One student, one plant, one music instrument and one voice sums up the core elements of the United Christian Music Kindergarten.
Head of school Maria-Christina Weemaes-Lidman found that starting with music is always an important step to growth. “Music is a universal language that breaks down human barriers and unites us all,” she said. “Music goes straight to the soul.”
The private international kindergarten uses a systematic music curriculum that focuses on the four pillars of eurhythmics, music appreciation and composition, choral singing and instrumental learning.
Eurhythmics encourages kids to move to the music to express themselves. They are also exposed to music across different periods and learn basic composition theories to try to their create own melodies with an iPad.
Students are free to pick any Western instrument that they are interested in. Those who choose to learn percussion will begin with learning rhythmic instruments, like the drums and shakers first, before moving on to tuned percussion instruments.
Weemaes-Lidman, who has been living in Hong Kong for 19 years, was actually the first to bring in research-based International Early Years of Curriculum to the city. Under her, the kindergarten, is adopting a curriculum centered on holistic education that teaches the four learning strands of independence and interdependence, communicating, inquiring and healthy living and physical well-being.
“Parents are in the loop all the time. We have full transparency,” she added. Parents are informed in the beginning of every unit about what students are going to learn and receive an update from teachers every Friday. They are also invited to celebrate their children’s achievements at the end of a unit.
For the teachers, the curriculum enables them to focus on what’s going on in the classroom rather than spending time working on teaching plans.
Christian education is still at the heart of the school. Instead of having religion classes every week, it is integrated in school life and in language classes. Students gather around to sing Christian songs during regular assembly and learn Bible stories through story-telling in English and Chinese.
Weemaes-Lidman is meticulous about the environment and has high expectations of its facilities. “If the environment is aesthetically pleasing, you create an environment where the children are curious, and they want to touch, to feel everything.”
The 35,000-square-foot campus is equipped with 13 piano and music rooms with other facilities like brick walls, where students can tinker with their own designs using Lego and Gigo blocks, recreational and sports area, STEAM laboratory as well as an indoor Garden of Eden. Students are also asked to take care of a plant and help it grow from a seed.
Aside from English as the medium of instruction, parents are also asked to choose among Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and French.
The kindergarten’s new UCG Parent Children School aims to turn parents into students by sharing parenting methodologies. Running twice a month each term, the school is opened to not only the kindergarten’s parents but also to the public.
Though it is a Christian school, it doesn’t necessarily mean students have to be Christian to apply. “It doesn’t matter what religion you adhere to, what matters is the respectful relationship you have between yourself and the world,” she said, adding that the school has students of different religions.
The admission interview is composed of both English and musical assessments. Potential students are engaged in conversation to gauge how much English they know. The music portion is more like an observation to see how kids respond to music.
Registration is open for playgroup, pre-nursery and kindergarten. Weemaes-Lidman advises parents and their kids to visit the school first to get a feel.