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Sport Singapore brings together fitness and coding for the first time

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Sport Singapore held its first ever coding workshop based on Apple’s Swift Playgrounds for children between 10 to 14 years old.

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A participant during the Swift Playgrounds "Learn to Code 1" Workshop organised by Sport Singapore. Photo: Sport Singapore

While the statutory board’s main focus is on sport, it recognises that digital skills are vital in today’s modern society. Hence, it developed a pilot programme that balances digital skills with functional fitness.

Held over three days at the Sport Singapore office, the novel programme consists of three components, and through the programme, the children learnt coding concepts, digital media skills, and also took part in fun-filled physical activities.

“Firstly, of course, there is the coding component where through a compelling series of exercises presented very cleverly by Apple in a gamification way, kids can get a chance to master their coding skills,” said Harbans J Singh, Head of Digital at Sport Singapore.

“In the second component, we are adding a digital media component to it, and a backend team will actually compile all these together into a 101 tutorial website where other people who are doing similar coding can search and find solutions to problems when they are going through the course themselves.

“Finally, being sport, we’ve added a functional fitness element to it. (In) a lot of activities that we’ve organised, we have created functional fitness exercises which also help reinforce coding concepts.” 

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Besides learning about coding, the participants also got to enjoy fun-filled physical activities with a functional fitness element. Photo: Sport Singapore

Sport Singapore believes that this programme has tremendous potential as it can bring together children from diverse backgrounds and teach them that you can achieve both a healthy, active lifestyle and be technically proficient in technology at the same time.

“We believe the programme has the ability to be a social leveller where children from different backgrounds, different abilities, can come together taking away what they learnt from the programme … to create something for themselves in a meaningful way,” said Chiang Hock Woon, Deputy CEO at Sport Singapore.

“On one hand we are telling the children that you should not be too sedentary and get active. On the other hand, we are showing the parents that we can strike a good balance in terms of coding and at the same time not getting the children to be too attached to their smart phones and computers – which is a current worry at this point in time.”

SportCares Foundation, which works with low-income and at-risk youths, also sent three children to participate in this coding workshop. While SportCares usually organises sports-focused programmes, this digital workshop provided a different experience for the underprivileged children.

“We run a girls’ tennis programme, and thought that it was a great opportunity for the girls to come in and learn coding in a fun way. Because many of them don’t have the use of mobile phones and tablets and access to coding apps, so this is a great way for them to be introduced to it,” said Miruna Ranjan, Manager, SportCares.

Parents and children alike were very pleased at how the coding workshop was run in such a fun and interactive way, so much so that they enjoyed what was traditionally a very dry subject.

Mrs Wong, a parent of one of the participants who had sent her children for this workshop to learn about how games are created, had nothing but great feedback from her children and their friends.

“They really love this programme. Since day one when I started fetching my kids and their friends, they have been commenting about how cool and fun the programme is,” she said. 

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The graduates of the pilot Swift Playgrounds "Learn to Code 1" Workshop with their trainers. Photo: Sport Singapore

“Even comparing the coding classes they had in school with this one, and they mentioned a lot about the interactions they had with the facilitators or instructors – which has been very good and great.

“What is the most important thing is that they learnt a lot more than what they learnt in school and they really enjoyed the class. It’s very interactive and fun.”

For the children, the coding workshop also came as a surprise to them. Milan Arjen Jeyamohan particularly fancied the interactive way in which the programming language was taught.

He said: “After these three days, I think that coding is actually not what I expected. It’s actually very fun but at the same time you need to focus on it in order to complete whatever task is given to you.”