Category Archives for Critical Thinking Resource

The Worst House Guests

The WORST House Guests!

Houseflies. They are everywhere and anywhere.

Believed to be native to Asia, houseflies now inhabit nearly every corner of the globe. Except for Antarctica and a few islands, houseflies live everywhere people do. Houseflies are synanthropic organisms: they benefit ecologically from their association with humans and domesticated animals. Conversely, houseflies are rarely found in the wilderness or in places where humans are absent. Should humankind cease to exist, houseflies might share our fate.

They procreate anywhere too, as and when they wish, laying their eggs even in feces. Their rate of reproduction is so fast that, if not for environmental conditions and predation, houseflies would perhaps rule the world.

Houseflies breed in the things we revile - garbage, animal dung, sewage, human excrement, and other nasty substances. While living among these filth, they feed on them too. With sponge-like mouth-parts, houseflies soak up liquefied substances. When a housefly locates something tasty but solid, it regurgitates onto the food. Its vomit contains digestive enzymes that quickly predigest and liquefy the food for the fly suck it all up.

Other than its gross vomits, houseflies poop a lot too. Nearly every time a housefly lands, it defecates. So, the housefly almost always does poop where it eats. Keep that in mind next time when one touches down on your favourite meal...


Something to ponder

1. How do houseflies decide something is appetising? 

2. How do houseflies transmit diseases?


Here's how

They step on it! Like butterflies, houseflies have their taste buds on their toes, so to speak. Taste receptors, called chemosensilla, are located at the far ends of the fly's tibia and tarsa (in simpler terms, the lower leg and foot). The moment they land on something of interest – your garbage, a pile of horse manure, or perhaps your lunch – they start sampling its flavour by walking around.

Houseflies thrive in places that are teeming with pathogens, hence they have a bad habit of carrying disease-causing agents with them from place to place. A housefly will land on a pile of dog poop, inspect it thoroughly with its feet, and then fly over to your picnic table and walk around on your hamburger bun for a bit. Their food and breeding sites are already overflowing with bacteria, and then they vomit and defecate on them to add to the mess. Houseflies are known to transmit at least 65 diseases and infections, including cholera, dysentery, giardiasis, typhoid, leprosy, conjunctivitis, salmonella, and many more.

Spotlight on MOE’s ‘No-Streaming’ by 2024

IN REVIEW: We weigh in on MOE’s plan for ‘No Streaming by 2024‘

Major reforms to Singapore's education system were announced in parliament recently, most notably the abolishment of streaming by 2024, towards a system of Subject-based Banding (SBB). What will this mean for parents and students?

From the commentary that we have sampled, a most significant drawback of streaming is how it unwittingly punishes academically weaker students through labelling and stigmatisation. The new system of SBB will blunt this negative effect but not eradicate it, because while streaming is now less overt, it is but masked under the subject classifications G1-3.

We expect it will be quite challenging for schools to deliver on this new policy: there are time-table issues, and teachers having to juggle multiple levels within the same class, to say the least. Administrative and logistical issues can disrupt lesson delivery and the learning process in the classroom, because every system operates within limits that are made even more acute by the burdens it must bear. 

There is an upside to this, though: mixing up of students of different bands, if managed properly, can be very conducive for learning. In perforating that cultural and social divide between 'weaker' and 'stronger' students, weaker students are motivated to do better when they see that the stronger students are human just like them; stronger students are pushed to excel lest they rest on their laurels. For both groups, their horizons are broadened. Anxious parents might feel more assured if their children have a one-track mind and focus on academic excellence -- but life is a long race, and its challenges, multi-faceted. In a well-managed multi-band classroom, students could pick up a more holistic spread of personal and social skills that will serve them well in life.

Moreover, unlike streaming which is very much fixed, SBB seems to offer flexibility – chances for mobility within the subject bands means that a student's education pathway is now less determined by the system than his or her own choices and commitment. For late bloomers, and those who desire to do better, they will have more chances to make good.

That said, the core of education and learning has not changed. In whatever way the education system is tweaked, the fundamental truth remains that learning happens and is determined at the level of the individual. For instance, the system may label a student – this is an operational matter. It is up to the student to not let the label define him and get in the way of what he must do: to be educated. 

At Creative Campus, we focus on building the individual. The education system is not tailored to the individual, teachers at school may be over-burdened, and even good schools can be 'bad' as the case may be; but the student with the motivation and skills to learn, can prevail over these factors, and do all right. We teach English only – language is the conduit of thought, and through our programme, children learn to be curious, to imagine, analyse and express themselves with clarity and perspective. Regardless of the stream or band, this core ability makes the effective difference in one's education. 

PSLE English Paper 1 2018: A Short Analysis

PSLE English Paper 1 2018: A Short Analysis

The following is the essay questions from the 2018 PSLE English Paper 1, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources. 

Write a composition of at least 150 words about teamwork. The pictures are provided to help you think about the topic. Your composition should be based on one or more of these pictures. Consider the following points when you plan your composition.

  • What was the teamwork?
  • Why was teamwork required?
  • What happened in the end?

You may use the points in any order and include other relevant points as well. [* The three pictures given include a trophy; a group of students cooking; and several students gathering around, looking at a laptop.]

The topic was expected and the pictures were equally relatable.  After all, all students need to do is to choose at least one picture and tell a story about how it relates to teamwork. However, merely doing so will give students an average grade. Delving deeper and handling the essay with a better perspective is what differentiates average students from the crème de la crème.

 The trick to rise above the competition is to do one or more of the following:

  1. use more than one picture;
  2. indicate the relationship between the picture(s) and the topic clearly and concisely;
  3. use an interesting genre: as students are not penalised on text types, this means that they can attempt an essay with one of, or a combination of, the following:
  • by telling a story (narrative);
  • by giving their own take on a collaborated teamwork episode they have experienced before (personal recount);
  • by describing the event in detail with relevant responses (descriptive); or
  • by discussing how the three pictures highlight the theme (expository).

On the one hand, schools tend to play the safe card for a major exam such as the PSLE. Hence, students are generally encouraged to write a narrative essay in the PSLE. The competition heats up with this approach, since the way to break the 35-mark barrier would be to:

  1. have a different but interesting plot eg. including a plot twist
  2. use excellent scene and character descriptors
  3. showcase a personal voice with elegant expression
  4. have a flawless GSP

On the other hand, students should be equipped to approach the PSLE essay. At Creative Campus, while we prepare the students on how to approach the topic differently, we also harness their personal voice to develop a plot that is unique to them. The focus on techniques, rather than staid model essays, will gear them to attempt any topic with ease, and in the process, stand out from their peers.

On the first week of 2019, students at Creative Campus were taught how to handle the PSLE 2018 question effectively. Should you be interested to receive a sample copy of the notes, click the button below to view and download.

If you're viewing the worksheet on a mobile device, click the download icon to save the file.

#StopSucking: Reducing Plastic Waste?

#StopSucking: Reducing Plastic Waste?

Many giants in the food and beverage industry have started to reduce or completely eliminate the use of plastic straws in their establishments. One such company is Starbucks, which has vowed to ban plastic straws in all its stores worldwide by 2020.

The movement started to gain traction in 2015, when a video showing a sea turtle suffering because of a straw stuck in its nose went viral. This has led to the widespread movement against plastic straws, with celebrities like Ellen Pompeo and Neil DeGrasse Tyson backing the #StopSucking movement on social media.

However, while conservationists laud the move for the awareness it creates, they are also skeptical about the positive impact on the environment this movement actually creates. Scientists have found that while there are approximately 7.5 million plastic straws strewn across beaches in the US, nearly 9000 kilograms of plastic end up on coastlines worldwide. Read more here!

Questions to Consider:

1. Should the effort spent on reducing plastic straw usage be invested In cutting plastic in other ways?

2. Has human impact on the earth been a positive one?

General Paper 2018: A Post-Mortem

Another year of GP-grind is over and the general consensus has been that both Papers 1 and 2 were ‘ok’ except for the slightly surprising Application Question.

Once again, my students who sat for the A Levels 2018 hail from different JCs. Several students had been under my tutelage since Primary 5--that’s practically half their young lives! Hence, it goes without saying that this bunch is particularly dear to me.

I will miss many of the unique personalities who spent Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons with me, especially the vibrant few who gave me acutely perceptive essays and evaluations. It’s been a wonderful run with this lot. I know each has been invested in his or her learning and worked hard to see improvements, even at the Prelim exams. 

Weighing in on Paper 1 

Paper 1 was a fair paper offering a good range of topics and themes for candidates to choose from.

The more accessible questions are Q 1, 2, 5, 7 and 9. 

The key to acing the GP essay is in the candidate’s evaluation and analysis of criteria and issues related to the question asked. Hence, those who merely listed factors and/or went about essay topics in a 'pros and cons' manner would have presented limited arguments. These scripts would not score well in their content.

​​​​The following made their maiden appearances this year:

Q3. In an age of rapid technological advancement, is a single career for life realistic?

While technology is a favourite and popular topic for exam-setters and students alike, this year, the link to the idea of a single career is new.

  • Candidates must address the notion of ‘realistic’--for instance, practical/ feasible in sustaining themselves and family.
  • Candidates must also be mindful to link their reasons for or against the viability of a single career to the rapid technological advancement.

  • One possible argument is: rapid technological advancement would include advancements in artificial intelligence which has--and will continue to--replaced the need for human skills. A single career is not realistic since individuals need to adapt to the needs of the job market and AI competencies.

Q6. Do handicrafts still have value when machine-produced goods are readily available?

A narrower topic than the more oft-asked questions surrounding traditions, culture and traditional skills.

  • Students must be sure about what constitutes handicraft before embarking on this essay. Handicraft comprises the elements of traditional skills engaging the hands [as opposed to being produced by machines in a factory], and the making of decorative domestic objects. The key notion of ‘handmade’ is important. It is not craft per se but these two ideas can overlap in limited situations.
  • Value should also be addressed--valuable to whom, and in what way?

Q9. Is pressure a motivating force or a cause for unhappiness?

The question presents ‘pressure’ as a new version of its more popular cousin ‘competition’.

  • Again, candidates must be careful not to conflate competition with pressure. Pressure is a by-product or effect of competition. Pressure can come in the form of persuasion, coercion or intimidation; some thrive under pressure while others crack. Much depends on an individual’s make up.
  • This is more an ‘extent’ question since pressure is not absolutely motivational nor a cause for unhappiness. 

Weighing in on Paper 2, the Application Question

Paper 2 comprised a single passage on millennials across ‘rich worlds’ failing to voteMost found the Comprehension Short Questions and Summary manageable. The ‘curveball’ was the Application Question which, according to feedback from several of our students and other sources, is framed as follows:

Application Question

The author argues that “Whilst they are most interested in issues and causes that they are given credit for, are better educated than past generations, are more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and are less keen on drugs and alcohol, millennials seldom establish the habits that inclined their parents to vote.”

To what extent do you agree with the author’s view, based on the experiences of you and your peers in your society.

The unusual wording of the AQ stumped students momentarily. For the first time at GP, the AQ was framed around a quote instead of the usual requirement of students picking arguments from the passage to evaluate their relevance and applicability to their society.

However, once they got past the initial bafflement, students knew to respond to the AQ by evaluating their agreement or disagreement to the quoted assertion, and citing at least one other argument from the passage to support their evaluations.

Some learning points from the experience:

  • Keep calm and adapt. Examination questions can--and often do-- veer away from ‘tried and tested’ modes of enquiry. The aim is to not panic but focus on task fulfilment.
  • Go back to the basics by applying techniques learnt. Regardless of the way the Application Question is posed, the basic objective remains unequivocal: students must answer the question. Those who remember the point of an AQ will know to address the viability and relevance of the author’s arguments, and know that they must evaluate with relevant evidence-- it is insufficient to merely state points.

One of the key questions that my students asked me was whether they were right to quote and address another of the writer’s arguments beyond the sentence quoted in the question.

My personal take is that students should indeed bring in another point from the passage rather than solely address the point(s) quoted in the question. Otherwise, is it no different from a run-of-the-mill discursive essay question framed around a quote? After all, the difference between an AQ and an essay question is that the former requires students to apply the writer’s arguments to their social circumstances. The key qualifier is that the additional quote or argument introduced in their AQ response must be relevant to the issue(s) raised in the statement quoted in the question.

In fact, the statement cited tweaked the focus of the AQ to something more manageable for students [by itemising the key issues they should address] since a standard AQ would have been on the voting habits and behaviour of millennials, which some candidates might have found to be more challenging.

This year, the AQ cued students on addressing certain issues more specifically. Good scripts should evaluate these issues, citing independent evidence and, where possible, bring in additional points of the author’s from the passage. Any links made to voting habits is a plus.

The following is a possible approach to answering the AQ:

First, students can address the first issue quoted in the question: millennials being ‘most interested in issues and causes that they are given credit for’.

1) Evaluation: Millennials’ actions are driven by credit or acknowledgement received, as opposed to genuine empathy or belief in the cause/issue. This suggests that millennials are reward-focussed and hence, lacking sincerity.

2) Intuitively, this seems relevant and applicable to SG because:

  • millennials grew up in an environment that included community service as part of the school curriculum--CIP (Community Involvement Programme), present day VIA (Values in Action Programme). While the aim of CIP was to build social cohesion and inculcate civic responsibility in pupils, it was a compulsory programme and students ended up performing these duties for credits and to fulfill the requisite hours of service, rather than for a genuine interest to the causes.
  • a survey by World Vision Singapore in 2015 found that young Singaporeans believe it is important to help the less fortunate, but few translate this belief into action, mainly due to a lack of time and money. 

3) However, students can qualify their agreement, citing the growing trend of numerous Singaporean millennials who are harnessing the power of the Web and social media to make a difference.

  • Haze-hero, Jeremy Chua Facebook page calling for people to donate their excess masks and mobilised hundreds of volunteers to distribute masks to the needy.
  • Conjunct Consulting, founded by millennials, is touted as Asia’s first pro-bono consulting firm for non-profit organisations and social enterprises. 
  • Arrow Circle Right
    Youth for Ecology — a group of youths who were stirred into action by the debate over the White Paper on Population.

Second, students can address the next assertion that millennials are “better educated than past generations, are more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and are less keen on drugs and alcohol.”

1) Evaluation: It is true that because they are better informed and knowledgeable, millennials tend to pick and choose their causes and interests according to personal preferences and interests.

  • This individualising of causes and beliefs is further explained as a habit and lifestyle mindset developed in millennials--as reflected in the author’s argument in para 4 “Millennials are accustomed to tailoring their world to their preferences, such as customising the music they listen to and the news they consume. A system that demands they vote for an all-or-nothing bundle of election promises looks uninviting by comparison.”
  • Students can explain how this statement is true given the widespread use of curated playlists on the likes of Spotify and movie viewing habits on streaming platforms based on their selections rather than going to the movie theatres to watch a feature film.  
  • Arrow Circle Right
    Hence, it is natural and understandable that this habit and mindset of customisation and individualisation carries over to voting behaviour. 

2) Students can then cross reference the author’s argument in para 8 on how political commitment can be built in school. He asserts that “teenagers who experienced democracy first-hand during their studies are more likely to vote afterwards...Yet, schools and governments, wary of accusations of politicising the classroom, may shy away from such programmes” that involve open discussions and debates.

  • This is true of the SG education programmes which tend to be deeply academics-, and hence, grades-focussed. Rare is the school that discusses political issues openly given the time-constraints, and heavily academic and assessment-based curricula.

Finally, students can take on the point that millennials “seldom establish the habits that inclined their parents to vote.”

1) The author further attributes [para 3, lines 30-32] parents’ committed actions to their attachment to their communities.

2) Evaluation: This sense of rootedness makes the older generation more concerned and involved with how their homes and communities are run. Conversely, millennials are marrying and having families much later on in live, with some choosing never to settle down in the conventional/traditional way their parents did.

3) This is true in SG as evidenced by falling birthrates and more single women. This is mainly attributable to females receiving equal opportunities and access to education and careers, and compounded by the rising costs of living which makes financially supporting a family more difficult than in the past generations.

Fewer births but more singles-- ”...more Singapore women are in tertiary educational institutions than men... Getting married is no longer a necessity," said Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research. Other reasons include long work hours, the high cost of living and a relatively long wait for Housing Board flats, said experts.

Note that:

  1. Given the 30 minutes assigned for the AQ, students should look at handling 2 out of the 3 above points of argument.

  2. By limiting or qualifying agreement of relevance of the authors' arguments, a candidate fulfils the 'extent' or 'how far do you agree' aspect of the question.

Our J1 students have already started preparing hard for General Paper 2019. We take a break from lessons until January 2019. I look forward to more intellectual sparring and argumentation with my students in the new year!

~Contributed by Geraldine Chew [Ms] 14 November 2018

Yodelling to Fame

Yodelling to Fame

In this day and age, it appears that anyone can become an instant celebrity overnight, thanks to the swift nature of information transmission over the internet.

One example of this is of "Yodelling Walmart Kid" Mason Ramsey, who shot to instant fame after a video of him singing in Walmart went viral. Ramsey then went on to feature on The Ellen Show as well as perform at huge music festivals like Coachella.

Consequently, this has resulted in hordes of people who record everything religiously, in hopes that something they capture on video will catapult them to fame.

Some fear that this is a worrying trend that causes people to be less aware of their surroundings, thus becoming more prone to accidents. 

Read more about Mason Ramsey here.

Questions to Consider:

1. What do you think makes a viral video popular?

2. Do you think viral videos can be used positively to effect change? Give some examples.

Legal Rights for Monkeys?

Legal Rights for Monkeys?

In 2011, a photographer named David Slater left his camera unattended in an Indonesian rainforest. When he returned, he found that a macaque had used his camera and taken a selfie!

The photo of the monkey soon went viral worldwide, catching the attention of animal activist group PETA. Mr Slater found himself embroiled in a lawsuit from PETA, claiming that the monkey was the true owner of the photo and that all profits earned from the photo should belong to it.

The case was heard in court, and the judges decided that animals were not intended to be protected by the Copyright Act and that the monkey was therefore not eligible to claim the profits. However, Mr Slater also agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue from the photo towards charities protecting macaques.

Read the report here.

Questions to Consider

1. Do you agree with the judges’ decision? Explain your rationale.
2. What rights should/ can be given to animals?
3. What are some ways in which animals can be protected from exploitation?

Are you ready for the PSLE?

We are pleased to announce that we have a FREE 2-week PSLE English Boot Camp! In the Boot Camp, students will benefit from Videos and Practice Papers on alternating days. The Videos teach vital grammar rules and commonly mistaken word pairs, while the Practice Papers pertain to the key PSLE English Paper 2 components.

Sign up today to receive our FREE 2-week Boot Camp in your inbox daily.

Freeganism in Singapore

Freeganism in Singapore

Freeganism is a practice and ideology of limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources, particularly through recovering wasted goods like food. The word "freegan" is a portmanteau of the words "free" and "vegan".

Recently, Channel New Asia (CNA) published a story about 38-year-old Mr Daniel Tay, a self-proclaimed freegan who goes through the trash of others to find items he can eat or use, as a way of life. Reactions from readers ranged from admiration to sheer disgust. 

One might assume participants of the freeganism movement do so for economical reasons. However, some participants do it to make a statement against excessive consumerism and unnecessary food wastage. Others do it for fun. 

This festive season, adopt the freegan's love for sharing. Go through the items you are about to throw away and consider donating those that are still usable to a charity organisation. Every bit counts.

Questions to Consider

1. What does Daniel mean when he says he hopes that in future, "dumpster diving is either normal or obsolete"?
2. Would you become a dumpster diver in Singapore? Why?
3. What can you do as a Singaporean to reduce food wastage?


QUESTION: Should Singaporeans adopt freeganism? 

Yes; if all Singaporeans adopt freeganism, there will be less food wastage. Also, there would be less pollution in the seas, as less plastic would be wasted or discarded. People can also benefit by getting items for free, and not spend more money on purchasing them. By getting things for free, not only do people save the food that are still edible, but people may also be more willing to share with others .
Freegans may also find expensive, valuable items that can still be used -- after all, one man's poison is another man's meat! In the video, Daniel found a working coffeemaker and a telescope during his dumpster dives.

~ Vanessa Teoh, Primary 5

Start preparing for the PSLE this holidays

We are pleased to announce that we have a FREE 2-week PSLE English Boot Camp! In the Boot Camp, students will benefit from Videos and Practice Papers on alternating days. The Videos teach vital grammar rules and commonly mistaken word pairs, while the Practice Papers pertain to the key PSLE English Paper 2 components.

Sign up today to receive our FREE 2-week Boot Camp in your inbox daily.

The Importance of Reading

The Importance of Reading

As the exam period comes to an end this month, students will finally be able to find time to do the things they like. Hopefully, they find time to indulge in one of the most timeless hobbies- Reading. 

Other than being the most effective ways to improve one's proficiency in any language, reading also reaps a myriad of other benefits.

1. Be Well-Informed

The accrual of knowledge is most commonly accomplished by the act of reading. No one is born with information readily available in his head. Even the most intelligent person needs to fill his mind with meaningful data before he can analyse and express an opinion on a subject. Being the most information dense of all media, it is no wonder print continue to be the most common tool for learning.

2. Improve concentration and mental capabilities

The cognitive process of reading forces the mind to focus and think. Reading is quite simply a process of drawing meaning from a line of symbols (the alphabet). It is impossible not to think while reading. The same way how games and puzzles sharpen the mind, reading helps increase brain power and improves memory. 

3. Boost Self-Esteem

People who are illiterate suffer from low self esteem. They miss out on the joys of being able to text on the phone, understand an award winning foreign movie, singing karaoke, buying the correct toiletries... the list goes on. Most importantly, being able to read well is a prerequisite to getting a better education. When one gets a good education, it is more likely that he will do better in life, and ultimately feel better about himself.


Start preparing for the PSLE this holidays

We are pleased to announce that we have a FREE 2-week PSLE English Boot Camp! In the Boot Camp, students will benefit from Videos and Practice Papers on alternating days. The Videos teach vital grammar rules and commonly mistaken word pairs, while the Practice Papers pertain to the key PSLE English Paper 2 components.

Sign up today to receive our FREE 2-week Boot Camp in your inbox daily.

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader."- Margaret Fuller

Please click the links below for book recommendations:

Recommended 2017 book list for children

Booker Prize Winners (1968 to present)

Guardian 2017 Booklist for Children

Discussion: The Multiple Faces of The Homeless in Singapore

Derelict – a person without a home, job, or property.

Destitute – extremely poor, without the means to provide for oneself.

These two words come to mind when one thinks about the homeless sleeping on the streets. A few weeks ago, TODAY ran a news report about the homeless in Singapore and the revelations defied conventional perceptions about them. For example, a large fraction of the 180 interviewed were gainfully employed. More than a quarter owned flats. That is far from the definition of a derelict or a destitute.
Before one breaks out the champagne, and conclude that the homeless situation is not as big a problem as it seems; one needs to understand that although some made conscious choices to be homeless, the circumstances that led them to such choices are often unhappy ones.

The most common reason for people to have no roof over their heads is income level. A cleaner with a monthly salary of $1,200 can hardly make ends meet even without having to pay for room rental, which on average can be $600 to $700 a month. In this regard, the government has done its part by coming up with the Public Rental Scheme where small flats can be rented from as low as $26 a month, depending on household income. The condition of having to apply with another family member or single Singaporean citizen made many homeless who are used to a reclusive lifestyle, or already abandoned by friends and family; difficult to partake in the scheme.

Alternative solutions might include halfway houses or three-quarter houses, but these might only appeal to the religiously inclined.

Read The Full Article Here: 
Singapore's homeless struggle to find support

Questions to Consider:

Q1. In your day-to-day activities, can you recognise a homeless person when he crosses your path? Does a homeless person look ‘homeless’? What is your opinion?

Q2. Do the homeless know the options and help that are available to them? Do you think the government is doing enough to ameliorate their situation?

Q3. What do you think we as citizens can do to help?

Like it? Share it!

Creative Campus has a slew of activities planned for Primary 1 to Secondary 2 (2018) students.

If you are looking for enrichment activities that will give your children a decisive advantage and help them stay on top of the game, check out what we have to offer this December.

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