Friday, July 31, 2009

My English Summer Camp

Last week was the long planned summer camp that I had been stressed out about for the past month. It wasn’t so much the work that had to be put into the camp that was stressing me out, but it was the possibility that the director or anyone else could suddenly tell me I couldn’t have it and that would be the end of it. I had been promising my students that I would try my best to have this camp, and I know that they were rooting for me to get permission. I think that their undying support did help me gain permission in the first place. All the way back in the end of May I advertised for the camp at my school and had any interested students come take a test. They all thought that they had to get a certain score to get into the camp, but little did they know that the test was merely a tool for me to see how many students I should expect. Because the last volunteer at my site four years ago ran into problems from the director when she applied for a grant to cover the cost of a summer camp, I decided to avoid money all together and used some supplies sent to me by family friends and then got creative with everything else.

The camp was six days long and split into two groups of three days each. For the first three days we had 4th-6th graders and for the second part we had 7th-10th graders. I had three Turkmen teachers assisting me and another PCV from the neighboring etrap came to help, too. We had more than enough help, but the younger kids still exhausted us by the end! Each day of camp started with “Morning Assembly” that consisted of trying to wrangle all the students and then sing a few songs. I taught them “Boom Chicka Boom” and once they had learned it, we sang it different ways. I think they found my sobbing version of “Boom Chicka Boom” with my flamboyant fake crying and wailing the most hilarious. They don’t often see adults acting as silly as that, but putting myself on the extreme end of things allowed them to act goofy as well. Following the songs, we did group games and team activities. The girls turned out to be extremely skilled at carrying a ball on a spoon. My theory is that they have carried so many hot bowls of soup in their lives, that they know how to keep their hands steady while walking. They struggled to work together on the 3-legged race and got extremely competitive at the relay races. On the last day we filled up water balloons and did a balloon toss outside. Several students got wet eventually, but the balloons weren’t breaking very easily. One girl got completely soaked by a balloon and she was a good sport about it and just laughed at herself. With the older kids we had pairs of students make shapes with their bodies while having their eyes closed. The older students displayed excellent teamwork and communicated very well even when I had them blindfolded or not allowed to speak. I was impressed by how well they worked together even when given the difficult tasks that I had set (like the trust fall or leading your partner blindfolded through a course). Overall I think that we did lots of games with the students that they had never done before, using objects that they all have around the house. I was happy that I could do something new and creative with the students that challenged them to step outside their comfort zone and try something different.

After the games we split into groups and did different activities with the smaller groups. Despite the extreme weather, the first day we had a dance session. To see a group of Turkmen teenagers doing the Chattahoochee like they are in small-town Kentucky was incredible! Turkmen love to dance and although some of the younger kids had a problem keeping rhythm they were tapping, shuffling, turning and Macarena hand jiving away no matter if they were way off beat. In addition to the dance, one of the Turkmen teachers taught them origami and they made flapping birds and little dogs. The second day of camp was Christmas themed and we watched Mr.Bean’s Christmas with the younger kids and Elf with the older kids, made Christmas boxes out of origami and I taught a Christmas English lesson. The camp was conducted all in English and this lesson was the only official lesson, but of course it was fun. In addition to vocabulary and a reading activity, I taught them Jingle Bells and we played “pin the star on the Christmas tree.” For the third day we had a Halloween theme. The younger students made scary Halloween masks and went trick-o-treating through the classrooms. Definitely the highlight of the last day was the puppet show. With the first group I gave them printed dialogues with cats, bats, witches, ghosts and monsters. They made a puppet according to their dialogue, practices with their partner and performed behind a makeshift puppet stage for the class. With the older students I gave them freedom to write a dialogue themselves about anything they wanted. We had a Frankenstein monster and his love interest, Indians, rabbits, witches and one character called “Bad Boy.” Some of my more advanced students came up with witty and entertaining puppet shows that had us all laughing and enthusiastically applauding at the end. Because of the low English ability of the younger students, I was more limited with what I could do, but the older kids impressed me with their creativity and ease performing in front of their peers. The camp ended on a high-note after the puppet show as we tried to squish ourselves together to get one last memory, a group photo.

At the end of the camp I talked on the phone to my Turkmen friend with whom I went to college. During her childhood she attended PCV camps and looks back on them as some of her fondest memories. As I expressed that I wish that I could so something more for these kids, she reminded me that my little camp could be the most exciting thing that they do all summer, or that the “camper of the day” certificates could be their biggest achievement. Sometimes I forget to put my work here into perspective and that even the small projects I organize and the small changes I see in my kids are little victories I must not overlook.

1 comment:

Gatto999 said...

Great !...

Ciao from Italy