“Project work provides children with ample opportunity for real discussion, decision-making, choices, cooperation, initiative, joint efforts, negotiation, compromise and evaluation of the outcomes of their own efforts. In this way, children’s self-esteem can be based on their contributions to the group and to the quality of the group’s efforts and its results.”
We started talking about a new Project on Hands upon arriving back in school the first week of January 2006. The children who had just been newly admitted into the Bright Starts III level needed more guidance from their teacher(s) on how to frame, formulate and communicate their thoughts and ideas. With time and encouragement however, each of the classes managed to share prior experiences and current knowledge of the topic, and a topic-web (outlining plans, activities, questions and fieldwork ideas) was designed.
Following the development of the topic-web, we launched straight into a number of interesting investigations to find out more about our Hands. For instance, we looked at our hands through magnifying glasses, and studied the lines, markings and features found on them.
We sang finger-play songs and rhymes, read books about Hands, and talked about the different things that our hands can do: movements such as squeezing, holding, twisting, pointing, clapping, and so on. The children in Head Starts also learnt to use, in appropriate ways, new language/ vocabulary items (idioms, specifically) associated with Hands, such as “give a big hand” and “getting out of hand”. A few weeks later, they also learnt to be creative, to (i) bake cookies in the shape of Hands, and (ii) experiment making animal-shapes from the shadows thrown by their hands in front of a light-source.
All of us however, managed to compare the use of our hands and feet in different sorts of activities. For instance, we built with blocks, drew pictures, played Catch! with balls of various shapes (to determine which were the easiest to grasp) and threaded beads with our hands. Afterwards, we tried to do the same with our feet. In this, one child managed to put some big blocks together and a few others felt that their foot drawings were not too bad, but threading was impossible. Through this importantly, we learnt about our prehensile abilities, which make our hands so helpful.
Representations & Displays
The older Head Starts groups made passports, each with its own finger-print identifying the bearer, and learning, in the process, that one’s thumb-print is unique and can be used as a verification feature.
We made hand-puppets and talked about the different ways that we use our hands inside the different puppets. A few days later, each of us presented our puppet(s) to the rest of the class behind a puppet screen, an activity that encouraged us to be as confident and expressive as possible.
In fact, Head Starts presented a more extensive puppet-show on “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears,” an endeavour where each child had to play a different role in the show, and where all of us learnt how important teamwork really is.
For a culminating display, Head Starts also practiced using a scissors and other kinds of tools to create hand-shaped cutouts for different types of sea-creatures. With these, they made a large “Underwater World” picture sprinkled with sand and covered over with all kinds of other resource materials for a tremendously artistic effect!
We visited the Sage & Sole Salon at Tudor Court to meet Manicurist Cheryl. She was so nice. We learnt how important it is to keep our nails and hands clean, and all of us loved the sweet-smelling scent of the nail-cream that she smeared on our fingers to keep the skin around our nails “soft and cuticle-free”. Many of us tried a nail-brush and a nail-file for the first time, and some of us also got a free fingernail trim! We would like to say a big “thank you” to Cheryl and the Sage & Sole Salon for allowing us to visit them. A big “thank you” too for a very deserving Mrs Elaine Ong, mother of Ian Ong, for putting us in touch with the proprietor!
After this visit, we talked about the germs that we cannot see. We engaged in a mini-experiment where we put glitter on the teachers’ hands and then played some ball-games. This invariably spread the glitter “germs” to everyone’s hands. Later, we needed Resource Teacher Lini, an ex-nurse, to show us how nurses clean their hands thoroughly in a clinical setting.
We were fortunate to host a sign-language interpreter and a deaf person from the Singapore Association for the Deaf. Ms Claudine Chan and Jimmy showed us how to produce key hand-signs for words such as “play”, “eat,” and “drink”. We learnt signs for animal-names, and also how to “sing” with our hands (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and If You’re Happy…) after which we competed in two groups to see which class could remember and produce the sign Ms Chan asked for in the shortest time possible.
Two research assistants of Associate Professor James Hui, an orthopaedic consultant from the National University Hospital, also visited us two days later. Previous to their visit, we had already been fortunate enough to be able to examine an x-ray of a hand and then to try to feel our bones and the many joints where our fingers can bend. During their visit, we were able to observe and to feel skeletal parts of our Hands and Legs in a more in-depth manner. The research assistants also encouraged us to draw either the skeletal portion of a Hand-Arm or Foot-Leg for our reference in the future. We would like to end by saying “thank you” to Professor Hui and his research assistants for making the effort to visit us at Wee Care, as well as Mrs Low Li-Lin, Jerina Low’s mother, for putting us in touch with the busy professor!
In all, the Project on Hands turned out to be a very exciting and informative endeavour. All of us, teachers and children alike, learnt a lot through this Project, and we really look forward to more Projects of the same value in the months to come!