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“The Curriculum is just the Guide” – Behind the Scenes with the Saturday Kids Product Team

January 19, 2022

#Classroom #Pedagogy Coding for KidsLearning to LearnMeet the Team

As one of (now) many coding schools for kids in both Singapore and Tokyo, it can be kind of hard to explain that our aim is not to equip kids to grow up to be well-paid software engineers, but to inspire them create a better future with technology. And that means placing the child – not the curriculum – at the center of learning. Curiosity is the fuel, and joy is the outcome.

Find out what that means in this conversation with Fong Yee and Damar from the Saturday Kids Product team, and stay for a sneak peek at what’s comin’ up in 2022!

Hey big kids! Could you introduce yourselves and share how you work together to create products as Saturday Kids?

Fong Yee (FY):

“In terms of curriculum, I usually manage the camps for preschoolers and for kids ages 7-10. Damar, being more technical, runs Minecraft camps and the camps for kids ages 11-14.

But our strengths are very different!”

Damar (D):

“I’m more restrained than the average person and carefully think out options before acting on them.

Fongyee complements me by being more of a freethinker who comes up with great ideas and thinking outside the box. I keep her on the ground if she thinks of something that is not very feasible.

FY:

“That’s quite true! Damar is very systematic and reminds me to think through of all the factors for consideration.

Our skills are so different.

It sounds cheesy, but we both share the spirit of Saturday Kids.

Could you unpack that? What is the spirit of Saturday Kids?

D:

“To me, a Saturday Kid is someone who likes to ask questions. Remember how as a kid you’d keep asking “why”? Unfortunately, a lot of us lose that quality as we grow up. 

The spirit of Saturday Kids is to embrace and connect with kids’ curiosity.”

FY:

“Apart from curiosity, it’s also about adaptability.

We’re always on the lookout for that in instructors. But they don’t just have to be curious and technical; they have to be adaptable and really internalise the idea that we are not a coding school.

The tools that we teach kids to use are tools to exercise their imagination.
Of course instructors are there to teach the class, but it’s so important that they’re not bogged down by the technicalities of this. The curriculum is just a guide.

As an instructor you’re going to meet so many kinds of students – students who’ll finish everything, who’ll finish 80% of things. What students present on the last day of class is not the end goal at all.

An instructor’s goal is that a child’s first experience with learning how to code should not be a traumatic one. It’s not about coding, it’s about cultivating their mindset towards learning.

We’ve all had that experience of growing to hate math or playing the piano because of a teacher who taught us to internalise that we’re not good at it; that I can’t do it because I’m just not a math person or that I’m just bad at art.

It sounds like an exaggeration, but that initial experience potentially really changes your life. 

I always tell instructors, not completing the curriculum is not an indicator of how good an instructor you are; your job is to match your students’ pace.”

What inspired these convictions about how kids should or should not learn?

FY:

“It stems from personal experience, and recognising both that it take so much to unlearn harmful mindsets and that it’s possible for kids not to go through that at all. 

That’s why we’re passionate about creating a better environment for kids’ learning, so they don’t have to grow up having to unlearn all these learning traumas that come with being constantly judged and assessed.”

D:

“I can definitely relate to some of the kids I teach. There were times in my childhood when I felt a little suppressed and didn’t always get to express myself in the ways I wanted.

As an instructor, maybe I can help other kids to express themselves, to have fun while learning, and have fun doing things that they like.

Coding is just a tool, right? It’s a relevant tool that helps kids learn how to learn, logical thinking, how to decompose problems and how to solve them, in addition to technical skills.”

What can we look forward to from Saturday Kids in 2022?

D:

“Better products from us…  improvements everywhere! As a curiosity school, I think it’s important for us to go beyond developing kids’ technical competencies and to equip kids with other skills like public speaking and design thinking.

I’m excited about the launch of Meta Tinkerers – I can’t wait to see what kids will create using Viviware.

I’m also really looking forward to launching Ready, Set, Python! It should be lots of fun – we’re trying a lot of new things – from computer vision, data science, to artificial intelligence using Python programming. Kids can learn how to use these as tools to create in the future. This new programme’s not just about learning how to code, but also discovering how the world uses Python.”

Kids are innately curious, but as we grow up it can be hard to protect and nourish our curiosity. How do you stay curious as adults?

FY:

“Spending time with kids helps! Working at Saturday Kids really keeps me young – being with kids is very grounding. Kids are the most original thinkers.

Even as much of my time is spent designing new camps and curriculum, teaching regularly helps me stay in touch with my inner child.”

D:

“I have to agree with Fongyee on that! I feel very thankful and blessed to be able to do this as a job – to interact with kids who come up with these wonderful ideas and who have all this imagination.” 

Read more from Fong Yee and Damar, and get to know the rest of the big kids. If our approach to learning resonates, we’d love to hear from you – come experience why #SaturdayKidshavemorefun online or in person or say hello.

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