Review:: Artistic Strategies Academy where Art and language marry

Monday, October 1, 2018

Everyone who knows us, would know how involved we are in Art. Most young children are excited about doing a creative activity. My children are no different. You should look at the awesome creation mess they make each day! The right side of the brain is in charge of creativity and visual skills amongst others whilst the left side takes over sequencing, language, and Math. If one is able to marry the two together, I believe it will provide a gateway for students to write more creatively. 



Hence when we were invited to Artistic Strategies, a writing academy founded by Ms Claudine Fernandez, we were ecstatic! Ms Claudine had been an ex teacher with extensive teaching experience. She completed her Masters in Education in Harvard and went on to set up Artistic Strategies Academy, with the mission to bring more creativity to children's writings. 


"I founded Artistic Strategies because I had seen too many children feeling disenchanted or disinterested with writing. This was mostly due to the fact that they associated writing with boring memorisation and rote learning techniques and felt disconnected from the stories they were made to write. Such a shame, given that writing is such an important lifeskill!
Something had to change. After graduating from Harvard University with a Master Degree in Arts in Education, I found the solution in marrying arts and writing, giving rise to our signature Artistic Writing™ program. I'm proud to say that we are the pioneers in Singapore. Many children love experimenting with different art forms as they are particularly enticed by the dynamic nature of the arts, which allows them to engage in hands-on, interactive and creative activities- instead of sitting behind their desks all the time."
~ Ms Claudine Fernandez, founder

AT THE OPEN HOUSE



We first attended the Open House where they set up stations for children to have bite size experiences of the things they do in class. Big K was introduced to the first station where she had to create a clay character with plasticine. Wonderful to have gross motor skills incorporated into the activity. Children instinctively connect thoughts, words, and images long before they master the skill of writing. Big K hasn't been introduced to composition writing, hence I didn't really want her to be put off. My fears were cast aside when I saw her creating her masterpiece. 


At the second yummy station, children are given marshmallows as props. They were tasked to create they own kingdom. Engaging their sense, how clever! This is what a good composition should incorporate!


The writing activity then follows. The worksheet Big K received had lots of scaffolding as I thought it would be a good way to introduce creative writing to her. The teachers will access your writing ability and cater to your needs. It isn't always a one sizes fits all worksheet. They do provide you with activity books and a customised writing kit used in their classes so that you can continue developing your child's writing skills at home.



At the third station, Big K had to yup, you guessed it, invent something! Handson activities immediately include a student, no matter if they are advanced learners or an amateur. Big K didn't know, but we were secretly weaving in knowledge as she crafted. The activity provides a prosthetic, addressing the areas where she needed support. 




Look at her invention! Can you guess what it was? 
It's a rice machine! She probably knew that to get every grain of rice takes a lot of effort, hence, it would be wonderful if there were a rice machine in this world to provide us with endless supply of rice! After crafting, she had to describe her invention. Don't worry, if your child can't form sentences or she has issues with spelling, the instructor is always there to help!


The last station she tried was the Origami & Haiku station. We all know that origami is the art of paper folding and has applications in modern-day classroom for teaching things like fractions, geometry, thinking skills and problem solving. So where is the language bit? Origami excites other modalities of learning. Research has shown that it improves spatial visualization skills using hands-on learning. Such skills allow a child to comprehend and construct their own vernacular for the world around them.

This was a bit of a challenge for Big K as she chose to fold a crane! We had been folding chairs and tables but crane? Wow! that was another level altogether. I sat back and observed. She was following the instructions well and when met with an obstacle, the instructor would once again come by to guide her. Now the interesting part of this activity was that the child had to create a Haiku based on what she had folded. A haiku for your information, is a 3-line poem. The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllabus and the third line has 5 syllables. This is literature but Big K was happy to attempt!

TRIAL LESSON


When I told Big K that we were going back a second time, she was over the moon. She deemed it as fun. For the purpose to class, the ipad was whipped out. Now, I am usually not a screen-time kindof mom, but I do understand that given the rise in technological advancement, it comes as no surprise that the ipad and shows have become a dime a dozen. Teacher Claudine cleverly used the show Mona to entice Big K and a few questions were asked after a short snippet of the show. This builds comprehension and listening skills. 


