Thursday, 5 August 2010

Summer School Thoughts

I just read an article at

It made me think - can we compare a Tom Sawyer version of summer break, to what many children experience over summer now - being baby sat electronically, unable to 'go play' because of the dangers and often little interaction with the natural environment?

As a teacher I was always against summer camps/schools for our students, but then my experience of summer was somewhat Tom Sawyer-like. Days spent exploring rock pools, learning to swim in the ocean, or enjoying 'playing' in the backyard, learning about the chickens, building cubby houses, digging tunnels provided the sort of education not available in schools in those days.

But that's not the world that most of our students find themselves in. With parents working and the ease and availability of IT to keep children gainfully employed, students often don't have the opportunities for exploration of the real world around them that I took for granted as a child.

The summer holiday period at my international school is considerably longer than the local schools' break, a difficulty which can be very stressful to the parents. So this year for the first time we provided a summer school for two weeks after school finished. It has been such a huge success that I am now planning ahead for the coming summer, extending our summer school to cover more of the difference between the local system and our school.

What made the summer school so successful? It was not an academic focussed programme, but a true 'holiday camp'. The staff were enthusiastic, flexible but also passionate about developing inquiring minds, independence and social responsibility. The atmosphere was quite unique - totally different to the normal school routines. The focus on learning through experience is an appropriate focus in this school - this is Norway and a practical,  hands on approach in most cases matches the parents' perceptions of what the children should be doing in a summer camp.

Next year we will also look at providing an academic element for the older children (this year the group attending summer school consisted of 60% early childhood students).

Perhaps we'll plan along the lines of a "Tom Sawyer in Norway" type of camp!!

Love to hear other's experiences in providing summer schools and camps for elementary and early childhood students in international schools.

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