Singapore students will soon have the chance to learn one of the most fundamental and important aspects of living in Asia – how to grow rice.
This activity is being organized by the Science Centre Singapore (SCS) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The aim is to teach young Singaporeans about rice and how it is grown, especially the environmental cost of producing a bowl of rice.
“Rice is the single most important, best known, and most loved food staple in Singapore and across Asia,” says Mr. Duncan Macintosh, executive director of the IRRI Fund Singapore. “Just as importantly, rice production has the largest environmental footprint and impact of any human activity in the region. It covers the largest agricultural land area, uses by far the most water, and must be managed carefully so it doesn’t contribute to pesticide and fertilizer pollution.”
“Even though we eat it every day," he added, "most Singapore students know little about rice and the challenge of growing it. We hope to change that by letting them grow their own rice. In the process, we also want them to learn – and get excited about – the biological sciences."
Mr. Macintosh said the IRRI Fund Singapore is looking for support and partners to allow them to develop the activity so they can reach as many students and schools as possible in Singapore.
The IRRI Fund Singapore is working with SCS to prepare and distribute 10,000 small packets of rice seed to students, with more being provided in subsequent years. They will then be taught how to sow, germinate, and take care of the rice in pots, while avoiding the use of standing water, either at school or at home. Each 5-gram packet will contain about 150 seeds, with an average germination rate of about 80 percent, easily guaranteeing at least one plant per packet, and likely many more.
“It will take about three months to grow the rice for harvest; then we will see which students would make the best rice farmers,” Mr. Macintosh said.
The activity is being announced as part of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.
To further enhance this rice education program, SCS will hold a rice exhibition starting on October 16, within its permanent collection space, demonstrating the various aspects of rice growing, from farming implements to rice songs and folklore. It will also co-organize a workshop for geography teachers with master teachers from the Academy of Singapore Teachers to provide more in-depth training on rice production and teaching aids for school programs.
“The Science Centre Singapore encourages and promotes the learning of science through fun and engaging exhibitions and enrichment programmes,” Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of SCS, said. "Through this exhibition and the rice growing activity, we hope that students will think deeply about food and environmental issues and develop an inquiring mind to further scientific knowledge in agricultural science."