Thank you for being with us in service to the early childhood community in Singapore.
We look forward to a new year of commitment and contribution with your ongoing guidance and teamwork.
Wishing you a blessed holiday and peaceful New Year.
Beth, Eunice and Wan Ting
Lauren and Judy and all in Boston
The way children play is constantly changing and evolving. Most adults perceive a significant contrast between the way they played when they were young, and the way children play today.
In some parts of the world today, many children have more money, toys, and accessories but they also have less freedom. Changes in the natural and built environment have resulted in a decreasingly child friendly environment, with less open spaces in which to play and explore.
Increased traffic and real or perceived danger of strangers has resulted in parents becoming increasingly reluctant to allow children to play unsupervised outside their own homes. As a result, children play in the home more than any other place, particularly in the early years of life. The home is generally the first play environment for young children and parents can facilitate their play through providing opportunities to explore, experiment, learn new skills and grow in competence. Continue reading …
For a related video, see below.
It’s not just the faculty and students who make a college great.
Behind the scenes at Wheelock College-Singapore, the dynamic duo of Eunice Sim and Choo Wan Ting are the unsung heroes behind each vibrant and event-filled academic year.
Eunice and Wan Ting started their jobs on the exact same day — 5 August 2013 – and both combine a teaching background with administrative expertise. Both of them are seconded to Wheelock College by Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), the fifth university in Singapore.
This secondment has significant advantages for Wheelock College. For example, Eunice and Wan Ting have forged close bonds with the administration at SIT and engaged Wheelock students in becoming more involved in the SIT community. Students now take part in co-curricular activities such as floorball, tennis, badminton and accapella. They participate in the annual Chill Out event and of course feel pride in the SIT@Dover auditorium for graduation. SIT refers to their students as SITizens and their motto is “Once a SITizen always a SITizen.”
Eunice and Wan Ting’s duties run the full range of what a college does, from day to day operations such as admissions, and running the academic calendar to creating and administering programs that help students prepare for their careers and build professional networks. A good example of this is the annual Career Fair which hosted almost 40 child care related organizations this year and resulted in most students either getting a job or networking with providers to find out more about potential teaching positions.
Eunice, 36, brings to the job her background as primary school teacher. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Mathematics from the National University of Singapore and a post-graduate diploma in primary education at the National Institute for Education, and worked in the corporate world as well.
“Our students have just two years in our program, so we work fast and hard to make sure they have the best experience possible,” Eunice says. “We’re a team, we work together to accomplish as much as possible.”
Wan Ting, 30, graduated with the first Wheelock College-Singapore cohort in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education, and previously taught in a preschool.
As an alumna, Wan Ting uses her personal experience to help students prepare for careers both inside the classroom and in other professional settings where expertise in early learning has practical applications.
“I can relate to the students. I can tell them I’ve been through this, and I can help them with what will happen and what to expect. We click very quickly and very well,” Wan Ting says.
When they were recruited for their respective positions, Eunice and Wan Ting were each hired for their combination of educational backgrounds and professional demeanor.
In addition to day to day operations and regularly scheduled events, Eunice and Wan Ting administer programs such as the second-year summer immersion program in Boston, a 30 hour mandatory service learning project, an internship program, a lecture series, and the career fair.
Earlier this year they helped launch a Maker Space, a place at the college’s office at SIT@NP Building for students to have fun, de-stress, be creative, and in the process, to develop new skills for lifelong learning.
They encourage and advise students with coping strategies to help deal with time pressures and stress, and facilitate communication between students and faculty.
And they welcome everyone into the program. They are essential to helping the US Wheelock faculty who come to teach twice each year as well as introduce them to the local Singapore faculty who co-teach and bring the local context to all modules. They liaise with the Boston office and community partners like SEED Institute, Lien Foundation, and many organizations including museums and child care providers.
“The greatest satisfaction of this job is that every day is different. One day we are liaising with SIT to plan a fantastic graduation and the next day we are prepping our students for an awesome overseas adventure to Boston,” Eunice says. “We love making sure that everything is smooth sailing and that everyone feels part of the Wheelock family. So, we’re a team in every sense of the word, we work together and we produce amazing results.”
Says Wheelock College-Singapore Executive Director Beth Fredericks: “It takes a village to raise a cohort of students in Singapore. There’s no way we could have done the things we’ve done this year – with the SIT Open House for recruitment, the maker space, the new internship program, and the things you have to do each year such as graduation and summer immersion – these things take many hands to make it lively, to pay attention to detail, to provide the best experience to our students. Eunice and Wan Ting are two of the best colleagues I’ve ever had; they’re smart, they’re dynamic, and they’re always thinking ahead.”
Principal Matters: Pre-school heads get fresh ideas from learning trip to Wheelock College in Boston
You know when a group of women has bonded — they start sharing clothing. At the pre-departure briefing for the Principal Matters participants on October 6, Yeow Hwee Cheng brought a suitcase full of sweaters and down jackets to share with the group of 24 Singapore principals who were heading to Boston, Massachusetts, for their overseas learning journey – and some chilly weather!
Read all about it in the Straits Times article here:
They are in the pioneer batch of participants in a six-month leadership programme, led by local philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation, called Principal Matters.
With kids roaming around and no “do not touch” signs, it is easy to forget that Boston Children’s Museum is actually a museum.
Wheelock College-Singapore contributed to the ECDA Early Childhood Conference for the third year in a row. 35 current students moderated the same number of workshops throughout the day on Friday, 30 Sept and Executive Director, Beth Fredericks delivered a workshop entitled “Literacy in Action” featuring our signature activity “StoryWalk!”
While Wheelock College work diligently to educate early childhood teachers for the future, we never do it alone. As the African proverb puts it: “It takes a village to raise a child” Wheelock-Singapore has built strong relationships with partners, alumni and students in the Singapore village. When early childhood educators, families and the community work as partners in education, they form a caring community to support children in their learning and development.
For more photos, click http://singapore.wheelock.edu/photos/
Big changes in the “Writing Centre”! For one, we changed the name – the new Communications Skills Help Desk@NP is a new, exciting revamp of our student peer support around English writing skills. For the past few years, four students have volunteered to spend a portion of their lunch hours helping their peers improve their English writing skills and consequently improving their assignments. This year we decided to head over to Dover Road and consult with Deng Xudong, Director, Centre for Communication Skills at SIT, to try and create a systematic plan for all the students studying in the SIT@NP building.
After a few weeks of figuring out the best way to go, Xudong agreed to give the Wheelock students some support of their own, some specialised training and supervision if they were willing to support not only their Wheelock peers, but the students from University of Glasgow and University of Newcastle as well. The new Communications Skills Help Desk@NP launched in September!
Want to get to know the Help Desk students? Here they are! Come visit anytime. The sign-up sheet is posted on the 8th floor notice board. Improving your writing is a lifelong learning effort. Get started now!
“A writer is a photographer of thoughts”- Brandon A. Trean. Writing to Anne Chua is about self-expression; a process of putting her thoughts, ideas and reflections into words. She believes strongly in individuality in writing and that everyone is a writer in their own rights. She also believes that reading and writing comes hand in hand and enjoys reading and collecting both children and adult literatures. Some of Anne’s favourite authors are Harper Lee, Khaled Hosseini, Julia Donaldson and Peter H. Reynolds.
Ashleender Kaur enjoys meeting people from all walks of life as there is plenty that we can learn from one another. She believes that there is true beauty in language which is why she has a great passion for reading and writing, dedicating her holidays to spending time with children who need the extra help in these areas. Ashleender believes that everyone is a writer and hope that the Writing Centre becomes a platform where writing experiences are enhanced in a calming environment. We can all excel as writers as long as we learn to love writing, much like what Doris Lessing says, “You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing.”
Eileen Chia has always been intrigued in learning about children’s language and literacy experiences and takes great delight in reading a wide array of children’s literature. She finds comfort in writing as a means of regulating her thoughts and feelings, and believes that writing allows one to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, of the world, or even a weave of both: themselves in this world.
Joey Lim views communication as one of the most important aspect of our being. As an individual who enjoys reading and watching films, Joey hopes to influence her peers to develop a passion for the language and impart skills that will help them excel academically.
National Heritage Board, Wheelock College-Singapore bring early neuroscience to museum educators, early childhood community
If you’re not familiar with the Marshmallow Test, check it out. This was just one of the short videos that brought a group of 30 museum educators and early childhood professionals into the research labs of cutting edge scientists learning about the executive function skills that are developed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain of very young children. Sounds like rocket science? It’s not.
On August 28, 29 and 30, about 20 educators from the National Heritage Board’s museums, and about 10 early childhood professionals from a variety of organizations across Singapore, met together to learn from Erin Ramsey, the Senior Program Director for Mind in the Making (MITM) http://www.mindinthemaking.org/ at The Bezos Family Foundation http://www.bezosfamilyfoundation.org. Erin is the master trainer of MITM in the US and is responsible for the overall implementation and development of partnerships for the foundation.
