In collaboration with Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong
Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong (MCPS) is an international pre-school for children from two to five years old. The school offers an Educationally Harnessed Play Programme based on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, engaging children through both structured and free play and emphasising their inquisitive nature through hands-on activities. Following the successful launch of the Coronation Circle campus in West Kowloon in August 2017, the school opened a second campus in Sai Ying Pun (Island West) in August 2019. Both campus designs are inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, making the environment the third teacher.
Forest-Beach School Programme
The pre-school is one of Hong Kong’s first to operate a Forest-Beach-School Programme, managed by Level 3 certified Forest School leaders and built on a philosophy of child-led learning, with a focus on all five senses. Classes are adult-accompanied and run every two weeks, with pre-arranged bus transportation from campus to the learning site and back. The programme runs in all weather conditions. There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!
Sessions take place in a natural woodland and beach area: the outdoors become the children’s classroom, and lessons are designed around a theme typically linked to the curriculum. The learning objectives connect strongly with all learning areas of the EYFS curriculum. This is particularly true for “Understanding the World” with its scientific and ecological learning goals, and for “Expressive Arts and Design” as children explore and use different media and materials while being imaginative.
Whether in the classroom or outdoors: MCPS promotes child-centric learning experiences and lets children take command of their own learning. Teachers provide support and facilitate the child’s learning, but the children determine the direction of their learning following their natural curiosities, interests and passions. Forest-Beach School is a wonderful way for children to develop physical and social skills while being outdoors, playing and exploring. Teamwork, intra- and interpersonal skills are developed through games and group activities such as hide-and-seek or scavenger hunts. Also, self-esteem, individual practical and intellectual skills are enhanced through supervised activities like shelter building, tool handling or lighting fires.
The MCPS team recognises the importance of outdoor education and regular access to fresh air, and the positive impact that has on children’s wellbeing, self-regulation and academic progress. Therefore, outdoor learning is not restricted to Forest-Beach School. In the opposite week to Forest-Beach School, the children who attend Coronation Circle campus visit a nearby park for Discovery Time. The park features a lovely green grassy area, flowers, butterflies and birds and of course a playground. Pupils from Island West campus use the WE Park on the waterfront, a pirate ship playground on Pier 1 and a grass area on Pier 3 where they play games, do drawings or observe the environment.
MCPS firmly believes in the use of educational technology to support teaching and learning. All class pods are equipped with interactive whiteboards – invaluable tools to deliver fun and engaging content during “Circle Time”. Pupils love to watch educational videos pertaining to science or social studies, and to engage in interactive maths or literacy games.
In the new EYFS curriculum, technology is embedded in all areas of learning, and the pre-school uses a variety of tools to introduce their pupils to scientific concepts: Beebots, for example, are programmable, colourful toys introduced to children at an early age – they are great fun but also lay the foundation of coding, control and directional language. Children use digital microscopes to look at bugs or investigate leaves or flowers. They also develop early STEM skills: in pre-nursery for example, they use “squishy circuits” to bring their own playdough creations to life with LED eyes, antennas or sound effects. In K1 and K2, they make more sophisticated circuits with alarm systems, light switches or propellers. Also, the pre-school’s extra-curricular activities programme includes STEM and science workshops for children from 2.5-5 years old.
The educators at MCPS help the children research something they are interested in which leads to deeper levels of engagement and foster important 21st century skills alongside the technology through a series of extra-curricular activities programmes such as STEM and science workshops, including communication, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, design, and creativity.
Entrepreneurship is one of Malvern’s centres of excellence and the concept is already embraced by the youngest Malvernians in pre-school. It starts simple. For example, each class is named after an endangered animal, and on dress-up days children are encouraged to bring a coin for the WWF collection box. Once it is full, the WWF comes to the campus to collect it and the children get involved in handling the money over. They hear how the money will be used and how it benefits the animals.
Another example is Box of Hope: MCPS always likes being in this as it is children helping children. Families are encouraged to talk at home about donating toys or resources the children no longer play with that are still in good condition. Those are important conversations to have with children – about the importance of giving, and about how not all children in Hong Kong and Asia are as fortunate as others.
The pre-school uses Harvard Project Zero’s Visible Thinking routines that really help foster entrepreneurship, innovation and design thinking from a young age. The teachers might hold up a provocation poster to the children asking, “What do you see, what do you think and what do you wonder?” These open-ended questions draw out prior knowledge, language and understanding, allowing the children to take the lead with their learning, with the teachers as facilitators. In fact, inquiry-based learning is an important part of the EYFS curriculum, and it acts as a perfect segue for Malvern College Hong Kong, which is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school.
Forest-Beach School is about appreciating Hong Kong’s natural environment, taking care of the environment and teaching the children the importance of nature and ecosystems. The educators talk to the pupils about protecting the environment, like leaving shells on the beach and avoiding doing damage to growing things. The school also permeates the issue of single-use plastic and tries to deter the Malvern community from using them. Children are asked to consider alternatives to single-use plastic and they are encouraged to recycle by sorting waste into different materials. The teachers also model these conversations in front of parents, grandparents and aunties. This scaffolds the understanding of the concept for everyone.
The pre-school brings the idea of sustainability back into the classroom as well. Teachers and children upcycle and reuse waste to make wands, helmets, shields – whatever the children want for their role play. Sustainability also resonates in the Reggio Emilia-inspired campus environment: the natural colour scheme and use of lots of woods, plants and other natural materials has a calming effect on children. It is a more natural approach in general, creating a healthy environment indoors and outside.
MCPS seeks to build a diverse, internationally minded pupil population, the admissions team accepts applications on a rolling basis and up to one year in advance of the desired entry year. The application process breaks down into three steps: first, parents have to complete the online application form and upload all supporting documents. Secondly, parents are asked to settle the application fee. Finally, the family is invited to attend an interactive experience (observation) session where teachers engage the child in some games and fine motor skills activities while the parents meet the pre-school’s academic and leadership team. The purpose of the interactive experience session is to assess the family’s ability to support the child in engaging with an English-medium curriculum, the parents’ alignment with Malvern’s educational philosophy and values, and the child’s social and emotional skills in line with the developmental age, school readiness, interests and physical skills.
Priority for assessment is based on the following criteria:
- Pupils who have attended Malvern Playgroup for a minimum of one academic year
- Siblings of Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong or Malvern College Hong Kong pupils
(minimum attendance: one academic year);
- Children of Old Malvernians (alumni);
- Children who bring diversity in terms of nationality, ethnicity, religion, age and gender. All applicants must meet the school’s entry requirements, irrespective of priority status. Malvern will become an all-through school from 2023-24. All pupils graduating from MCPS will be guaranteed a place in Prep 1 at Malvern College Hong Kong, if they are suitable for a mainstream, English-medium education. Eligible are pupils who have attended MCPS for a minimum of two full academic years prior to entering Prep 1 at MCHK. In addition, pupils must meet age-related learning expectations as outlined in the EYFS curriculum, particularly in the context of personal, social-emotional and physical development as well as communication and language. A separate observation session and interview at MCHK is not required.
Meet Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong
Image Credits: Malvern College Pre-School Hong Kong