Kids are spending less time outside, and that’s a problem. According to a recent survey, children watch services like Netflix 15 times as much as they play outdoors. This is a problem, and can cause behavioural problems and impact motoring skills.
One woman championing the cause for outdoor learning is Nadiah Mohammad Yusoff (also known as Nadd). She is the 31-year-old Co-Founder of Super Duper Training, which provides fun, hands-on enrichment programmes for primary and secondary schools.
Her latest venture with her husband, called Let’s Learn Outside (LLO) which is launching this week, is focused on providing outdoor activities for children aged 7 to 11 years old. LLO’s School Holiday Programme activities take place from December 5 to 15 from only $98.
LadyBoss Co-Founder Liyana spoke to her about how she juggles business and new-found motherhood.
Q: Tell us about your business/es, how long you’ve been doing it, and who your customers are?
A: We started MUDD & NADD – SUPER DUPER TRAINING in 2009. SUPER DUPER TRAINING was set up with the intention of providing fun, engaging and hands-on enrichment programmes for primary & secondary schools.
While working as a Programme Executive in a secondary school, we both realised we had a passion for sharing, interacting and guiding youths. Our first programme was an events planning enrichment workshop.
We have since evolved and now have more than 20 practical & experiential learning based programmes catering to all primary & secondary school levels. SUPER DUPER TRAINING focuses on 3 major aspects of youth development – Leadership, Outdoor Education and Teambuilding (Team-based programmes).
In recent years, we decided to infuse another one of our passions into our business – the outdoors. We injected outdoor elements into our programmes & realised we are the happiest when we’re conducting classes in the outdoors. Seeing the students discovering and enjoying their outdoor lessons & especially learning about themselves was also a huge push factor for us to start Let’s Learn Outside!
The aim of Let’s Learn Outside! (LLO) is to teach children about the world and themselves. (World refers mostly to academic skills like English, Math, Science while ‘themselves’ refers to character education and values). LLO is a huge advocate of experiential learning & believes in the wondrous benefits of outdoor play. Currently our programmes are targeted at children aged 7 to 11.
Seeing the students discovering and enjoying their outdoor lessons & especially learning about themselves was also a huge push factor for us to start Let’s Learn Outside!
Q: What were you doing before entrepreneurship?
A: Before starting Super Duper Training, I was working in a secondary school as a Co-Curricular Programme Executive (now called School Programme Executive). Every MOE school has one and basically my role back then was to plan co-curricular programmes, assist the HOD PE/SPORTS, CCA administration and manage students’ data.
I was lucky because my direct supervisor (VP & HOD PE) taught me a lot on guiding students and gave me plenty of opportunities to sharpen my skills and pick up new ones.
Q: Your latest venture is LLO, and you’re focused on delivering outdoor programmes for kids. What inspired you to start this business?
A: One of the programmes that we have under Super Duper Training caters for Programme for Active Learning (PAL) – Outdoor Education in primary schools for P1 & P2 students (PAL is an initiative by MOE).
Basically what we do is teach and let these 7 to 8 year olds explore the outdoors and nature in a facilitated manner. Classrooms are held in the outdoors. We designed the lessons specifically for them to sharpen their skills, build their character, self-explore and realize their capabilities while having purposeful fun interactive activities.
We love this programme the most! Watching the children exploring, having their own little ‘Aha!’ moments while we’re explaining something, observing them overcoming their fears, seeing their excited faces as they discovered something as simple as an ant trail, looking at their curious faces as they asked questions and simply enjoying the lesson in the outdoors…these are such intangible but gratifying moments that we didn’t truly experience with any other programme.
It was during one of our own self-reflection / reminiscing sessions after class that we thought ‘if only we could do only this everyday (bring kids outdoors and have learning adventures)’. And then after these happy feelings happened so many times after class we thought – let’s just go with it. Let’s see what programmes we can do in the outdoors that ensures children enjoy learning… and that’s how Let’s Learn Outside! started.
Watching the children exploring, having their own little ‘Aha!’ moments while we’re explaining something, observing them overcoming their fears, seeing their excited faces as they discovered something … these are such intangible but gratifying moments.
Q: What are the benefits of kids learning outside?
A: There are plenty & I think it would take a while for me to list out all! What we always share with our friends and well, anyone that would listen is this – the outdoors is the best classroom because of the limitless number of things you can find, teach, share and explore. From exploring their senses to gaining self-confidence to learning how to trusting and managing their emotions – all these are what a child will gather from spending time in the outdoors.
And because outside is so vast, there is always something new, something that will pique the interest of a child’s natural curiosity for him/her to want to learn and want to know more.
I once had an 8 year old student who had a slight speech impediment. This made her feel slightly shy to speak out and made some of her classmates teased her. During our first outdoor lesson, she surprised us all. In a class of 30, when we brought them to the garden to explore, she was fearless and walked on grass, around bushes, took a stick to prod the earth and could answer most of the questions that I asked. She even helped to explain some terms and shared stories in front of her classmates. Some of her classmates did not dare to walk on grass nor peer closely at flowers for fear of insects. And yet this girl shone during all the outdoor lessons we had, never giving up and just was so happy outdoors. Later on I found out that her dad constantly brought her out to parks and beaches letting her play outdoors with her siblings.