About one year ago Beth Fredericks, Executive Director of Wheelock College-Singapore, and Karen Chin, Assistant Director of Education at National Heritage Board (NHB), envisioned bringing MITM training to the museum educators in Singapore. This year the NHB was generous and forward thinking in funding the proposal to host the three day training at the National Museum of Singapore. This is the very first international delivery of MITM training.
MITM believes that children are born with tremendous potential. The overall goal of MITM is to use knowledge from developmental research to promote engaged learning and life skills that promote executive function in adults and children. Executive functions are typically measured behaviorally as working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. These critical skills are often more predictive than even IQ or socioeconomic status in determining success in life.
At the conclusion of the training, participants were enthusiastic and prepared to go back to their organizations and share what they have learned with their colleagues as well as influence programming and activities for young children and their families.
This training comes during a pivotal time in Singapore’s efforts to boost early childhood education, with a great deal of momentum building across the community supportive of executive function and early brain development.
Want to know more about Executive Function skills? Read the blog post that follows, “What looks like child’s play is really brain building in progress”.
By Beth Fredericks, M.Ed.
A parent or a caregiver blows “raspberries” to an infant (stick your tongue out and waggle it around), or makes a funny face or a goofy noise. The baby mimics and does the same thing in response. It’s like a game of ping pong, an exercise in what neuroscientists call “serve and return”.
To an onlooker, it might look like a silly exchange. But the back-and-forth is actually stimulating neural connections that are being built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills.
Many parents think once their children start preschool, that’s when they begin learning. But kids start learning, and their brains are developing, the minute they are born (even in utero at about ten weeks time).
As someone who works in the field of early childhood development, and now as an educator of future preschool educators in Singapore, I feel obligated to demonstrate that this cannot be overstressed.
Children who’ve had consistent playful stimulation from their earliest days tend to be better prepared for school achievement, well before they have started their first day of preschool. Parents and caregivers lose out on a big chunk of time if they aren’t serving and returning interaction and stimulation to their babies. Healthy brain architecture depends on this.
If as an infant you exchange and interact with your adult caregiver, you are learning the beginnings of communication. By the time you start preschool, you’ll know that if you greet someone, maybe they will greet you back, or if you talk to the teacher, the teacher might talk back to you. These are essential capabilities and skills for success in school.
Today we are learning more and more about early brain development and the science behind it, and the importance of executive function to lifelong skills. Think of executive function as the CEO of the brain – a set of mental abilities that includes problem-solving, adapting to information and other desirable cognitive traits. Adults need to understand the importance of executive function to help develop those life skills in their children.
Early childhood experiences build the foundation for future learning. If your experiences between ages 0 and 3 have been unstimulating or unreliable or simply absent, you’ve missed out on building a strong foundation for future brain development. If a baby’s experiences have been negative, their body’s stress response has been activated, flooding the developing brain with potentially harmful stress hormones. Babies are wired for curiosity and reaction, and to hold onto information. Positive early childhood experiences create a solid foundation for future growth and adaptability.
Academics like Dr. Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child are now making accessible to the public the neuroscience about baby’s brains and early brain development. We’re just now beginning to appreciate the implications.
Underscoring the importance of early childhood brain development, Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute, in her book Mind in the Making, points out seven skills that are essential for school achievement and life success.
The seven essential skills are:
- Focus and Self-Control
A child’s brain doesn’t finish developing until age 20 or even a bit later, and learning focus and self-control takes time and practice.
An example is the Marshmallow Test, where children are given a marshmallow and told if they can wait before eating it, they will be rewarded with a second marshmallow. Those who resist immediate gratification for a long-term goal are learning an important life lesson.
Another way that parents can help children learn focus and self-control is playing the game Simon Says. This is a great way to learn self-regulation and how to not go on “automatic”. If a player is not really listening and adjusting to the new information, he is not going to win.
Megan McClelland of Oregon State University modified the game and played Simon Says Do the Opposite (when you say touch your head, they’re supposed to touch their feet). These are effective tools for increasing both literacy and self-regulation skills.
- Perspective Taking
Children who develop the ability to see things from the perspective of another person develop empathy. Many Eastern cultures put a value on saving face – think of Win in China, a version of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice where winners, runner-ups and losers all share in the winnings. “You’re fired” is replaced with face management.
Communication – learning how to speak, read and write; sharing individual points of view, reflecting on them, to decide what to say next. Not just that you’re able to talk and communicate, but understand what others are trying to tell us, and understand their point of view.
- Making Connections
Making connections – see how two seemingly unrelated topics are related. Most recent ah-ha moments had something to do with making a mental connection between two previously unconnected ideas.
