Educational approaches around the world are now focusing on STEAM as opposed to the traditional STEM framework. Why is this so? How does STEAM impact our children’s future? And what can you do for your child?

“To prepare our young to seize these opportunities … we have to focus more on applied learning … we have to promote lifelong learning.

– Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

What is STEAM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The initial STEM education pushed for advancements in technology, yet something started to become more apparent. We can have lots of bots, but you can’t code creativity or program imagination. 

It begged the question: What’s the point of having high-tech robots without creative minds that can take ideas further? 

Thus, the integration of Arts into STEM began. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Yakman [1] breaks it down into the STEAM Pyramid (as seen below), which illustrates how imparting content-specific subjects in primary, secondary, tertiary and higher education can lead to holistic, lifelong skills and a great foundation for your child’s aspirations.

The STEAM Pyramid by Yakman (2008)
The STEAM Pyramid by Yakman (2008) breaks down the course of academic content to lifelong learning in STEAM education.

While STEM pushed for using math and science concepts integrated with engineering design to create real-world technologies, the Arts was needed to fill in the gap of essential life skills. This included innovating, creativity, critical thinking, possibility thinking, and much more [2, 3, 4].

Though the term ‘STEAM’ is not widely used in Singapore, it’s clear that the Ministry of Education is also gearing up for STEAM education for our young ones. “This is an investment worth making to nurture innovation and creativity,” the then Minister for Education (Schools), Ng Chee Meng, said. “And importantly, prepare our children for the future.” [5]

STEAM Education for the Future

STEAM was proposed as the perfect harmony of the logical STEM and creative Arts in 2008 [1] as creativity became highly valued in modern education [6]. The blending of subjects enabled children to improve their cognitive and affective skills, while internally motivating them to learn [2]. 

With it came a bonus advantage: teaching the Arts would include hands-on and emotional learning experiences that would interest and internally motivate children in their education [4]. This would engage students in the content and improve their success in STEM subjects as well [3].

Ultimately, the aim of Arts in STEM education is to impart creativity and critical thinking. It is becoming increasingly apparent that this skill is important today. It would also widen their horizons into thinking about the world, empathy, communication and the social sciences [1]. The arts is where things like education, sociology and linguistics fall under, and are also connected to STEM fields.

It’s full STEAM ahead!

Since 2013, Singapore has been integrating STEAM into our education system. Aside from making coding mandatory for students, all primary schools will offer Applied Learning Programmes (ALP) by 2023, which aims to cater to different interests, including STEM, aesthetics, languages, humanities, entrepreneurship and many more [5]. Although not explicitly named STEAM, it is evident that the ALP comprises STEM and Arts (or Aesthetics).

You can view the list of Singapore Secondary Schools that have ALP by clicking here (last updated 20 August 2020).

This provides a new avenue for Direct School Admissions (DSA), with schools like the School of Science and Technology and National Junior College already naming STEAM in their selection criteria. International Schools like the Stamford American School and Canadian International School have also integrated STEAM into their schools. The term STEAM may not be used, but this holistic education is around us.

Speaking about applied learning, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “Our challenge now is to continue creating opportunities for our young to fulfil their aspirations in a future which is going to be very different. An economy which is more sophisticated and diversified, where the growth is going to come from productivity improvements and new products and services, not yet dreamt of or invented.” [7]

“To prepare our young to seize these opportunities,” PM Lee continued, “we have to focus more on applied learning … we have to promote lifelong learning.” [7]

What can you do for your child?

To create a comprehensive foundation for your child’s future, it is essential to integrate creativity through the Arts in a way that naturally fits into STEM [3]. This prepares them for life and the future where STEAM comes together for great things and real-world solutions. 

In the 21st century, using IT is an attractive alternative to learn STEAM contents for a digital generation [2], while also promoting computational and technological literacy [8]. Coding is a great example of integrative STEAM learning, which utilises math and science skills while applying creativity to designs to solve problems. For example, our 7 to 9-year olds learn Scratch, a colourful drag-and-drop programming platform that kickstarts their coding journeys. 

