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An Interview with M.Y World Preschool: Building a Culture of Recycling and Upcycling


Developing young learners to be creative and environmentally-conscious can sometimes be challenging as these two concepts appear to be in tension.


In this series of #PSMExplores, we speak with educators who bring these two concepts together impeccably and gather some tips which you can use to start your own sustainability journey.


We met up online with Mrs Patricia Nai, Principal of M.Y World @ Leng Kee, to find out more about their sustainability practices and upcycling projects implemented in the school.


QN: Tell us about some of the upcycling projects (be it for work or leisure; projects or learning materials in school) that you have done. Where do you get your inspirations from?


MYW: M.Y World Preschool’s curriculum supports sustainability practices and encourages recycling and upcycling. As much as possible, we weave the use of recyclable materials in our activities, craftwork, learning materials as well as home-school partnership activities with parents. For example, a carton cardboard box is an open-ended material which encourages a lot of creativity and problem-solving skills in children. It can actually bring them hours and hours of tireless fun!


In this series of #PSMExplores, we speak with educators who bring these two concepts together impeccably and gather some tips which you can use to start your own sustainability journey.


We met up online with Mrs Patricia Nai, Principal of M.Y World @ Leng Kee, to find out more about their sustainability practices and upcycling projects implemented in the school.


QN: Tell us about some of the upcycling projects (be it for work or leisure; projects or learning materials in school) that you have done. Where do you get your inspirations from?


MYW: M.Y World Preschool’s curriculum supports sustainability practices and encourages recycling and upcycling. As much as possible, we weave the use of recyclable materials in our activities, craftwork, learning materials as well as home-school partnership activities with parents. For example, a carton cardboard box is an open-ended material which encourages a lot of creativity and problem-solving skills in children. It can actually bring them hours and hours of tireless fun!


Another aspect which relates to recycling and upcycling is our loose parts play. A portion of our loose parts collection includes recyclable materials like cleaned plastic bottles, carton boxes, tin cans, kitchen rolls and toilet rolls. We work towards providing children with more opportunities to engage in natural and creative play through which they interact with familiar and common everyday objects.


Our inspirations stem from our beliefs that children are confident explorers, creative thinkers, curious learners and caring individuals. Aligned with our company’s mission, we collaborate and work closely with parents to nurture character and creativity in children.

QN: How did you or your school get into upcycling?


MYW: It started from the children’s interest, and when we realised that we needed certain resources for specific topics in our curriculum. We decided to involve the children in the decision-making, designing as well as the creation of their own learning materials. Henceforth, each class would do their own theme-related upcycling projects at different points of the year. Some of the past upcycling projects include making their own pet shop using mainly carton boxes, building their own hawker stalls, fire station, airplane cockpit, luggages, passport and even plane tickets! With our teachers’ facilitation, the children made decisions on the design of the things they wanted to build. We strongly believe that in doing so, it gives more meaning and adds value to children’s learning.


This year, we implemented upcycling activities on a centre-wide basis instead of doing it at a class level. It was a month-long project from 25th January to 25th February 2021 titled “Eco Warrior: From Trash to Treasure”. Children brought their own materials which they collected together with their parents. Since it coincided with Chinese New Year, we also took the opportunity to involve parents to think creatively with their children about how they can make use of certain materials to make their Chinese New Year’s craft. For this project, craft activities were done both in school and at home.

QN: How do you go about gathering some of your recyclable materials? Are there any difficulties faced when trying to secure recyclable materials?


MYW: Yes, we encountered some difficulties in getting the materials. We usually reach out to our parents and staff for contributions and give them a specified time frame. The responses are usually great for the first two weeks with children enthusiastically bringing in recyclable materials. However, over time, the responses may dwindle but with reminders, they would continue to bring more materials to the centre.


Our call for items like bread tags and bottle caps would usually be well-received as we managed to collect sufficient amounts of these materials within the given time frame. It becomes more challenging when we call for a particular recyclable material, for example, milk powder canisters. We did not collect enough to create something that we wanted, but we understood that it was hard for parents and staff to collect 2 or 3 milk powder tin cans every week. On top of that, with the Covid-19 situation, we are extra vigilant and selective in the receiving of contributed recyclable items. Other recyclable materials that are harder to source for include cleaned carton boxes, especially the bigger ones which were once used to store large electrical appliances like refrigerator, LED TV Monitor and washing machines.

QN: What are some materials that you are constantly on the lookout for? Is there a GO-TO recyclable material that you see yourself using over and over again? (a very open-ended recyclable material that encourage creative use)


Carton boxes, no matter what the sizes are. Tissue boxes, shoe boxes, bottle caps, bread tags, egg carton, cleaned toilet and kitchen rolls too. These materials give teachers a lot of room for creativity to upcycle and transform them into learning resources for classroom use. For older children, the teacher will ask “What do you think we can do with this?”, “Is there anything we can use in the classroom for your own learning or play?”


QN: Do you think the throw-away society we live in is becoming more aware of saving the environment?


Yes, we see more advocating about the use of less plastics, be it the usage of less single-use plastic bags, metal straws instead of plastic straws, bringing own “dabao” containers to coffee shops and hawker centres, refusal of plastic bags when shopping, etc.


Our older children are also becoming increasingly aware of the harmful environmental impact relating to the overuse of plastics. That is why we hope to create a culture of recycling and upcycling in school to instill in children, from their preschool years, good environmentally friendly habits and practices. We are glad when we see children apply what they have learnt. For example, when one child saw his classmate throwing rubbish, he took his own initiative to go forward and told his friend not to throw rubbish on the ground but into the bin instead.


In one of our sustainability projects, parents were asked to teach their children how to wash their own reusable mask. We also encourage children to use reusable masks instead of disposable masks.

QN: Do you have any tips for people or schools who are starting their sustainability journey?


MYW: Anyone can start; everyone can start and at any time! What you need is knowing the purpose of doing so. There are also plenty of ideas on how to reuse recycled materials or how to upcycle them on the web. There are plenty of things that we can give life to again. Besides, it is definitely more cost-saving when we upcycle recycled materials into teaching and learning resources, and use them for craft.


How to get started?

Join our Kindred Community where we share with you ideas and resources to help you kickstart your journey. If you would like to secure some basic materials like milk tin cans to start your loose parts collection, you may contact us to enquire. All preschools are entitled to basic Kindred Studio SG membership which allows you to get BASIC materials.


And if you are looking for more unique recyclable materials like bread tags and cloth samplers, we have them in our Recyclables Hub as well for our premium members!


Follow us on social media!


Facebook: @kindredstudioSG

Instagram: @kindredstudioSG

Website: kindredstudio.site


If you would like to share with us your preschool’s sustainability journey or other enquiries, please email us at jolyn@preschoolmarket.com.




More about M.Y World Preschool

M.Y World Preschool was appointed by Early Childhood Development Agency as an Anchor Operator in 2014. M.Y World supports families with affordable, accessible and quality infant and child care services. Today, M.Y World’s 44 centres provide more than 4000 preschool places and is one of the fastest growing anchor operators. M.Y World Preschool is a subsidiary of Metropolitan YMCA, which has a proven track record of providing affordable and quality child care service since 1980. At M.Y World, we believe every child deserves a champion. Visit www.myworld.org.sg for more information.


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