Besides technology, we did say that the child was able to do some Art during the lesson right? Well, that was exactly what Big K did! She painted on a small canvas! You should have seen the sparkle in her eyes. Painting -- a love hate relationship which I have. Love because I myself am a rather creative person. Hate, well, the cleanup is a pain. So when she was able to quench her thirst for painting during class, I was thrilled. 


After all the art and technology, Big K was invited to another room where another instructor guided the children in writing and building up their repertoire of words. Of course all work and no play would make Jane a dull girl, hence, the instructor cleverly incorporated hangman (with a twist) into this segment, thereby introducing the new words to the children in a fun way. I really love how dynamic the lessons are. As a teacher, one should optimize the learning process and not simply using the static approach of drilling and that's exactly what they are doing over at Artistic Strategies Academy.

GROOMING YOUNG WRITERS

Discovering Enchantia was written by an 11yo whilst Dinobuster was written by a 9 year old!

Artistic Strategies has a highly sought after class during the June and December period. It is the Young Authors Programme. This is a holiday program where children can publish their own book and at the end of the day, proceeds go to charity. What a wonderful way to entice the child to write and not forgetting to show a little gratitude to life around. Can you imagine a young child publishing a book complete with illustration? I was excited to see and hear that! In order to maintain the standard of the books published, the number of students is kept low -- 5 per class. You are only able to join if you are selected! Extremely exclusive! Reason being, the process of writing a book is very tedious and the academy does not want to compromise the quality by doing a bigger class. 

Look at this! So meaningful! Written by a child!

Written by a 9year old. 



Our president Halimah Yacob actually came to know about this particular mention in the book on Dinos and wrote back to the 9 year-old author! WOW!

Apart from the Young Authors Programme, they also have a host of other workshops on top of their regular weekly classes. Visual Storytelling (A photography and writing workshop); Speak up, Speak well workshop (one that helps build confidence for introverted children) and the Young Inventors Programme which is perfect for the budding entrepreneur. You may find more information on their website here

The concept of marrying art and creative writing is really a valuable idea. Particularly for these little ones who have bountiful imagination. It is wonderful to see how Artistic Strategies Academy is able to develop tasks to harness the power of observation, analysis and writing. Unlike several other tuition centres where they spam the child with bombastic words and standard plots, Artistic Strategy believes in creativity. In this century, where rote learning is frowned upon, being unique in plot is the thing which is going to get you far in grades. In fact, I have even heard of schools marking the child down due to obsessive usage of flowery phrases. Some teachers are even able to tell which centre the child attends, from the same style of writing. Needless to say, these scripts do not garner high grades. So how can we instill more creativity in their writing? It is to allow them time to explore and making learning fun through the use of various mediums. 

With the recent changes in the education scene, we can see that the government is recognising that life skills and holistic learning are also just as important, hence, the focus on exams is slowly put to the backseat. There are pros and cons, in my opinion, but we definitely should impart skills to young children which will give them a head start in both their academic pursuits and their future careers. Skills like creativity and confidence will exude under the right guidance and environment. Throughout the sessions, I have seen how caring and encouraging the instructors were. Only under a comfortable environment will the child's creative juices be unleashed. So Give them a call today at 86926522 or

Connect with them on social media: 

Disclosure: We were invited to their open house and given a trial lesson for purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services

Review: Smartick. Math, one click away

Friday, September 21, 2018



Technology has penetrated nearly every aspect of modern human life. From large-scale bullet trains to little gadgets such as the iphoneXsMax, technological inventions have been considered the pinnacle of human achievement, combining intelligence with ingenuity to solve many of society's problems. 

With regards to exposing my little ones to technology, I however, have my reservations and am very cautious during selection. I don't deny that throwing them the ipad or turning on netflix does give me a breather, but things have to be in moderation.