A 2 player Scratch game by Nelle, 9 years old, at our Art x Coding Camp
A 2 player Scratch game by Nelle, 9 years old, at our Art x Coding Camp

Aside from learning the basics of coding in an eye-catching interface, it also imparts many other skills. From brainstorming for their projects to bringing it to fruition, the process includes problem-solving codes, drawing and designing their own games and characters, and self-confidence as they strengthen their abilities. 

One does not have to aspire to be a computer scientist to learn to code.

– Foo Yong Ning, founder of Coding Lab

When parents are involved in the coding process, there are other potential and powerful learning experiences of coding such as providing avenues for bonding and interacting through a shared experience. Coding also calls for active participation and inquiry-based learning [8]. Coupled with hands-on experiences when learning software and programming hardware (such as sensors and microcontrollers), applying what they have learned would also foster understanding and encourage deeper learning of STEAM [3]. 

Find out: Our hands-on classes for 7 to 9-year-olds, 10 to 12-year-olds and 13 to 18-year-olds.

“One does not have to aspire to be a computer scientist to learn to code,” says Foo Yong Ning, the founder of Coding Lab. “Coding provides our students with rich STEAM learning experiences and the space to embark on their own coding projects.

This enables students to take ownership of their own personal projects, learning responsibility and feeling a sense of connection with something that they have invested time and effort in.

Along the way, problems and possibly even failure are bound to be part of the coding journey, but it is these experiences that teach valuable lessons to everyone, and the eventual feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment make the journey feel worth it.”

Ultimately, the feelings of success and personal fulfilment are important to spur our children on to get engaged in STEAM learning and education to build a solid foundation for their future. By learning to code, these experiences nurture future leaders in technology and fully-literate 21st-century citizens.

Kickstart your child’s STEAM-integrated coding journey by clicking here!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

In this exclusive interview with the founders of Coding Lab, Yong Ning Foo and Candice Wang share some insights on how Coding Lab coped with the Covid-19 pandemic and some words of encouragement for the Coding Lab community! 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Coding Lab had to go through several changes, one of it being the transition to 100% online classes throughout the circuit breaker. The strong online learning system that we have built and tested (since 2019) enabled us to continue having fun and enjoyable classes for our students. 

Let’s hear from our dear founders as they shed light on how they managed Coding Lab during these extraordinary times. May we never be deterred from the challenges that lie ahead and keep on persevering to face them head-on! 

Image of Candice

Here’s what Candice had to say!

1. Hi Candice, how has Covid-19 changed things for you? Was it for the better, or for the worse?

Covid-19 is unprecedented and like the rest of the world, we had to adapt to it quickly.

Personally, I appreciate the time I got to spend with my family as well as managing the shift from offline to 100% online classes not only at Coding Lab, but also for my kids’ enrichment lessons. My 7-year-old attended our own online Coding Classes during this period, and was able to figure out how to use the different functions of Zoom. To my surprise, not only could she do that, but she was also able to confidently navigate her school’s Home-Based Learning exercises entirely on her own even though there were close to 8 different portals.

If anything, we shouldn’t underestimate kids.

They are more capable than we think they are. This is evident in the joy my daughter derived from changing her user ID or private messaging her teachers on Zoom and arranging online meet-ups with her friends. It is a lifelong skill that she can now take with her.

2. Everyone has had to work from home due to the circuit breaker. What has been done to maintain a strong company culture?

Communication via video-conferencing was fun and smooth – even across countries – so much so that we even organised our first 100% online Young Coders Global Hackathon together with Coding Lab Japan.

The Coding Lab team were all involved in this one way or another. If you look at the event credits, you will realise that not only the Educators, but also the Marketing, Admin and Enrolment teams all came together to make it happen. The teamwork was truly amazing!

We also organised a couple of group workout sessions so that everybody could stretch their legs and keep fit at home. We even recorded a song and dance together! Sure… we missed our regular lunches and snack time, and birthday celebrations had to be done via Zoom and home deliveries, but hey! It was the new norm and we embraced it wholeheartedly.

The most important thing was that everybody was safe.

3. What is your most valuable takeaway from this experience?

“When life throws you curveballs, we will emerge stronger and be thankful for the small things in life.”

Having the team stay healthy and protected at home while adapting our processes to ensure the safety of everyone involved was critical, and taught us a lot about adapting quickly.