At the end of the programme (8 lessons) her teacher shared with me that she has become more confident & often speak up in class. That is such a good example of how children can benefit from playing / learning outside whether in a structured programme or with their parents – they grow confident of themselves, enjoy learning and are able to practise the skills they have (social skills and put values into practice).
For LLO, our outdoor activities and programmes fuses together experiential learning activities with academic subjects (mostly English, Math, Science), usually set in an imaginative adventure.
Q: What kind of activities would LLO run?
A: I think this is kind of a new niche – usually outdoor activities refer to trekking, kayaking, high and low elements (think camp).
But for LLO, our outdoor activities and programmes fuses together experiential learning activities with academic subjects (mostly English, Math, Science), usually set in an imaginative adventure. We love to inject imaginative play and gamification in our programmes so most of the games & activities revolve around a story that has gaming elements to it (e.g. point system, levels, tokens etc)
We have Modular Adventure Programmes for P3 and P4 students. This is a 4 weekly programme (four 2 hour sessions) planned specifically for each level and focuses on different activities and topics relevant to the age group and what they’re learning in school. Participants go through various modules and collect badges upon completion.
We have a Single Mission Adventure Pass where participants will be introduced to outdoor learning through a one-off LLO adventure. Each Single Mission Adventure Pass focuses on various topics and activities. This allows the child to be familiar with outdoor learning and can be a good prelude to our Modular Adventure Programme (weekly programme).
On top of our signature programmes, we run holiday programmes too! Also set in the outdoors, each module focuses on a specific skill and imaginative adventure. For example, if the child is interested in running and climbing, then The Covert Transporters – an adventure revolving around a group of top secret transporters going through exciting obstacles – would be suitable for him / her.
On top of all these programmes, in future, we plan to have activities suited for Primary 1 & 2 students.
The essence of LLO activities and programmes is that we want to target both motivated and unmotivated learners through all the elements that we’ve injected – gamification, outdoor play, hands-on activities, applied learning, imaginative adventures… all these speak to the natural being of children, of curiosity, of play without the pressure of exams or getting a pass or fail.
You can learn more about LLO through our website or facebook page.
Q: In terms of sales and marketing, how do you reach your customers, and what works?
A: For Super Duper Training, our target audience are mainly schools. We usually mail out brochures and send out emails to specific HODs for the various programmes we have. For us, that works the best besides GeBIZ of course.
Because we’re dealing with government schools, we usually transact through GeBIZ. Our advantage is that we’ve worked in schools before so we know how schools and teachers think and to a certain extent what they like. We try to cater to that as much as possible and we’ve been successful in getting 70% of our clients from GeBIZ.
I see us bringing our brands, especially Let’s Learn Outside! higher to be one of the leading companies that parents send their children to!
Q: Where do you see the future of your business?
A: I see us having our own school / academy teaching little adventurers and bringing them outdoors. I see us conducting programmes out of Singapore. I see us bringing our brands, especially Let’s Learn Outside! higher to be one of the leading companies that parents send their children to!
There are a lot of hectic days of going in and out of our home office and tending to the baby at the same time.
Q: You juggle managing your business and being a new mum. How do you do it?
A: I don’t! I’m still getting used to juggling a baby and working. By 2 months of maternity leave, I was already helping my husband with some work and decided to officially go back to work after 3 months.
There are a lot of hectic days of going in and out of our home office and tending to the baby at the same time. There are days when I cannot even do any work because the baby is extra clingy or just refuses to sleep, especially since we have such a spirited baby who only takes less than an hour naps! I’m not making excuses – I just have not mastered juggling baby and doing work yet.
Everyone says it will get easier at 3 months. To a certain extent that is true. In all honesty, taking care of the baby doesn’t really get easier, it’s just that we have adjusted our lives and became wiser in handling a baby. I’m slowly getting better at managing my time (and I welcome any tips any other mum entrepreneurs might have!).
Our baby is now 3 months old and his spiritedness and determination inspires me and pushes me on. He’s so sure of what he wants and has so many cute little expressions and is super-duper active! We’ve started to bring him to parks and just enjoying the neighbourhood sights and absolutely cannot wait for him to be bigger so we can take him on many more outdoor adventures!
Q: Tell us about your Number 1 business challenge?
A: At this moment of time, our Number 1 business challenge is not being fast enough!
LLO was an idea we had for a long time, and it took us this year to finally focus and work on the idea and we’re finally ready but it still feels we’re not being fast enough to meet our goals and execute our plans. It could also be that we’re slightly shorthanded. But it’s okay – challenges are what make the business exciting. We’ve already outsourced some work so that we’ll have more time to focus on the important stuffs and growing the business.
Finding the right team is also one of our challenges – we’re very particular about picking people because they have to be the right fit to our company culture. We’re really lucky that lots of our trainers (affectionately known as sidekicks) are such multitalented people who are not just capable of conducting and facilitating, but able to contribute and work with us in other parts of the business as well.
A lot of our ‘sidekicks’ also mentioned how much they would like to continue working with us in the years to come so that’s really good news for us – what better way to expand our team than taking in people who are already in sync with our company culture!
All these challenges just make us more determined to keep on going and growing!