- Critical Thinking
Critical thinking – the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge that we then use to guide our beliefs, decisions and actions; always looking to develop, test and refine theories about what causes what to happen. It’s about making decisions in your daily life. Children learn to take off their shoes at the front door because using what they know – seeing all those shoes in the hallway, reminds them to take off their own shoes. That skill relies a lot on focus – look at shoes, think flexibly, use your memory, practice self-control – leave your shoes in the hallway.
- Taking on Challenges
Taking on challenges – life is filled with challenges which can be stressful, but coping helps us. Kids who have what’s called a fixed mindset may be less likely to take on challenges because they see their abilities as fixed an unchangeable. Children with a growth mindset will take on increasingly more difficult puzzles because they tend to see challenge as fun and believe they can get better.
- Self-Directed, Engaged Learning
Self-directed engaged learning. Nobel Prize winner James Heckmen says “motivation begets motivation”. Encouraging kids natural curiosity makes them better learners. Classrooms that foster an engaged learning community are places where kids, families and teachers find synergy and get their community to grow and take on exciting projects.
These seven essential skills are called life skills because of their powerful potential to help children succeed socially, emotionally and intellectually in the short- and long-term. They rely on the executive functions of the brain that young children need and will use in school and as adults. Parents and caregivers can help them to develop those skills, just by engaging with their children every day. These are skills that every adult can teach and every child can learn.
Beth Fredericks is Executive Director of Wheelock College-Singapore. She is also a trained facilitator of the Mind in the Making–Seven Essential Skills professional development course. Mind in the Making (MITM), developed by Families and Work Institute (FWI), is an unprecedented effort to share the science of children’s learning with the general public, families, and professionals who work with children and families.
A Q&A with Linda A. Davis, Dean, International Programs & Partnerships at Wheelock College, who will be taking on a new post as Provost at The University of The Bahamas, effective 1 October.
Under her skilled, creative and energetic leadership, student participation in international experiences has expanded, new partnerships in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean have flourished, and continuing collaborations in Singapore have deepened. Wheelock will miss her passion and commitment, but her mark remains across our programs, both local and global.
You have been closely involved in Wheelock College’s internationalization efforts for many years. Why is it important for a college to have a global vision?
Institutions of higher learning that do not to have a global vision in today’s world are quickly outdated. The mobility of students, academic staff and administrators is now commonplace as ideas move across national boundaries, and universities must innovate and conceive of ways, policies and programs that respond to this fact.
If students are to engage in tomorrow’s world, they must be exposed to global realities, interrogate complexities, and be prepared to face challenges and interact with peoples across borders, countries and regions. This engagement requires greater understanding and appreciation of differences. Social and cultural competencies must be honed, diverse cultures respected. Preparation for tomorrow’s world means a readiness to work in a ‘global knowledge economy’, the essence of internationalization.
What are some of the ways the college has brought Wheelock and its mission to the world?
I entered Wheelock just over six years ago at a time when it had an established international presence built on its long-standing public mission to improve the lives of children and families. During my tenure, we have deliberately pushed this mission to encompass its ‘global’ reach.
Building upon its reputation for delivering internationally-validated early childhood and elementary degree programs, under my leadership the Center for International Programs & Partnerships was charged to nurture and deepen global partnerships allowing for intercultural student and faculty experiences. These experiences took the form of service learning, travel-learn and internships embedded in academic courses, taking students, alumni, faculty and staff alike to such locations as Northern Ireland, West Africa, Barbados, Haiti, West Africa, South Africa, Belize, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Cuba.
Also, our collaborations in Singapore have come full circle as we witness a dawn of a new era of partnerships and Wheelock’s involvement takes on new shapes and forms. In turn, we evidence Wheelock’s reach expanding, through its reputation established in Singapore, to Asia more broadly, and into South Africa and a return to the Caribbean as it builds upon its characteristically strong focus on academic excellence and capacity-building while working in and with communities to establish benchmark programming in early childhood education, development and services.
I believe that such internationalization initiatives as these are critical to the future of the institution. These must build upon existing programmatic efforts, connecting the many complementary components into a seamless fabric. In turn, this will enhance outcomes and sustainability – weaving international initiatives into the fabric of the entire Wheelock College institution, infusing the education of all its students with a global perspective, whether they are traditional on-campus students or are thousands of miles away from the Boston campus.
What are some of the ways the college has brought the world to Wheelock?
Just as the institution has facilitated opportunities to take Wheelock, through its students, alumni, faculty and staff, to the world, we also worked intentionally to bring the world to Wheelock. The institution has achieved this through hosting Presidential International Visiting Scholars, growing our international student population and hosting groups from all around the world, as well as our students enrolled in our international sites, at the home campus in Boston. Also, our faculty who teach at our international locations return to the Boston campus having been exposed to diverse perspectives which they take into their classrooms here, thus adding to the thrust to internationalize our curriculum.
