A child’s earliest years lay the crucial building blocks for their future development. Hence, the importance of quality academic beginnings — something The Alice Smith School specialises in with pride. From the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, they provide a strong base for lifelong learning, developing them in mind and in their personalities. Giggles and cheers fill the air throughout the day thanks to an emphasis on exploration through play. However, academic development never takes a backseat.
At the school’s innovatively designed Early Years Campus, children between the ages of three and seven can be found developing a love for reading, learning new languages amidst a multinational student body, building detailed islands out of Legos, dancing to their favourite songs, or squeezing lemons for both physical strength and nourishment. Every educational activity is set in place with a purpose and every day calls for a new sense of accomplishment.
“Children within our Early Years are offered a broad range of learning opportunities through play alongside direct teacher instruction for areas such as reading, phonics, writing and maths.”
confirms Primary Principal, Alan McCarthy
The week starts with 30 minutes of exposure to nature for young learners. Garden Day entails teaching them to add to their earth’s lustre by gardening. Smiles are wide as children sow and water plants before painting pots with vibrant colours. Responsibility plays a massive role in the school’s outdoor environment, meaning children are free to make messes as long as they are willing to tidy up after themselves.
“One of my favourite places is the garden because children's imagination, creativity and speed are absolutely extraordinary and very inspirational to observe and interact with,” says Mr. McCarthy.
Close by, others can be found building or overcoming obstacle courses, painting on canvases or riding tricycles to their next area of enrichment. Everyday experienced British teachers and teaching assistants provide a range of different activities for the children to choose from. The staff know the children well and personalise the activities to meet their interests and learning goals to ensure maximum engagement and fun.
On Tuesdays, the children start the day with a choice of activities. Their free flow play-based approach means the children can choose activities indoors or outdoors depending on how they feel and can also visit the other classes to engage with their activities and other Reception children.
In Mrs. Lea-Ann Robinson’s class they are experimenting with ice. Here, curious children are working out how fast it melts and asking questions such as ‘If I put it in warm water will it melt faster?’ This year the class is fascinated by science so there’s been lots of experiments to do. Each fun activity is carefully planned by the teacher to help the children master a range of skills, such as counting and measuring, developing their vocabulary and improving their fine and gross motor control -- all essential skills for success as they progress through school.
“When a child plays they have no fixed agendas, no preconceived objectives that they are trying to cover, and therefore there are no limitations to what they can achieve,” says Mrs. Robinson, Reception Leader.
It’s time for PE and the children head off to their large multi-purpose gym for a lesson with the specialist PE team. The PE team designs its sessions around helping children build the foundations for happy, healthy and active lives. Each lesson focuses on the three areas of physical development: locomotion, stability and manipulation. When it’s so much fun why would anyone not want to exercise? Whether they are crawling through tunnels, racing on scooters or playing “Hungry Hippos” the children hugely enjoy PE!
The children eat their lunch outside before heading to the library for their weekly session with their specialist librarian teacher. Through these lessons, they develop a love for the written word by engaging with a range of books. When reading, they are encouraged to repeat words, anticipate rhymes, make physical gestures, and use their voices. Every Reception child is inspired to take home a couple of books a week to foster a love of reading.
On Thursdays, the day starts with Modern Foreign Language (MFL) sessions geared at developing multilingual children. Every child learns Malay in Reception before branching out in Year 1 when they can choose to take Mandarin or French lessons.
After some free play time and a filling lunch, the children hit the pool. Swimming is big in the Early Years Campus where every child swims every week — the activity is seen as a vessel to foster an enjoyment of, and comfort in, the water. Sessions are small and extremely safe — a dedicated team of specialist instructors ensures this. From the splashes and excited cries, the children certainly sound to be having a wonderful time.
It’s been a busy week but we’re not over yet. On Fridays, the children get their second PE session of the week and head back off to the gym for more jumping, hopping and skipping. Then it’s time for a snack before heading back out into the garden. Some of the children choose to build a giant obstacle course -- planning, building and playing on it. Others enjoy painting, playing in the sand or building blocks.
After a healthy snack outdoors, the class heads off to their music and movement class. Led by a specialist music teacher, these sessions encourage children to learn the art of leveraging their voices, experimenting with percussion instruments, responding to music with their bodies and creating music of their own. At the same time, they develop key listening skills that will serve them well in the future.
At the end of the day, the children wish each other and their teachers a pleasant weekend and are already looking forward to coming back on Monday for more fun.
“When we toured the campus for the first time, it was great to see the different tools and materials the children were using in the classroom. It just looked like a really fun learning environment and most importantly, the children looked so happy and extremely comfortable”.
At Alice Smith School, every young learner takes their next academic step with confidence. The campus they call their second home was designed with this in mind.
Transitioning to Year 1 has never been easier thanks to the fact that an Early Years educator is always around the Primary Campus to ensure their former students are settling in in the best ways possible. The school considers it a “natural extension” of the Early Years Campus.
“Over the years, we have learned to make the process more gradual to ensure our young students not only remain happy, but that their levels of engagement remain high as well. It’s the best transition I’ve seen after experiencing various approaches used in academia in the last 30 years.”
Primary Principal, Alan McCarthy