PROJECT IGNIS : BUILD A SCHOOL

PROJECT IGNIS : RESHAPING EDUCATION

PROJECT IGNIS 2019 : BUILD A SCHOOL

+ WHO WE ARE

Project Ignis is the effort of a group of 11 architecture students from the National University of Singapore. We all share the belief that architecture and design can be the answer to many socio-economics issues if we are passionate enough about engendering positive change.

+ INTRODUCTION

More than 40% of Vietnamese work in the agricultural sector, yet the industry is governed by minimal regulations and sanctions are almost non-existent. Overuse of insecticides, pesticides and fertilisers is a common problem. It is harmful not just to the environment but to consumers as well. Hence, it is of vital importance for farmers to be aware of ethical farming practices.

In collaboration with the NGO Blessed Discoveries, Project Ignis will be designing and building a classroom for a farming community in the Dong Nai Province, Vietnam. Our team will be flying over on the 1st-14th August 2019 to participate in the construction process. The classroom will play a key role in the commune’s effort to promote ethical farming.

Step 1: Specify your contribution amount for BUILD A SCHOOL (AUG 2019)

OBJECTIVE

Built for around 50 children from surrounding farming villages, the classroom aims to educate the next generation of farmers to imbue in them ethical farming practices for the betterment of the environment and health of the people. The classroom will also consist of a library space that targets both children and teenagers to further encourage reading and self-learning.

It is not only a space for teaching but also one that fosters learning and growth of the students. The space will be designed to spark interest, generate fun, and create student-driven learning experiences through the use of BALA (Building As Learning Aid, a concept by Kabir Vajpeyi. This idea makes use of the building as a medium for learning and play). One example we plan to implement is creating letter pegs that kids can use to spell words out on the holes of the bricks in wall. Using the existing brick holes, teachers and students can use the walls to hang educational posters, charts and maps to facilitate learning both during and outside class time.

PROPOSED DESIGN

A 4.5m by 7m classroom that is meant to hold 20 students at a time, for a total cohort of 50 kids. Students will be taught Math, Science, Geography, and Ethical Farming. Materials used will be the local brick, and a clay-tiled pitch roof due to its durability and appropriateness for the monsoon weather in Dong Nai.

Step 1: Specify your contribution amount for BUILD A SCHOOL (AUG 2019)

PAST PROJECT IGNIS : 2018 Field Report

+ About Project Ignis

Singapore’s advancement into SMART technology has allowed us to rapidly steer our education methodology to the realm of information technology. While we enjoy its success and experience it challenges, using SMART technology in their teaching remain as an aspiration for rural communities in Vietnam. Having spoken to our NGO, we identified that by engaging in developing IT facilities within the commune, it will open up more service learning opportunities between Singapore and Vietnam schools.

+ Concept and Ideas

The developed idea is to create the classroom of their future: A new vision of a STEM classroom would address the gap within the community’s system of learning, that is, a smart system of architecture which will adapt and react to the community’s learning needs.

Requests have indicated a building which inspires creation and promote active learning within the community. A highly innovative space which will further chart the next course of learning and development of the commune – one which embodies what technological and internet based learning can offer.

The targeted age range should span from young 9yrs old to adults and elderly. Hence spaces should not command an aesthetic which favours a certain age range.

The CVC’s new STEM and IT classroom will bring in 5 to 6 computers and will be WIFI equipped. Hence, computer based learning will be made possible. Additional technological learning aids can be added within. Examples would include large screen televisions, projectors and audio system.

As such, our concept of a futuristic classroom lies not in the input of technology, but rather in its deviation from traditional modes of teaching. This breaks the conventional forms of knowledge transfer, that is, from teacher to student in a highly dictatorial manner. The classroom concept hence adopts a flexible learning system where spaces within it are highly configurable. They gravitate towards a multimodal form of learning which allows for small group discussions, student generated ideas as well as research and discussions.

The input of technology now widens the learning scope of an individual. No longer is he limited by the paper and pen in front of him but rather gains access into the vast web of digital information. Information domains such as YouTube and google will hence provide a slew of information which acts as an extension of the current library. Yet, such learning requires curation for value added education.

+ IGNIS in Vietnam

During the weeks in Vietnam, the team built alongside local construction workers, conducted house visits, events for the children within the commune and culminated in a cultural exchange night.

Architecture:

  • – Building of the classroom through engagement with local contractors.
  • – Plastering, brick laying, painting, concrete mixing as well as ferrying materials were conducted.

Furniture:

  • – Making of 18 sets of adjustable tables and chairs which will be used within the classroom.
  • – Sanding, lacquering and assembling of the furniture was conducted.

Engagement:

  • – House visits were conducted for the team to experience and listen to the stories within the community.
  • – Library and cultural event enable the team to serve and play with the children, a day of bonding through fun and games.
  • – Engagement with students from a local Vietnam university expanded the team’s social circle.

+ Learning from the team

Empathetic Communication : The team was split into two groups, one working on the construction of the classroom and the other on the furniture production. With the primary goal of completing the classroom and furniture prior to our departure, much time had been placed on the manual labour work instead. Also, as the group working on the construction were often times away from the library, there were not much opportunity to seek personal conversations with the locals, except with the construction workers. On the other hand, the furniture team had greater opportunity to interact with the children that come by the library after school. Yet, in lieu of the children’s safety, we strongly advised them to stay away from the designated production area. However, outside of the working hours, we were able to have heart-felt interaction with the locals, especially during the short trips to the market and the owners of our accommodation. It was during this short daily interaction where we attempted to communicate in Vietnamese and understand their way of life.