We also found our own special ways to continually engage our students; whether it was via regular WhatsApp chats to follow-up with them or a competition where they could express their ideas on solving Covid-19 related issues, we stayed connected.

Image of Yong Ning

Here’s what Yong Ning shared with us!

1. Hi Yong Ning, how did you handle the challenges faced due to the Covid-19 restrictions?

We have been planning for this for quite some time, since January this year. It also helped that we had run online workshops for the region before, so the process was relatively smooth. 

2. What were the measures that Coding Lab had to take due to Covid-19?

The evolution of our processes started with Hybrid classes where we had a mixture of physical and online students (before circuit breaker), followed by 100% online (during circuit breaker), and now, a mixture again in Phase 2. 

Prior to that, we had invested in video-conferencing platforms, online practising systems, digital writing pads and other tools to make live teaching fun and easier for both our tutors and students.

“We spared no effort to build a strong and solid support system that provided our students with the avenue to give their feedback or review course material as often as they wanted.”

3. What are some of the significant changes that will be done to come back from this better and stronger?

Our online learning system was put to the test when we conducted thousands-strong seminars for the region for the Shopee Code League as well as various workshops with Smart Nation Singapore

We also understand that many parents and students enjoyed the classes very much and have requested for their child to continue their lessons online. We are excited and happy to announce that we will be launching Coding Lab Online (Permanent) classes*.

*for selected modules only

4. What is your most valuable takeaway from this experience?

“Be prepared, plan ahead, and have a strong team to support and execute decisions quickly. “

All of these are critical in ensuring that the experience of our students remains consistent and of a high standard. 

5. Do share with us a few words of advice/final message for the Coding Lab community!

Thank you for your support throughout this period. It means a lot to all of us. We hope you will enjoy using the materials and systems we have built and we look forward to welcoming you back, be it online or physically. Thank you!

(Written by Zulaikha)

Fun Techtivities for Post-Circuit Breaker

This time, we bring to you a mix of online and physical activities for post-Circuit Breaker. Just make sure your groups are a maximum of five people and don’t forget your mask!

Jewel Changi Airport attractions

Singapore’s sparkling Jewel Changi Airport is giving 55% off Canopy Park attractions tickets in the month of August. Celebrate National Day with this offer that only lasts for the month of August!

Before 10 August, you can get UNLIMITED access to the attractions for THREE MONTHS when you purchase specific bundles.

*Terms & Conditions here.

Photo of Jewel Changi's Canopy Park Attraction

Jewel Changi Airport
Price: From $3.60
To access it, click here.

Singaporean Shows on Netflix Singapore

Missed Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd (1997-2007), The Little Nyonya (2009) or Ah Boys to Men (2012-2013)? You can finally binge these classic Singaporean shows on the streaming platform, Netflix. It even includes films like Ilo Ilo (2013), the first Singaporean feature film to win at the Cannes Film Festival.

As the episode counts down to the next and you get shows recommended to you, have a think about how Netflix made these mechanics possible. Challenge your children to think about algorithms and programming in a new light as trailers autoplay too!

Photo for Netflix Singapore

Price: From $11.98/month or 30-day free trial
To access it, click here.

September Holiday coding camps

Let your child make stories and games from their wildest imaginations after learning drag-and-drop programming platforms Scratch and App Inventor, or the text-based Python. We’ve even infused Physics and Math in our coding classes for our budding computer scientists to make more life-like games and programs like Spin the Wheel and Fidget Spinners!

With the Choice of Online or Physical classes – easily find the best fit for your child’s schedule.

September Holiday Camps 2020

7 – 11 September
Online, Parkway Parade or King Albert Park (Bukit Timah)
For Ages 7-18

To sign up and for more details, click here.

Go forth into the Post-Circuit Breaker world for the long weekends and our nation’s birthday month! Don’t forget to #maskup and together, #SGUnited.

If you haven’t seen our previous techtivity recommendations, check out free Cirque du Soleil shows, the Musical Time Machine, Top 10 Shows/Cartoons to Teach Children About STEM and other August techtivities here!

(Written by Cheryl Tang)

Sarah will be starting her first year as a Computer Engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) – which is ranked #18 globally for computer science subjects – on a 4-year scholarship! Read on to find out how she managed to achieve this incredible feat. 