Undeniably, the skills of the future embedded in the curriculum that is truly internationalized are lessons learnt from and through global partnerships that work, that evidence alliances between countries and regions that are strategically aligned, that facilitate seamless access to post-secondary and higher education systems permitting the development of human resources and capacity building across borders.
You’ve been to Singapore many times. What do you like about the little red dot?
There is so much I could say! As an Islander myself I am drawn to another island nation and admire the pride that the Singaporeans express, the warmth and hospitality that they so willingly share, unreservedly. The commitment to the investment in its people as a priority is extraordinary and has undoubtedly paid dividends. I have learnt much from and through our collaborations and made lifetime friends and colleagues during my time at Wheelock.
I will treasure the memories, always. I look forward to returning someday soon and/or returning the warmth of the Singaporean embrace in my part of the world!
Will your experience and expertise in international higher education play a role in your next post?
As I assume my new post as Provost of the University of The Bahamas, I am certain to draw on lessons learnt from across the various international portfolios with which I have had responsibility. Situated in the university and innovation hub of the US, my Wheelock-Boston experience has been incredibly diverse. A smaller school that is a member of a consortium of institutions, the Colleges of the Fenway, has introduced me to that network of colleagues working in collaboration with chief academic officers as well and international officers.As Wheelock College’s New England Association of Schools and Colleges, (NEASC) Institutional Officer and Chair of Wheelock College’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), in addition to my deanship of international programs and partnerships, I have expanded my personal and professional horizons in ways I may not even recognize fully.
Still, I believe it is because of my good fortune to reach beyond the borders of the US, to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean, where I have worked within and across cultural contexts to facilitate higher education institutional partnerships, which will be of most merit as I forge new paths. I take lessons learnt with me to inform the development of academic opportunities and experiences for students, faculty and staff at the University of The Bahamas as I do my part in establishing an institution of international repute.
Click here or see below for a world map of Wheelock College Global Partnerships and Programs
A Faculty Spotlight interview with Dr. Felicity Crawford, an associate professor of Special Education in the Teacher of Students with Moderate Disabilities Program at Wheelock College in Boston. She brings the perspective of an experienced pre K-12 educator who has worked for many years, and at every grade level, in racially and culturally diverse classroom settings.
You’ve taught in Singapore for how many years now?
While I began teaching in Singapore in 2007, I did not come in 2008 or 2015. So, I have come a total of 8 times in 10 years.
Various special needs impact children’s learning and development in many ways. Is there a growing awareness around that, at least with the students you teach?
One of the courses I teach is focused on having students examine the impact of disability on children’s learning and development. Consequently, by the end of the course, students are not only aware of the prevalence, causes, and characteristics of a number of disabilities, they are cognizant of the social, attitudinal, and subsequent economic barriers that persist throughout these students’ lives. They also become knowledgeable about the types of interventions that work for young children.
Within the society, the pace at which awareness is growing is much slower than one would hope, particularly given that the government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
What kind of strides in regard to that have been made in Singapore?
Since 2007, there have been a number of changes, including increased accessibility to barrier-free public facilities that were built or refurbished on the basis of Universal Design, an architectural principle which was intended to improve the ease at which anyone, including people with disabilities, can gain physical access to public facilities (e.g. the MRT station at Ang Mo Kio). Although it was the rapidly aging population that was the catalyst for the current attention to Universal Design in Singapore, the changes, nonetheless, work for everyone.
Other changes include the building of the Enabling Village, a universally designed inclusive space for people with and without disabilities. One of the goals is to enhance employability of people with disabilities. As such, this facility focuses, among other things, on job training, employment opportunities, and developing assistive technology.
Private entities, like the Lien Foundation, have initiated or supported a number of projects, including research to identify perceptions of disability. Another important accomplishment was private funding of the first inclusive preschool in Singapore: the Kindle Garden.
What kind of programs or facilities in Singapore show positive signs of progress?
Both the Kindle Garden and the Enabling Village are institutions of promise, for they can serve to sensitize able-bodied Singaporeans to the need for innovation and inclusion. Other programs, like Dialogue in the Dark (at Ngee Ann Polytechnic), are already sensitizing Singaporean students to challenges that people with disabilities face. The hope is that such programs would not only mitigate some of the barriers that exist.
Do you feel Wheelock students have contributed to societal change here?
Wheelock students are indeed contributing to the changes that are occurring in educational institutions. Many are in leadership positions at private and public early education institutions where they work as principals, vice principals, and curriculum specialists, among them, an award-winning mentor teacher who now works at one of the MOE kindergartens.