With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, as well as the development of a buffet spread of social media platforms, schools are also embracing technology in a big way. Some schools provide students with an ipad each for their studies while most will have e-learning once every term. It is unavoidable. And this reality has finally dawned upon us. Big K has entered Primary school this year and while I have always knew that students would need to use the computer for their work, I didn't expect it to be this soon. Big K frequently has homework from Koobits, a portal where Mathematics homework is set by the teachers. As much as I resent that, I have to embrace and adapt. 


When Smartick contacted us for a review, I was excited. Reason being, Big K was bored of Koobits and to be honest, a little scared. I had only myself to blame as there was once an avalanche of homework and we had to work on our online homework as well. The questions were rather repetitive and when Big K did not know her work, I snapped. Since then, she had a phobia and I was hoping to find another programme to redeem myself! Afterall, which kid doesn't like to deal with the computer? Kindof weird in this technological era right?

After a 3-month trial, I'm proud to announce that Big K loves the programme. Let me bring you through the programme.

What is Smartick?
It is Singapore’s first truly artificial intelligence (AI) driven online enrichment platform. Fronted by its award-winning AI mechanism, Smartick adapts to your child’s level of understanding and learning in math accordingly with a variation of approaches and exercises – including mental calculation, arithmetic, logic, and word problems. It is ideal for children aged between 4 to 14 years old 

Features include:
  • AI mechanism which allows Smartick to adapt to your child’s level of understanding and learning in math 
  • Daily bite-sized 15-minute online session 
  • A dashboard for parents to keep track of the child's progress
  • Email reminders should your child not complete the assignment
  • Virtual games
Awards and recognition:

Smartick is recognized by the MIT G-Lab (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), published by the Harvard Business Review and featured by Apple as a smart educational learning platform, and is currently used by thousands of children in over 100 countries
" By incorporating the AI algorithm formulated by our team of engineers and math experts, it enables us to serve children who can go further than the average student at school and, at the same time, help the ones who are falling behind,” said Daniel De Vega, Co-founder of Smartick 
We were given the opportunity to review both at a Primary 1 and 4 level. Here's our take:

PRIMARY 1


Before you commence, the child is able to create an avatar of their choice. This was a great way to entice a young child. 




Initially, while testing out the system, I was appalled. The first few questions were so easy! I mean 2+1? Seriously? You will never find that in a Primary 1 test paper. However, it does progressively get more difficult and if you notice, the vibrant interface and the use of various ways like the rekenrek allow the child to visualise better. Children this age are very visual, hence having little ducks or beads, will help them in having a deeper conceptual understanding. In anycase, the level of difficulty does increase.


If the child is tired, she can also opt to take a break and continue later. 






It isn't all about addition and subtraction. There are also logic questions which help develop critical thinking skills. This is sadly lacking in many students these days. 


Upon completion, you will receive your results. Stars are accumulated and awarded as a form of reward. And here's the fun part! After completing the day's challenge, the child is able to enter the Virtual World and have some fun! This is the reason why Big K was motivated! It was such a game changer! Before you start thinking that gaming is a vice, I'll let you in on a little secret -- I personally like these games too! They aren't your typical Beat Saber or Rober Recall or Counterstrike, these are intellectual games we are talking about!

They are categorised accounting to various genres: Memory, reasoning, attention and perception. Under each section, there are several games and levels to choose from.



MEMORY GAMES




Even for the games, things get progressively difficult. Starting with just a few squares for the memory game, the intensity heightens with more grids after a while. 

REASONING

Tic Tac Toe. This must be one of Big K's favourite! She is familiar with this game but the cute animation made it a novelty for her. 



 ATTENTION

There are 3 level of difficulties: Easy, Medium and Hard. For Big K, she was sufficiently challenged at level 1. For some of these attention games, one has to work on not only attention but cognitive flexibility -- A skill which is quite difficult to train should you simply plough through tons of assessment books.





PERCEPTION

Big K particularly love this section. Perhaps it has to do with her good visualisation skills which is tested in the game Entangled. Bubble Pop was another favourite of Big K's. In this game, you work on perception and spatial reasoning.


Bubble pop

Entangled


The game will become more difficult. Higher levels will test your memory capacity as figures become more complex. To make things a little more challenging, the child is also timed. This further enhances the child's ability to process quickly. A skill essential for the Math papers as time is always not enough particularly for the upper levels. 