Community Mapping and Understanding the Advantages of Empowerment : Community mapping had been conducted during the recce trip while a short house-visit was organised for the whole team during the actual trip. While the interaction with the participants were limited in terms of number and time, many of the members expressed their admiration and gratitude towards the positive qualities of the local community during the debrief sessions conducted. Instead of entering these community with an air of superiority, the members went in with a clear mindset and understood the two-way learning process between members and the locals: to serve and to be served.

Learning Construction Techniques : The team had learnt much construction techniques from the locals. Despite our lack of skills, the locals were immensely kind and patient with us, taking time to guide and correct our mistakes. Although the locals were straight-forward and stated that we were in fact causing a hindrance to their work, they often laugh it off as a joke and told us to not be worried by it. By rotating the team members between the “construction” and “furniture” groups, we were able to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to pick up a basic understanding of the techniques.

Leadership Skills : With the constant rotation of members between the “construction”, “furniture” and the “clean-up” group, members had the opportunity to be responsible for a role they had been assigned too. Even something simple as looking out for our fellow team members and ensuring their wellbeing were means for the participants to demonstrate their self-directedness and empathy as leaders.

Honing Teamwork and Communication Skills and Learning Different Community Engagement Mechanisms : Through the daily rotation of roles between the members, we were able to understand each of our strength and weaknesses. When assigned to a role which we were unfamiliar with, those with experience would communicate and provide guidance to ensure the work is conducted smoothly. Also, we were able to work with our weaknesses and take the initiative to cover up for each other’s flaws.

With the help of the Vietnamese students from Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh University of Science, we were also able to communicate effectively with the locals to avoid conflicts when it comes to transmission of orders. Alternatively, we understood that communication need not only be through spoken words and it could be through simple sign languages and facial expressions. Many of the times, the locals would prefer to use hand gestures and actions to explain something to the use of a translator. Eventually with time, the hand gestures for communicating with each local was different from person-to-person. This developed a meaningful and intimate bond across the team and the locals.

+ Personal Reflections

“Project Ignis was conceived as one supposedly first of its kind – in a way that the initiative marries the concept of service learning, where individuals like us render a service to a community in exchange for gaining knowledge and experience from the locals, together with a construction project that students are given the platform to design, conceive, observe and potentially partake in the building infrastructure for the community. I was thrilled upon joining the project, to be able to engage with local Vietnamese communities, render expertise as Architecture students and throughout, learn and create positive impact in Phong Thanh commune via my passions for design and construction.

To say that I learnt many things during this experience is an understatement. For myself and most of the group of young budding Architecture students, the chance to observe and be given the avenue to perform construction processes is a greatly coveted opportunity. I learnt how a typical building is erected, ground up, how local resources are obtained, how finishes and connections are made and beyond this, how the local Vietnamese do such tasks. I also learnt how meagrely paid some of the workers are, yet their contention in carrying out their work. Back-breaking work day after day allowed us to bond with the small group of workers and learn, bit by bit about their lives, as of the children and community that would flood into the neighbourhood facility come evenings. The group also met with another team from NTU working on the construction of a sports facility nearby and it was eye-opening to exchange experiences with a team committing to overseas service learning based on a different passion solely of engaging communities, instead of seeing it as an avenue to design and build physical solutions for the betterment of communities as well.

I found the project very enriching and a really eye-opening experience as a first foray into an overseas service learning project and the country of Vietnam at that. The most heartwarming moments were my interactions with the kids, the people, the workers and the officials, to hear their stories, troubles, happy moments and contention with living conditions. These are the things I treasure most out of the trip, and were above all the most pleasant surprises beyond the simple opportunity to learn about construction.”

Melvin Lim Chung Wei – Year 3 Architecture Student NUS

“Looking back on those days of hard work, I realized I have experienced a lot through this trip by working with my hands. This connection that I have made with mother nature, with the local community and the whole project IGNIS team has allowed me to learn a lot about myself and to rediscover what architecture actually means to me. I am deeply grateful to have been a part of this amazing journey and I hope our efforts in impacting change through design is something that will not just end here. Majulah IGNIS!”

Sih Chee Seng –  Year 2 Architecture Student NUS

“ Being able to embark on this project to design and build a classroom for the children of Cau Ke is indeed a fulfilling one. I sincerely hope that the children who live in the area do benefit from it, be it enhancing their quality of education or providing them with space to like their imagination run wild. I hope that this allow them to be more aware of what the world has to offer and urge them to chase their dreams”

Claudine Fang – Year 1 Architecture Student NUS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT WILL THE CONTRIBUTION BE USED FOR?

The money will be used exclusively for the material and labor cost of construction. Both the material sourced and the contractors engaged will be from the local area. 

The cost of the whole classroom is the summation of material and contractor labour costs listed below and is estimated to be within the range of S$5300-S$8000. The cost is not definite as we are still in the process of designing, whereby quotation will be done after, based on the amount of material used.

1. Material Costs
This amount covers the concrete foundation, brick structure and clay-tiled roof, which are long-lasting material that comes with a price. A simple single-level, tiled-roof, 4 sided brick wall building (4.5mx7m) is estimated to be below S$5300. An accurate breakdown of the material costs will be provided by the NGO in the following week.

2. Contractor Labour Cost
The NGO have informed us that per contractor, the cost is S$12/per day. Thus, for the duration of the construction period, a high estimate of 1 month would amount to S$360.

WHEN WILL THE CONSTRUCTION HAPPEN?

The construction is scheduled for 1-14 August 2019. The design team will be on-site (at their own expense) to supervise the construction. The team will also be doing the interior and setting up the classroom.

HELP BUILD A SCHOOL FOR A KID IN VIETNAM

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