanks to the STEM revival, schools are now hotbeds of innovation. There are Maker Labs for teens, robotics classes for primary schoolers, and everything in between.Today, we’re seeing preschools offer STEM programmes to the littlest of students. Science for three-year-olds may seem like overkill at first, but it quickly gathers context when we stop to think. Science is all about understanding our world, and about being an inquisitive and imaginative explorer. And really, isn’t that what preschool is all about?
This is exactly what JACQUELINE MCNALTY, Founding Principal of Malvern College Pre-school Hong Kong (MCPSHK), told us when we caught up with her to get some insights into the STEM programme at the school.
Embracing science through nature Jacqueline explains that Malvern College UK was the first school in the world to pioneer the Nuffield scientific approach – which all schools use today. That’s the approach of experimentation, enquiry and discovery. Today, that pioneering spirit is evident in this Hong Kong preschool campus. Students at MCPSHK are becoming little scientists in a fun, hands-on way.
So, STEM lessons start in circle time, with students exploring topics like insects or the concept of floating and sinking. To better understand floating and sinking, they’re then challenged to make a boat that floats. Next, they get busy designing boats, testing materials and finally building.
Learning at the beach
What really sets the school apart, though, is the extension into the real world. After initial exploration and hands-on lessons in class, the investigation is taken outdoors, to Forest-Beach School. “We’re the only school in Hong Kong that has a Forest-Beach School programme,” notes Jacqueline.
“It’s an exciting way for science to be taught,” she adds, explaining that the students launch their self-made boats off the shore. “It’s the scientific model in real life for our five-, four-, three- and even two-year-olds.”
This presents a unique Hong Kong childhood experience that many little ones will never forget. Jacqueline recalls a time at Forest-Beach School when a sea hawk swooped down and caught a fish right in front of the kids. One of them remarked, “This is better than a National Geographic video!”
The science of vegetable soup
The connection between nature and science is evident in a few ways. The school has two sites, and each one has a beach, a woodland and an organic farm. One even has goats and rabbits! At these locations, children are growing and harvesting their own vegetables. They then use the organic produce to make vegetable soup over the campfire. Growing and cooking vegetable soup is a science lesson at MCPSHK. Children learn about water and plant cycles, they learn to measure using maths, and they utilise teamwork. As Jacqueline says, “these are great experiences for children!”
• Malvern College Pre-School Island West G & 1/F, Viking Court, 165-166 Connaught Road West
• Malvern College Pre-School Kowloon Units 9-12, Coronation Circle, 1 Yau Cheung Road, Southwest Kowloon
This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.