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To Nurture a Seed – Joel Yong, BFA Industrial Design 2025

I’m ending Week 3 now, and I feel like I’ve lived in Singapore for much longer! My time here has felt monumental in the ways I see the world, both professionally and personally. I am approximately half a world away from the States (which is where I’ve lived my whole life), and I feel so in awe to have been able to form deep relationships, discover and rediscover cultures, and relish an entirely new way of life in such a short amount of time. 

I’m checking in to update you all on what I’ve been up to! There’s been a lot going on, but I will attempt to summarize everything into three main spheres that I’ve been involved in:

Firstly, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside the National Ministry of Sustainability in expanding learning opportunities for students interested in the green sector of Singapore. While I can’t dive too much into the details, I’ve been exploring gamified learning techniques to engage students who are at the age to consider career paths, focusing on not only introducing them to green careers, but reinforcing the learning of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (to which Singapore is a key signatory), and offer students an interactive way to understand sustainable city planning. In order to ensure proper implementation, I’ve had to do my fair share of research into Singapore’s education system and align my proposal with their existing learning goals. The end deliverable will be a core learning curriculum that can be adopted by secondary (high school) and tertiary (junior college) schools across the country but for now, we’re still in the works on it!

Secondly, I’ve been exploring repurposing eggshells to develop a workshop curriculum to teach kids about circular design! I was already familiar with the basic principles of this biomaterial recipe thanks to some of the work I’ve done with my friends at Design For America (RISD/Brown), and I’ve had the opportunity to lead meetings and educate my fellow coworkers and supervisors on the science and design behind repurposed food waste. We’ve done some recipe experimentations with various form molds and have since been slowly integrating the science into planting programs that the organization offers. Just a few days ago, we partnered with a local youth community service organization to have children assemble their own planters and plant their own eggshell “power bombs” that will help nourish the soil! 

Thirdly, I’ve had the chance to help develop some local programming with the National Singapore Sustainability Gallery. Local preschools come from all over the country every day, and I’ve had so much fun ideating and testing new ways to engage with young kids on topics of climate change. A small detail that I find absolutely adorable is the matching uniforms that the kids wear so that school staff knows which kids are a part of their school! 

I feel incredibly lucky to be in Singapore and have things go relatively smoothly. I feel deeply nurtured especially by the people I’ve met here, and everything from the food to the green landscape, to even the daily routine of taking a crowded subway to work, have all been an extremely joyous experience for me. This country for reminding me of some of the sweetest things of life that we can experience – and this is a sweetness I hope to share with you all over the course of the summer, as well. Talk soon! 


Co-Everything Housing, Viola Tan, BArch Architecture ’24

Such a chaotic and fun starting at the Housing iLab! The past two weeks I got to know about multiple projects happening in the iLab, two of which I am going to work on this summer – Building Differently and Living Together.

Living Together is a research on how the City can support co-living projects in Boston. Although we’ve talked about co-housing so much at RISD, it is the first time I got to know about the difference between co-housing, co-living, co-ops, communes, and traditional shared housing. Co-living refers to three or more biologically unrelated people living in the same dwelling unit, sharing kitchens and common areas. I once got co-living and co-ops mixed up and hence got invited to a tour of co-ops in Boston. On the day of the tour it randomly started raining before the time we were supposed to meet, so I just waited outside one of the co-ops. The people coming in and out of the building were so nice!! You can tell that they had some kind of agency to the space and were super welcoming. Love this sense of agency and community, and community agency. Later in the trip, I was surprised to see such a large group of existing co-ops in the Fenway area. Actually, a building that I used to pass by a lot last summer in Fenway, Boston is a co-op!

As for my co-living project though, I talked to the director of a nonprofit in Boston looking to set up a co-living site. Hopefully we will be able to set up an RFP which will allow us to direct funds to these projects. Apart from the legal definitions around lease splitting etc., an important aspect that distinguishes co-living from traditional shared housing models is the intentionality in living together. Other co-living projects by this nonprofit have coaches coming in monthly to teach residents skills for living together.

Lastly, it was interesting to learn about how government RFPs work. I went to the Rent-to-Own RFP conference held by my supervisor and met some affordable housing developers from the community. For that project, we are trying to facilitate rent-to-own projects in Boston that help people gradually transition from tenancy to affordable homeownership. So far, the main job of the government that I’ve seen is to distribute money from the bigger government to hopefully the right people to do hopefully the right thing.


Day One at What Cheer Flower Farm | Samuel Aguirre | MFA Furniture Design ’24

Day One at What Cheer Flower Farm | Samuel Aguirre | MFA Furniture Design ’24

Final projects complete. The studios are empty. Critiques have settled in and the weight of the semester has left my body. Campus is pleasantly quiet, the pace of Providence has slowed and the spring/summer weather is oh-so pleasant… Deep inhale through the nose… … hold… … exhale. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Summer has begun.