These games are fun for the younger ones but I can envision that a 12 or 14year old may not find joy in such games. Due to the lack of time, we were not able to do the questions on a daily basis. It is however a system which allows independent learning should your child have access to the computer even when you aren't around.

PRIMARY 4 


We also had the opportunity to review the system with a Primary 4 child. The content is in line with the Singapore's Math Syllabus. However, one thing to note is that we aren't able to zoom into a particular topic and work more on it. Hence if you are looking at reinforcement of certain concepts, this programme won't do the job. 
 

Using the computer to drag those dots for a symmetry question beats using a pencil to draw. 



Once again, the programme started out really easy for the child. 


Things do get increasingly challenging with new concepts like exponential being introduced. This isn't something which a typical primary school would be teaching, however, having such knowledge aids your ability to solve questions for topics such as Area and Perimeter. For this purpose, I had to give a bit of explanation to the child for her to understand. Don't fret if you don't know how to explain. There is a "I don't know" button where you can seek assistance. 


Little nugget of reward is injected. 


As before, after completing the questions, the child is able to proceed to the Virtual World for some fun! I was particularly delighted when I spotted a Tangram game. You would probably already know that I am quite big on right brain and visual training. Skills are subtly imparted through such games.

Over and above, I do think that it is a good system to supplement should you have the time to spare. Afterall, 15minutes isn't a lot isn't it?


Psst: look what I have discovered! Should you wish to give it a try, key in the above code and receive 25% off your first subscription!

For more information, check out their website here or like their page on Facebook.

Technology never stands still; it is always on the move. When utilised wisely, benefits can be reaped. 
Smartick is indeed a new way to engage and educate!

Disclosure: We were given a 3-month trial to review their programme. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.

Review: Tayo Station at Downtown East

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Beep Beep! Tayo Station has opened!


Tayo Station is the sister spinoff of Pororo Park at Marina Square. So who or what is Tayo? If you don't know, you aren't alone! My kids and I had no clue either! Yes, they are that deprived of screen time. All I knew was Small K likes buses and cars, so this playground seemed to be a must-go for us! Tayo is actually a South Korean computer animated television series about the adventures of a little bus. You can check out some clips on You Tube. I checked it out and the series about Tayo promotes positive and respectful behaviour. Sounds good. Through the show, little ones can learn about road safety as Tayo and his bus friends practice road safety at all times. Lastly, Tayo emphasises kindness and friendship. Time for me to let them watch some Tayo! With such positivities, no wonder an indoor playground themed around it!

Tayo Station is nestled at E!hub at Downtown East, right next to the chalets. Boosting a space of 10000 sq ft, it is a place which integrates indoor playground attractions, edutainment area and sensory play space for young children from 1 to 12 years old.

Tayo's Road Circuit

(Suitable for 18 months & above)


This road circuit is the highlight of the playground.  The colourful background is similar to a scene off the animated series. To add a little local flavour, icons of Singapore were also painted onto the background.  Things can get a little crowded especially on weekends but fret not, the road marshals will do a bit of crowd control. There will be a maximum number of children inside at any one time and each session is limited to 20minutes. You may of course queue for a second round. 


Parents are able to enter and sit by the benches while their little ones drive around. Parents can also retire to the chill area adjacent to the circuit, which oversees the circuit. There are plans to have a little snack corner so parents can relax while their kids have fun. 


Prior to play time, the children are briefed on some rules. The children are also introduced to different road signs. A great way to sneak in a little road safety knowledge from the real world.



Kids are able to zoom around on the swing cars or Tayo buses. The older ones get to use the swing cars while the buses are generally for children 4yo and below. However, as you can see, my 7yo could not resist the adorable little Tayo bus! Thank goodness she is petite and fits nicely. I saw some adults swinging in the cars together with their little ones as well! These cars are pretty hardy and can withhold a load weight of approximately 140kg.


This street scene is complete with a Wash n’ Go. While there may not be real water, the rollers are made out of synthetic carpet grass material which offers sensory education. 



