Primary Social Studies Fieldwork in Children’s Localities and Beyond, pp. 7 of 10

Sample 2: Fieldwork in Tiong Bahru: Change and Continuity in Housing

Designed by Bryan Fok Jun-Feng, Mark Lim Xian Jin, Matthew Chua Cheng Qian and Mohamad Zaidi Bin Hasbollah, Diploma in Education, Class of 2014

Fieldwork Duration:

2 hours


Primary 3


Housing, change and continuity, conservation and heritage


  • Housing in Singapore has undergone changes over time to meet people’s changing needs.
  • Housing with heritage values is conserved.

Inquiry Questions:

  • What are the changes to the housing in Tiong Bahru over time and why?
  • What remains the same about housing in Tiong Bahru over time and why?
  • What are the residents’ views about living in the Tiong Bahru housing estate?

Fieldwork Site and Rationale

The Tiong Bahru housing estate has a colourful past.  The area used to be occupied by farms and cemeteries before the early 20th century. After the turn of the century, houses and shophouses were built along the roads by some wealthy businessmen. With an increase in population, the area soon became overcrowded with slums and people lived in unsanitary conditions. The Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) started in the late 1920s under the colonial government focused on housing developments to improve the poor housing conditions at that time. However, the housing development was slow and the poor living conditions were not greatly eased for the people then. In 1960, the Housing and Development Board was set up to speed up the housing development in the estate (NLB, n.d.).

The long history of the place forms a perfect setting to study change and continuity of housing development for primary schools in the locality. These include Zhangde Primary School, Gan Eng Seng Primary School and Alexandra Primary School. By delving into the concept of change and continuity through fieldwork, pupils would be able to gain an understanding of how this housing estate came to be and the rationale for the varied housing developments within the area. They will be able to develop empathy for those residents who have witnessed the changes over time and learn how these changes have impacted them. 

Fieldwork Scenario

You are all rookie (new, inexperienced) housing agents. Your task is to help a Malaysian couple, Mr and Mrs Zhong Bah Ru, find housing in Singapore. They are looking for housing in an estate that has an old-world charm and yet at the same time, it has modern facilities. Based on your research, the Tiong Bahru housing estate seems to be suitable for them but you are unsure. You have decided to explore and experience the Tiong Bahru housing estate yourself and gather first-hand information before you make a proposal to the Zhongs.

Fieldwork Goals

At the end of the fieldwork, pupils will be able to:

  • Compare the different types of housing in Tiong Bahru,
  • Identify the type of housing that is conserved,
  • Account for the change and continuity in housing,
  • Develop an understanding of the residents’ views of living in the different types of housing,
  • Apply observation, sketching, map reading and interviewing skills,
  • Work in groups during fieldwork, and
  • Develop empathy and a sense of place.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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