Image of Sarah Go

From our previous interview with Sarah Go in 2018, we got to know about how she clinched the Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) within just less than six months of learning how to code! Fuelled by her passion for coding, Sarah spent her winter holidays as a student tutor volunteer at Coding Lab to inspire the next generation of coders.

Q: Hey Sarah, it’s been a while since our last interview with you. Congratulations on getting a scholarship to UT Austin! What were your feelings when you first got to know about the scholarship?

Sarah: I was definitely very happy! Initially, I wasn’t expecting a scholarship because I was applying as an out-of-state student to UT’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. 90% of spots are reserved for in-state students, and UT’s ECE program is considered prestigious in the US. So even admission is very competitive – not to mention a scholarship! – and this knowledge makes me feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to my school as well. 

Q: What did you do to ensure that you stood out from the rest of the other applicants?

Sarah: There were many other qualified applicants, and even the admissions committee can’t specify what ensures an applicant will receive a scholarship.

I didn’t have to go for any interviews or submit any additional materials as I was automatically considered for a scholarship with my application to UT. I can say that I put a lot of effort into maintaining a good academic record and producing quality work in school, especially in my research projects.

And outside of school, my extracurricular activities – particularly my experience in Coding Lab, which I wrote about in my college essays, certainly contributed as well. 

Image of Sarah Go and student
Sarah as a student tutor volunteer explaining a concept to her student.

Q: What were the Coding Lab classes that you took and how have they brought you to where you are now?

Sarah: I took the Python Meets Mathematics course and honestly if I didn’t take that course I wouldn’t even have chosen ECE as my major! I went into Coding Lab as a total coding newbie and honestly was feeling quite ambivalent towards coding when I went to my first lesson.

I found the course material accessible and easy to understand, and I got to use the programming knowledge I learned in fun mathematical applications right from the start.

At the end of my first lesson, after just a couple of hours, I was so enthralled with coding that both my parents and I were surprised! But beyond the course material, what truly sparked my interest in coding was my teacher Mr. Yong. He’s an incredibly dedicated teacher, and his guidance and enthusiasm towards coding not only made me look forward to every lesson but, three years later, has ultimately motivated me to go into computing in college and maybe even as a career. 

Image of Sarah Go and her class
Sarah and her bright students!

Q: How do you plan on making the most out of your time, now that things have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Sarah: Well, like many other students around the world, I am pretty much stuck at home this summer due to Covid-19. Fortunately, there are so many readily available resources be it educational and recreational on the internet that I have hardly been bored! I’m reading ebook versions of classics that have always been on my reading list, and have also been self-studying Chinese. I have also stuck to my goal of learning at least one new computing-related thing every day, which has definitely helped keep me busy and productive. Today, for example, while doing some problems I encountered a neat algorithm called the Boyer-Moore Majority Vote Algorithm. While reading about the algorithm, I learned that it was a UT professor that co-invented it, which is super cool!

Q: What are you looking forward to the most when you start university?

Sarah: I really look forward to meeting other students at UT; not only ECE students who share the same interest in computers as me, but also other students in different majors, all of whom have very diverse cultures and backgrounds. I also look forward to meeting professors at UT, who have done amazing work in their fields! As for my classes, I’m quite excited about learning more about the hardware aspects of computing, because I’ve really immersed myself in programming these few years. I believe these aspects of my university experience will be a real eye-opener for me. 

Q: Any words of advice for budding programmers out there?

Sarah: My first advice to budding programmers is, honestly, to keep coding! That may sound kind of silly, but coding is one of those things where the best way to learn is by doing, or in this case, programming. Every time you learn something new, grab some problems or projects off the internet – or maybe think up something yourself – and create a program to try it out! I also think it’s good to keep challenging yourself. Sometimes, easy programming problems can be tempting, but you learn the most from hard problems – problems that seem complex and maybe even beyond your abilities.

By continually pushing your boundaries, you’ll expand your knowledge and eventually problems that you once found difficult will become doable.

And also – it’s completely fine to encounter difficulties and spend hours debugging a program. Just keep in mind that coding is a lifelong journey, and like a rollercoaster ride, while there may be ups and downs, it’s a lot of fun as well! 

(Writen by Zulaikha)