The little drivers are also able to head over to the Gas Pump Kiosk to pump some gas! The details on each pump looked so real, it wasn't hard to fall in love with them. 



To encourage pretend play and to stretch the child's imagination, a garage is also set up for little mechanic-wannabes to fix a loose screw or hammer a nail. Watching them zoom past in this colourful background really delighted me. Take note though, you may want to put on thicker socks as due to all the kicking and rolling, we heard feedbacks that some kids went back with holes in their socks!

The Rainbow Lounge



After all the action, the kids may want to take five at the rainbow lounge where the cartoon series, Tayo, is shown. Small K was immediately drawn to this chillax corner! This is perhaps also Daddy's favourite corner as he can just take a back seat.

Poco's Hinoki Play

(Parental supervision required for children 3 & below)



This corner is both a sensory and aromatic experience for the children. The smell emitted by these cubes are said to uplift the child's mood. Well, it's no wonder my children refused to leave that play area. Hinoki wood cubes were imported from South Korea. It is a clever way to mimic sand as we all know how messy sand can get. While the little ones had their digging fun and didn't mind those cubes, the adults found it somewhat like foot reflexology. The husband was hopping and wincing as he ploughed through the Hinoki cubes. I, on the other hand, loved the mini foot reflexology sensation.




It was pretty tough to pry my kids away from this area. They can dig all day!

Toddler Play

(Suitable for babies and toddlers up to 3 years old)




This is a perfect corner for children below the age of 4. It is specially designed to provide a safe and spacious area for toddlers and babies to crawl and tot around amidst the colourful and fun murals. With soft paddings all round, parents do not have to be worried that their child will be injured. 

Gani's Playground


There are many challenging stations at this three-storey playground. Another highlight. It is an obstacle course with several tunnels to crawl through. So if you intend to follow your little ones, please remember to put on a comfortable pair of jeans or shorts. It can be quite a workout. I thought we would be out of the place in an hour, but this multi-layered climbing structure was a game changer. We spent a total of 2.5hours at the playground! Unbelievable! 



The highlight of the Gani's playground is this steep slide. On first look, it doesn't seem intimidating. Afterall, it's all padded and it is a children's playground right? Well, wrong! It isn't for the faint hearted little ones. The ride down can be really fast for them. I had to coax Small K for a while before he decided to give it a try. He tried. Once. And that was it. Big K on the other hand, was more of a dare devil. She conquered the slide several times. Even the hubs gave it a try. A note of caution however, is not for you to crowd at the end of the slide. The person sliding down may bang into you. Generally a marshal will be stationed there to ensure that safety rules are abided by.



Cliff Ball Pool 




Right beside the playground, there is a stretch of balls. Which child can resist a ball pit? I know mine couldn't as they swam continuously in the sea of balls. I saw several children diving into the pit. Parents may want to caution their child that it isn't very deep, though the base is sufficiently padded. Along the wall of the ball pit stands a rock climbing feature. I think this is more of a feature wall as it wasn't that easy to get up. Not unless an adult helps you. Furthermore, there wasn't any ropes or safety equipment to facilitate the climb. 

Lani's & Rogi's Party Rooms


There are two party rooms located within the playground. I think these would be a big hit in time to come. They've got two packages -- Petite Package ($499) and Power Deal package ($899). The latter includes a dessert table set up provided by The Little House of Dreams! We love the cakes there! The Tayo mascot will also appear during cake cutting. The room is good for 10 kids and 20 adults and party add-ons like photography and adult buffets are also available. Hope over to their website here to check it out. You may also contact them directly by phone at +65 62837900 or by email at info@tayostation.com

Plan your next birthday party or go on an adventure with your friends at Tayo Station today!

Details:
E!Hub at Downtown East, Level 3, 1 Pasir Ris Close, Singapore 519599
Opening hours: 11am - 8pm (Mondays to Fridays)
10am - 9pm (weekends, PH and school holidays)
Admission charges: Click here


Disclosure: We were invited by TAYO Station to review their indoor playground. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and written according to my experience in using the products/ services.
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