Odyssey - The Global Preschool aims for a first in ecological sustainability

11 Mar 2010

A majestic durian tree in bloom greets visitors turning into 20 Fourth Avenue, as do mango trees, flowering shrubs and a host of plants and trees indigenous to Singapore. A water feature with a bird bath also catches the eye. Soon, next to it, a kiddy slide will be custom-built into the slope following the land’s natural gradient. In case you are not familiar with the big containers on the right, one is for recycling plastics, paper and glass while the other is a vermi-composting bin.

Venture further, and you’ll come to a herb garden with aromatic herbs as well as an orchard with chiku, guava, banana and papaya trees. Tall, almost floor to ceiling windows open wide to the lush garden surrounding the single storey buildings, letting in the breeze and lots of natural light.

Welcome to Odyssey Fourth Avenue, the third and latest campus set up by Odyssey, The Global Preschool with the vision to become Singapore’s most ecologically sustainable preschool within five years. Odyssey, The Global Preschool was established in 2008 by leading early childhood education experts at Busy Bees S.E.Asia (previously known as Knowledge Universe). Its first two campuses in Singapore are at Wilkinson Road and Alexandra Road.

Working in close collaboration with Singapore Environment Council, Busy Bees has taken great care to ensure that the Odyssey Fourth Avenue campus incorporates as many ecologically-sustainable features as possible right from the start, accompanied by a firm commitment to continue the ecological sustainability journey and vision. For example, substantially minimising the use of air-conditioning was a deliberate measure to save energy. All the roofs and exterior walls are painted using a light grey thermal insulating paint to reduce solar heat gain, while extensive use has been made of insulating materials. It has also opted to use as much as possible natural materials from renewable sources such as containers and storage bins made from sea grass, rattan and banana tree stems, wooden furniture and porcelain utensils instead of plastic. Even the flooring eschews the typical petroleum based vinyl used in most schools for natural wood recovered as a by-product from timber mills.

More than one hundred additional trees and around 1,600 shrubs have also been newly planted throughout the campus to create lush greenery, and to serve as natural carbon storage in the Upper Bukit Timah area.

Busy Bees has invested over $1.6 million in improvements to enhance and recycle existing structures and build new extensions on the almost 8,000 sq m site. The figure also includes costs for landscaping, fixtures and furnishings that are more eco-friendly.

Added Howard Shaw, Executive Director of Singapore Environment Council: “Nurturing a greener society can only be achieved through sustained education programmes for the young in order to mainstream the issue and instil it across all age groups and academic disciplines. Importantly, the educators must also practice what they preach. Children learn by example and that is how I teach mine.

“Besides home, preschool is the next best place to introduce values. If the opportunity is missed in early childhood education, it only becomes that much more difficult to introduce later. The environmental challenge is the biggest problem we will face in the next century. It needs, therefore, to be core in our schools to help build understanding, concern and capacity for the future green economy.”

Odyssey Fourth Avenue’s curriculum is benchmarked against international standards, and includes nature studies that are conducted outdoors so that the children can better connect with nature. The curriculum also equips them with knowledge of the world around them and basic science concepts. There are gardening plots, composting area, recycling centre and solar panels for the children to have hands-on experience. Projects are also focused on outdoor learning to help build awareness about environmental issues and encourage personal responsibility and action.

With its own herb garden, children under its Little Chef™ programme can not only learn simple cooking and food preparation, but also see, touch, smell and taste the fresh herbs. In fact, their daily meals will be spiced up with these aromatic herbs that they will be helping to cultivate.

Rupal Arora, Centre Director, is confident that educators, parents and children at Odyssey Fourth Avenue will find the total experience enriching. “As we nurture in each child a healthy respect for nature, we all come together to play a part in creating an ecologically sustainable future.

“Perhaps, with all the efforts which have been put into taking significant steps to making the campus ecologically sustainable over time, our parents and children will inspire others to take responsibility for the environment around them.

The goal of Odyssey’s programme for all three campuses is to provide a personalised and differentiated early childhood education, focusing on experience-centred and problem-based experiences for children aged between 18 months and six years old.

Its curriculum design is inspired by some of the world’s most innovative and internationally acclaimed teaching pedagogy from around the world: the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and the Reggio Emilia educational practices from Northern Italy.

Odyssey Fourth Avenue will welcome its first children on April 1, 2010.

For further information contact Busy Bees. 

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