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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Merlion - A National Day Walk in the Lion City

How do you teach a young child the meaning of "National Day"? How do you even begin to help them understand the concept of what makes a "nation" in the first place? Even concepts like "country", "history" and "culture" are alien to the mind of a 4-year-old. How then do we begin the mammoth task of helping our children develop a sense of national consciousness that eventually translates to some semblance of national belonging and identity?

As an educator, I've developed a technique of helping children learn by using tangible concepts they can identify with. We then take things one step further by introducing new elements, reinforcing these concepts through various pedagogical tools. 

To help 4-year-old Z learn about Singapore's National Day, we decided to teach him about one of the country's national icons - the Merlion. While the origins of this national symbol is shrouded in legend, at least it incorporates a tangible element that our son can identify with - the lion. We began the day with the screening of this delightful video:

"The great man Sang Nila Utama first saw a lion many many years ago," we told our son. "That's why we live in a place called "Singapore", which means Lion City." We then tell him that while there is really no such thing as a "Merlion", however many people in Singapore used to go fishing, and that's why the Merlion is a lion with a fish tail. For a child who knows the position of Singapore on the world map, I suppose this information is sufficient at this point in time.

Of course nothing helps a child learn better than a visit to the actual instruction site, and we had a delightful morning walking from the Esplanade to the Merlion Park.
Celebrating Singapore's 49th National Day.
Apa Khabar, Bang?
Morning picnic by the bay
Brothers at play.
Z reflects about the future of Singapore .
We truly wonder what Singapore would be like when the boys grow up.
A moment of laughter.
The iconic Merlion - half lion, half fish.
If we could see through the Merlion's eyes, what would we see about Singapore's past, present and future?
Drinking in the view.
Happy to be there!
Merlion mist.
Singapore is just one year shy of its 50th Birthday. When this time comes round again in 2015, what new stories will we be sharing with our children? Hopefully it will be one of reminiscence and hope, one that not only presents an account of the country's past, but also expresses strong wishes for the future.

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