Saturday, July 9, 2011

2011 Montfort Junior P1 Learning Journey to Chinatown

The P1s at Montfort were off to another learning journey, this time it was at Chinatown. It's in time for the upcoming Racial Harmony Day as well as one of the themes in their Social Studies subject. During the learning journey pupils are expected to "explore and appreciate the different communities living in Singapore".

I am fortunate enough to be able to assist my son's class in this educational trip. I was in school by 815am, the call time for volunteer parents. Other parent volunteers for the trip were there - Doreen (P1C), Steve (P1C) and Kumar (P1B). Amie and Angela were also there for the pre-departure preparations.

This learning journey was different from other learning journeys I've assisted. The school has invited a group of tour guides to help the teacher and the students learn more about Chinatown. P1E's tour guide is Mr. Bernard - a funny and lively man. He got the kids attention from the time we left the school up to the time we got back. Their company catered specially to school trips like these so they really know how to handle kids and get them interested in the tour.

By 830am, we were all on-board the buses - one class per bus. Mr. Bernard briefed the pupils on what to do, what not to do, what to expect and how to behave specially because we would be visiting several places of worship. The keyword was RESPECT, and he made sure the boys remembered the DOs and DON'Ts during the walking tour.

this is Mr Bernard

The boys were also given a blue worksheet ("Let's Explore Chinatown Together!") for them to answer during the walking tour. It has a map of Chinatown's Kreta Ayer Neighborhood which the boys can color the streets that we have visited.

After the formalities, Mr. Bernard engaged the boys in a Math game. Of course, there would be a prize given to whoever can answer the question. The boys were all excited to answer and were raising their hands even if the question has not been given out!

First question: What is ten plus ten plus ten plus ten?

The boys were fast in raising their hands and yelling out the answer. Mr. Bernard called one boy who then aswered, "Forty!". But Mr. Bernard said it was not the right answer. Other boys tried their luck with the same answer. But all of them were wrong. They protested. They were all sure that forty was the answer. But Mr. Bernard said it was an answer that was too serious. Then he said the answer was, "ten ten ten ten..." (the sound from scary movies). The boys didn't seem to get it. I guess they were trained very well by their Math teacher, Mr Thiru, to add properly. They all didn't agree and insisted the answer was forty.

Anyway, few more minutes and we were already in Chinatown. The boys were all eager to see what's in store for them.

the boys lining up at Mosque St all geared up for their 3-hr walking tour

our drop off point to get to our first destination

Mr Bernard was asking the boys why they think the street was named Mosque St. 
One of the boys answered  because there was a mosque in that area. Clever.

Our first destination was the Masjid Jamae (Chulia) or The Green Mosque which was established some 180 years ago. The boys couldn't believe it was that long ago. 

The boys making their way inside the mosque. They were quite well-behaved.

Mr Bernard then directed the boys to the side of the mosque grounds where he discussed  the history of the mosque.

our tour guide explaining the importance of the MINARET 
- a distinctive architectural feature of Islamic mosques. 
This is where the speakers are usually installed and is used for the call to prayer.

He also explained to the boys that the mosque was built by Chulias who were Tamil Muslims from South India and among the earliest migrants to Singapore. 

in this photo, Mr Bernard was telling the boys the reason why this specific mosque was quite different from other mosques. The was Chinese influence in the construction of the walls to somehow let the air in (hope I got the explanation correct).

We then walked towards the side of the mosque where the the worshipers wash their hands and faces before entering the mosque.

the boys were not able to go inside the temple but were asked to take a peep and observe what was inside which was different from other places of worship they know

doing a brief review of the information shared during the tour of the mosque

After visiting the mosque, we walked towards the next street. There we were brought to another place of worship.

making our way to the next destination along Pagoda St

few words before walking across to the temple next door

Sri Mariaman Temple - Singapore oldest Hindu Temple founded in 1827 
-  with its impressive GOPURAM (entrance tower)

If my memory serves me right, Mr Bernard mentioned that one of the tales why the street was named Pagoda was because the temple's gopuram looked like a pagoda.

Before entering the temple, we removed our shoes. Mr Bernard then rang the bell attached to the main entrance door. He later on explained this is done to let the gods know that people are entering the place of worship.

