My 7 year old was whisked off to a 5 day Globe Trekker holiday camp with The Little Executive at the start of the June school holidays. It was his first time going for a holiday camp and he didn’t quite know what to expect.
I showed him some videos and photos of The Little Executive’s past holiday camps such as the Dino Discovery Camp and Astronaut Training Camp which got him fairly excited, yet I was a little bit concerned because the camp he would be attending didn’t have any of his favourite dinosaurs or spacecraft, he would be ’traveling’ around the world instead.
It would be a 5 morning program where the kids ‘travel’ to 4 different countries to learn about their history, traditions, cultures and the languages they speak.
I was excited and thought that the camp could better prepare him for our upcoming Japan trip. Then Day 1 came and he figured out that instead of having the luxury of spending the morning at home, fiddling with his toys, he would be going for some sort of ‘lesson’. It took me more than an hour to cajole and coax him to get out the house.
We met Michelle Wee, one of the 2 brilliant ladies behind The Little Executive. I have known Michelle through a close group of mother bloggers and was drawn to her blog for her very down to earth approach to bringing up 6 kids! Yes, you heard me right. She has 5 girls and 1 boy and in her blog, she often dishes out sane tips and wise parenting advice on how she does it without going broke while maintaining her sanity. Apart from being a mother of 6, she is also a trained occupational therapist and she seems to have married passion with work when she started The Little Executive. I have been eager to find out more about their program, so when Michelle offered a spot for the upcoming Globe Trekker holiday camp, I was quick to grab it.
Marcus quickly met up with the facilitator for the camp. His name was Jim, a very friendly guy and it wasn’t difficult for my playful one to warm up to friendly stranger. Very soon, he forgot about our morning fuss and disappeared into his classroom without bidding goodbye. By the time I picked him up after the class, he was chatty and chirpy and rattling off about what he had learned. They had travelled to Mexico and learned about the Aztec people. They did some worksheets, made some craft and tasted some food. It was not hard to see that a lot of thought has been put into the lesson plan. Everything was planned around the country they ‘travelled’ to that day. I like this thematic way of teaching and learning. There are so many interesting things and ways to learn about a country!
I was glad that he enjoyed his first lesson and that kind of set the mood for the rest of the week. He was eager to know the next country they would ‘travel’ to and the week whisked by quickly. I was curious to find out what made him change his initial impression of a ‘learning’ camp and here are 3 main things that I found out from him that the camp did differently from his school.
1. More interactive teaching and learning
Instead of listening passively to the teacher delivering the lesson, the session was a lot more interactive and provided an end to end learning process.
The kids got to watch interesting videos on the countries they were visiting and that was certainly more interesting than listening to his school teachers’ monotonous voice. Before watching the videos, they were asked to look out for certain objects so that they could complete the given worksheets and the facilitators would discuss further the information that they have gleaned from the video. The kids were particularly attentive and would buzz with excitement while watching the video.
This would follow by a craft session where they would get their hands dirty, making things that were associated with the country they visited that day. Beside Aztec mats, they made boomerangs, sushi, paper origami and even a sandy beach using kinetic sand.
I think these craft sessions are good for tactile learners who learn by touching and doing. The physical activity and “hands-on” craft helped these kids to understand and remember things better.
2. Talking is allowed
Yes, kids are allowed to talk in class. In school, my boy would tell me that he was not allowed to talk even after he has completed his work.
During the camp, the children were allowed to talk and discuss, albeit quietly and respectfully. My boy confessed that he gets bored, sitting whole day in school, listening to his teachers talk. I probably get bored too and I seriously think this is the reason why so many children these days are being diagnosed with ADHD. Well, I probably need more data to justify my assertion. I think interaction and exchange of ideas are such important aspects of learning but sorely absent in our current school classrooms.
3. Peer learning
The age for the kids at the camp ranged from 4 to 8. The class was a mix of kids of different age groups, thus different abilities. It was so completely different from our local schools where the kids are grouped based on age, graded, sorted and further grouped into groups of similar abilities.
During the camp, the older kids got to help out the younger ones. Age appropriate activities of varying complexities were also given to the kids so that the activities were within their abilities. Being an older boy, Marcus was assigned as a group leader. He told me his job as a leader was to help out the younger ones. He loved it and felt mighty pleased with his new role as a ‘big brother’ in the group.
On the last day of the program, the kids were grouped and given the task of doing a presentation to the parents. So I was expecting something like a show-and-tell session my boys did in school, where a written script is required for rating and often parents go to great lengths to help prepare the most impressive presentation materials.
At the camp, I was impressed that the kids did everything themselves and were free to decide how much to present. The older kids would help the younger ones in the group. I saw them whispering to the younger ones during presentation helping them out with what to say. It was so very cute and heartening to watch these little people work as a team.
Personally I like this ‘peer learning’ setting where the children learn and help each other. I think at the camp, they have found a good way of mixing the kids without leaving anyone behind. The younger kids learn by observing how the older ones do things. The older kids learn a great deal when they have to explain what they know to others. It is like reinforcing and internalizing what they’ve learned. As fellow learners, they are more empathetic and understanding towards another kid who is struggling to grasp the new concept. They learn empathy, cooperation and team work. Isn’t that how we have always learned since the beginning of mankind when we lived in small tight communities.
All in all, I like the fact that the camp focused on the journey and the process of learning rather than the outcome. I think this runs against the grain of the Singaporean psyche where outcome is the penultimate. It is not easy putting such a program together and I think at The Little Executive, they have done exceedingly well in delivering such a program.
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