Photo From WCFF IG Account

For those just joining us, I will be working with What Cheer Flower Farm (WCFF), a nonprofit agriculture and floristry center dedicated to bringing solace, joy and healing to the people of Rhode Island by giving away hundreds of thousands of flowers annually and supporting the local floral economy via job training. What Cheer Flower Farm has ambitious plans to remediate and build out their 2.7 acres of former factory land in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. I will be spending my summer leading a community effort to design-build a high profile, public facing outdoor space dedicated to community use. 

Yesterday was our kick off meeting and the farm is alive with action. The farm is in a state of expansion and remediation is well underway with excavators and bulldozers moving dirt. WCFF Volunteers are hard at work and given the freedom to “do what feels good”. One can make bouquets with recovered and donated flowers in the barn or go outside and help with light farm work in the gardens. Everywhere the air is filled with pleasantries, conversations of grant writing, gratitude for beautiful weather, resource planning, and weekend plans. The overlap of casual conversation and passion for work feels at home.

And here I am in the middle of it. And full of gratitude. Grateful for the opportunity from Maharam and RISD to make this my summer. Grateful to Erin and Christine at WCFF for sharing my enthusiasm for the journey ahead. And grateful to embark on a project that meets me where I am: Craving a creative outlet in the interest of the greater community, with the guidance of hands-on, non-profit leadership to make it happen.

Lets do this 🙂

Follow What Cheer Flower Farm on Instagram


The Journey Begins! – Joel Yong, BFA Industrial Design 2025

Greetings from Singapore!

The weather is 88°F (31°C) with a humidity of 86%. I am placing a large emphasis on the latter part, as I seemed to have forgotten in planning for my Maharam that Singapore is located right on the equator. But the flip side of the weather is Singapore is absolutely gorgeous! The abundance of greenery and diversity in wildlife is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Some fun things I’ve observed since being here: 

  • The food here is absolutely incredible, with cuisines from all over the world finding a home in this city-state. Not to mention, it can be incredibly cheap as well – my breakfast today was ~$1.50 USD!
  • It is illegal to bring durian on public transportation! For those of you who don’t know, Durian is a Southeast Asian fruit that is notorious for its pungent smell. 
  • Speaking of public transportation, getting a car here is an incredibly expensive process. From what I understand, it costs ~$1500 USD to receive your license, ~$75K USD to receive a certification to own a car, and then added upon whatever it costs to actually buy the car itself. For reference, the average price of a mid-range sedan is ~$93K USD. Thankfully (or perhaps consequently), the public transportation here is superb. It has been fascinating to see how bus and train stations shape the city landscape, as opposed to gas stations or tire shops like I’m used to in the States. 
  • And also, the real estate environment is really interesting! I haven’t learned as much here yet, but I’ve been told the wait time to buy a house is at least five years, but usually around ten. Also, “owning” a home in Singapore typically means you have a 99-year lease on the property, rather than an everlasting asset.

Last week was my first week with Terra SG and I would love to reflect on my experience thus far! As context, Terra SG is an NGO in Singapore developing climate curricula, interactive community programs, and collaborative sustainable action plans with local schools, organizations, and governments in order to equip the community at large to come together in the face of the climate crisis.

Monday was my first day, and that day was coincidentally World Environment Day. Accordingly, Terra was up and busy! My manager let me shadow her through a series of workshops and meetings happening throughout the day. We started the morning at the Singapore Institute of Technology, a local university, on a discussion about sustainable lifestyle habits, and moved to the afternoon with the Singapore Prison Service evaluating their carbon-neutral policies and aligning their organization with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Later in the afternoon, I more properly got onboarded with the office and met my coworkers for the summer!

In the days following, I got started on the first of my projects, which is developing learning plans to teach students about Singapore’s emerging sustainability sector, following Singapore’s Ministry of Sustainability’s executive plan for sustainability to be a foundational consideration to Singapore’s economic progress. Ultimately, this curriculum hopes to help students navigate environmentally-forward career opportunities in Singapore and plan for their futures. A truly exciting task to take on, and I am learning so much about Singapore along the way. For the remainder of the week, in addition to ideating and collaborating on curriculum development, I also had the opportunity to join in on more workshops and meetings with both local organizations and international corporations, all to help different sectors of Singapore navigate a carbon-neutral future. By the end of the week, I had simultaneously begun a second project as well, which is exploring food waste in Singapore to be catalysts for biodegradable materials. Altering a recipe I was familiar with that used eggshells, I am experimenting with different materials and ratios in hopes of building the foundation for new ways Terra can teach circular design. More on this coming soon, as well!

On another note, I had been feeling quite apprehensive about making friends in Singapore, but I feel grateful that the people I’ve met in my organization have been so kind! Though I’ve only been here a week, it’s quickly becoming home to me. With each day, I’m learning more and more about the culture of Singapore, along with different organizational structures and the role of design in complex issues like climate change. I am excited to continue reporting my findings here throughout the summer!