In the spirit of community-led change, our learning programmes have been moving toward self-organised and self-directed learning. Peer Learning Circles are study groups supported by a circle of volunteers who do not teach but provide academic resources and learning guidance. The initiative is also constantly on the lookout for neighbours who offer the hospitality of their homes for the learning to take place. We envision Peer Learning Circles as an initiative that provides an opportunity for families, neighbours, and others in the locality where the students live, to play a part in encouraging their efforts to learn.
Currently, most of these study groups meet at the premises of their Residents’ Committee and other government grassroots facilities. This arrangement strengthens a sense of inclusion and belonging among the students and so far, it has served those in secondary school better. Younger children without strong fundamentals in English or math find the format challenging and are difficult to engage.
So how do we provide structured guidance and support to these students while honouring the spirit of self-directed learning? How do we encourage students with varying grasp of the fundaments to work together and to coach each other? Importantly, how do we create a fun and engaging experience where they will eventually want to be take control of? The answer – Board Games.
Our volunteers collected all the board games available and categorised them according to the possible skills players could acquire and their level of difficulty. These games encouraged motor skills, social mores, thinking, emotional awareness, appropriateness of competitive or collaborative behaviours and general knowledge as well as that of current affairs.
A 9-year-old tried out Timeline where players determine the occurrence of historical event, invention, or discovery and to her surprise, she beat the volunteers in the game to emerge the winner. While she obviously enjoyed the winning feeling, what was heartening was her comment, “I want to play this again next time so I can learn more.” She made the link that general knowledge paid off and learning could be fun.
At another table, a 7 year-old briefed a group of 10-year-olds on the rules of Sushi-Go! It was a simple “draft and pass” card game but the confident way this child taught children older than him assured us that this was a Peer Learning Circle. When children take charge and enjoy some success in doing so, they will be more likely to want to learn how to take on bigger roles. The Board games have provided a scaffold to develop their ability to learn.
For peace and community,
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb