By Mavis Teo
Sprout is a series of workshops organised and conducted by NUS High School alumni, on various topics ranging from beatboxing to origami to biodiversity. We managed to get hold of the co-organisers of Sprout 2016, Jonathan Tan (Class of 2013) and Sankar Ananthanarayanan (Class of 2012), and had a conversation with them regarding the dynamics of Sprout and their thoughts on education.
How was Sprout founded?
S: It was founded in 2015 by Cheng Herng Yi and Quek Yihui, alumni from the 2011 batch. It was originally intended to be a one-off event for the 10th anniversary celebrations but it has since gained momentum and is now carrying on for the second year.
J: Yeah, I remember that. Mrs Soong and Mrs Chong were very enthusiastic about the idea and provided a lot of support. They were inspired by Splash! at MIT, where MIT undergraduates conduct specialised workshops at their alma mater.
There is something very dynamic and interpersonal about youths educating youths. What are your views on the pros and cons of such an approach?
S: Education in general should move away from classical teacher-knows-everything model and towards a discussion-based classroom, where everyone gets a say in learning. Discussion is necessary to get you to think about how something works, and why it works. It is especially key to STEM subjects; even though it may seem that everything has an answer, you need to learn how to think instead of what to think.
J: But the drawback of this method is that the students have to be interested in what they are learning. It’s not always the case. In fact it’s often not the case. I also think that the focus of education should also move away from classical STEM subjects, and towards application-based learning inst.
How do you think Sprout benefits our students?
S: The people who come back are the people who are doing something with their lives. I think this really diversifies the education that NUS High students are getting.
J: Also, they are alumni. They were NUS High students a while ago, so they are aware of what being an NUS High student feels like. It’s also a demonstration to current students that you can be an expert in your field. It doesn’t have to be a school subject. It can be anything, really!
Both of you conducted workshops this last year. What motivated you to conduct the workshops this year?
J: We basically want to come back and share what we know with our juniors. Plus, the excitement of it being NUSH’s 10th anniversary celebration was contagious, even for us alumni!
S: And we took over…essentially because we were both in Singapore. Cherng Yi and Yihui wanted to pass it on to someone who was in Singapore and could get admin work done. Not a fancy reason, but it’s the truth.
How did you get into your topic of interest? And can you tell me a little more about them?
S [Falling with Style: Gliding in the Tropics]: This was a topic I picked up on just last year. I read up research papers when I was blogging for the Herpetological Society of Singapore, and realised that gliding is a very interesting phenomenon that is mostly observed in the indomalayan tropics. It touches on evolution, ecology, and physics.
J [The Mongols: The First Global Empire]: As for me, history has always been a hobby. The subject I’m covering seems quite niche but if you read into it the historical implications are massive. The average NUS High Student wouldn’t be exposed to this topic, and again, it’s all about interest.
Why do you think everyone should sign up for these workshops? How do you think these workshops benefit our students?
S: I see Sprout as a way to upgrade yourself. Life is like a game. When you learn, you are levelling up.
J: And these are basically side quests?
S: Yes! They add to your XP of NUS High School.
J: I really like this analogy.
You’re all alumni. Do you have any advice for your juniors?
S: Don’t be limited by what you learn in school. Don’t let your education get in the way of your learning.
J: GLHF. [Good luck have fun.]