Malvern College Preschool Hong Kong recognises the importance of outdoor learning during the early y
“The importance of play for the development of children’s healthy cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being is grounded in a strong body of research,” says Jacqueline McNalty, founding principal at Malvern College Preschool Hong Kong. Ms McNalty says the launch of the Malvern College Forest School programme has been a tremendous success for preschool students and their parents. “We even have parents that take a day off work so they can join their children on Forest School days,” she notes. At a time when opportunities for outdoor play are diminishing, contributing to more sedentary lifestyles, the once-a-fortnight visit to a designated area in the Sai Kung Country Park provides a diverse, natural environment for learning and development. Offering a nature-inspired educational response to young children’s early learning needs, the Forest School programme focuses on all the senses. For example, Ms McNalty says in the “great outdoors” children are able to use their physical and social skills to question and problem-solving. They also learn to communicate effectively, collaborate on mini projects and lead small teams on exploring activities and playing games. “Each activity develops inter-personal skills as well as practical and intellectual skills,” explains Ms McNalty. She adds that, individual skills and self-esteem are heightened throughout activities such as hide and seek and shelter building. “We know that young children learn best through hands-on discovery, especially when they are relaxed and having fun.”
With STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics and STEAM (science, technology, engineering mathematics and art) high on the agenda of a parent’s education “wish list” for their children, Ms McNalty says the Forest School programme seamlessly accommodates science topics and more. For instance, Forest School educational sessions include age-appropriate science studies of butterflies, water, insects, ecosystems and nature investigators. Furthermore, in the Malvern College Preschool kitchen, with supervision from teachers, young students learn about weights and measures, what happens when different ingredients are combined together and the effects of hot and cold. “These are subtle, but effective ways of introducing topics that are vital in all areas of life,” says Ms McNalty.
While Malvern College Hong Kong Preschool’s is able to leverage on more than 150 years of experience and history from Malvern College in the UK, considered one of the UK leading independent schools, the focus in Hong Kong is also on the future. Recently, an interactive robot was purchased by Malvern College Hong Kong Preschool. “While we emphasise that technology is another learning tool, we want to introduce our preschool students to the concepts of artificial intelligence,” says Ms McNalty. Digital technol
ogy also plays an important role for engaging with parents. Every student at Malvern College Hong Kong Preschool has a personal Digital Learning Portfolio, which via a private login; parents can monitor their child’s progress and achievements. “The Digital learning portfolio not only allows parents to see where their children are in terms of their learning, but also what the next step in their learning journey will be,” Ms McNalty says the initiative provides parents with a high level of reassurance, and in most cases, allows parents to avoid over scheduling their children with extracurricular activities.