Taking photos in the temple is not allowed but since we were in the school trip we can do so.

our tour guide educating the boys why this place of worship was different from the previous one we've visited - mainly because this one had several statues of their gods while the mosque didn't have any

One of the boys asked why some of the statues have more than 1 pair of hands. Others asked why one has an elephant head. Mr Bernard answered their questions one by one but not without first asking if anyone from the class knew the explanation.

the boys listening to one of their classmates - Pravin - who was telling them the story of why Ganesha (Elephant-headed deity). I was amused at how much he knew about his religion. He was really confident and knew every detail.


boys walking with their socks on, making their way to the other side of the temple

one of the smaller temples in the compound

our tour guide telling the boys more about the temple and Hinduism

don't forget to ring the bell on the way out of the temple

goodbye for now, Sri Mariaman Temple. It was nice to have visited this national monument

Our next stop showcased a different part of culture. We passed by the Chinatown Food Street - Smith Street.

looking for tables and chairs to rest for a while

boys a bit tired but still need to do worksheets about this street

Mr Bernard shared with us a tale of how the name of this street came about. There was a Hokkien man who was asking "Simi, simi?" The other person didn't understand what it was and thought he said Smith. 

After sharing the story, the boys were then asked to walk around and check the sign boards for as many Chinese food as they can. Then they need to circle the worlds in their worksheets. Some boys didn't need to walk around. They knew what Chinese food was and they were done circling in a minute or less.

Smith street

moving on to the next stop

a Chinese efiggy shop

Mr Bernard walked to the other side of the road to this shop selling stuff for the dead. Then he asked the boys if they knew what the things were. He then asked if someone wanted an iphone, ipad and other gadgets - all available in the shop.

everyone raised their hands when asked if they wanted an ipad!

our tour guide explaining to the boys why people were buying the stuff for their dead relatives

Walking along, we saw this stall (closed during our visit) which our tour guide said was selling sausages. 

another stop in the walking tour was this pastry shop which sells traditional Chinese pastries

Moving on to the next stree - Sago St. The street got its name from the many sago factories in the area in the 1840s. 

Mr Bernard showing the boys what sago looks like. I didn't know there were several sizes of sago.

this building caught my attention

some tourists walking along Sago Street

After walking along Sago Street, seeing lots of pastry shops and other shops selling trinkets, we arrived at the last place of worship in our itinerary.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

boys with their partners, walking in twos towards the temple

Mr Bernard explaining the proper way to enter the temple

last minute instructions from our tour guide

very important not to step on the "threshold" but cross over it upon entering the temple

inside the temple

We got inside, walked towards the back end of the temple and then got out heading towards the hawker centre.

stopping by a Chinese medicine shop

showing the boys what parts of plants are usually used as medicines 

After walking for a couple of hours, the boys were hungry and a bit tired. Then it was time for a snack. We got up to the hawker centre on the second floor for the kids to have their snacks.

Ira happily eating his food

Ira with friend Marcus

After the much-needed break from the hot weather, the boys were again ready to walk around Chinatown.

bathroom break

some shops around Sago Street

time for the kids to complete their worksheets

some boys who were listening during the walking tour got most of the sweets as they were able to remember the information shared by the tour guide. Other were good at guessing :)

boys wondering what the answer was. Think, think, think.

When the boys  were done with their worksheets they were given the chance to walk around and see what the shops had to offer.

the boys were amused by this shop selling magic tricks. Some of them bought the magic wand and magic cards which cost $10 and $5, respectively. 

Ira also wanted to have the wand but I told him it was quite expensive for something that he will probably not like in a few days from now. Good thing he didn't insist on buying one.

Ira and classmate checking out the seals next door.

just right for the hot weather - fans, fans, fans galore! Ira spotted Angry Birds fans and he wanted to buy one. Since it was a cheaper alternative to the magic wand, and it was going to be useful, I bought him one. I had to rush though cause the class was ready to walk back to the bus.

he happily walked back with the class fanning himself :)

It was a fun morning with the kids. We all learned new things about Chinatown. I'm sure they are looking forward for more learning journeys like this.

Kudos to the school for arranging this trip. Thanks to Mr Bernard who provided a very informative and fun tour for the kids, and for us adults. And to Mr Thiru who, as what Mr Bernard said, made this trip happen.

lucky are you boys for having these kinds of learning journeys where you can learn more about the places and culture you grew up with. It's an experience you will definitely carry along with you.

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