What to do over the Easter break? | Agency

This weekend's weather has been pretty good for February, but as we enjoy the early winter sun at MTA we are already turning our thoughts to longer and hotter days.

It perhaps feels strange that I would be talking about Easter and summer camps, but even though it is only February our books are now open for Easter camp (April 14) and the long summer break. It always surprises me how efficient parents are in organising camp activities here on the island and we have already had an enquiry as to what our plans are for June 2020.

We have been running educational camps at MTA since we opened our doors in 2009. We offer the opportunity of Easter and summer camps. The tutors and I believe that the service is effective and offers a fantastic alternative to standard tutoring engaging children and developing their English skills.

Sofia and Alice, our camp super women, are already preparing both camps with exciting new themes, a wonderful marquee and some very interesting fun activities.

So why do we bother to undertake the huge task of running Easter camps and summer school, particularly when summer school is at the hottest time of the year when the beach is calling and holidays are on most people’s minds.

We truly believe that the experiences children gain from camp activities is invaluable and the desire to keep active minds through holiday periods is as strong as ever; looking at the response of the children in our own camps over the years a resounding success too.

An effective camp provides the opportunity for children to hone in their life-skills and enhance their cognitive and behavioural development. It is well documented that whilst summer camp can be a power tool for summer learning-loss prevention, it also can benefit your child’s developmental growth. According to the Search Institute, children actually have seven developmental needs:

1. Physical Activity
2. Competence and Achievement
3. Self-Definition
4. Creative Self-Expression
5. Positive Social Interactions
6. Structure and Clear Limits
7. Meaningful Participation

Summer camp can address each of these needs, and can do so in a nurturing, fun environment.

So what makes the activities undertaken in these camps such an important part of ongoing brain development?

Think back to your own childhood, the chances are that you remember doing a creative craft project with your primary teacher, or an interactive science experiment during your early school days more than you can recall many other topics covered while sitting passively in class. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, children learn best by engaging in hands-on activities that encourage them to experience the world around them through their senses.

In order to address these needs the key activities our MTA tutors encourage fall generally into four categories:

· Exploration.
· Critical thinking and problem solving.
· Knowledge and content.
· Learning and memory as the final important step.

What do we really mean by exploration?

Learning through interactive, hands-on activities puts your children in the centre of the educational process and allows them to use their natural sense of curiosity. Touching, moving and manipulating materials help children explore their surrounding environment, make new discoveries for themselves and understand new content. For example, you could tell your child that there are plants that grow outside - which won’t help them to truly understand growing concepts - or you could do a hands-on seed planting experiment in which a child explores every aspect of the growth cycle for themselves with their own eyes, hands and a magnifying glass.

Critical thinking is a crucial skill when it comes back to school and term time. Time spent during the holidays developing this skill is a wonderful and productive use of out of classroom learning. The exploratory nature of hands-on activities encourages kids to take part in the learning process, allowing them to work out their own solutions to problems. Hands-on activities provide children with a way to think critically, to make predictions and test them through interactions. As an active approach to learning, these types of activities, whether it’s a science experiment, painting project or block building adventure, help children to develop conclusions using their own problem-solving skills instead of asking an adult to tell them the answer.

Knowledge and content is vitally important, excellent tutors understand that children learn specific content through hands-on activities. Science easily lends itself to an experimental approach, making it a fantastic summer activity as a prime method to build knowledge. Indeed I remember last year enjoying hearing a student from our camp tell me that she had learnt how to float a stone. Our challenge for the children was to think how they could build a receptacle in order to make the stone float. As you can imagine we had some incredible ideas, but this particular little girl made a beautiful boat and it worked! She was so happy and impressed with winning first prize for her invention!

Committing the learning to memory is key, we find in our summer school learning is the key objective for parents. They want their children to gain from the experience both educationally and emotionally. After all it would be of little use if it were just a babysitting activity.

By getting involved and taking a hands-on approach, children are often using multisensory means to gather and process information. It has been proven that using a multisensory way of learning leads to a higher likelihood that the child will actually store this new information in his/ her memory, thus making the whole experience one which has been fun, safe, happy and constructive also.

Of course at the end of the summer when everyone is ready to return to the formality of school we encourage and offer a more formal tutoring facility; helping bring all of the learning from the summer period into a focussed, confidence building series of activities to ensure that students approach the new academic year with excitement and pace.
In summary then, no fads here. A good educational camp is a marvellous way to keep brains active and develop other life skills.

So look forward to Easter and the summer breaks being filled with fun and learning. If your child is be attending an educational camp I hope they have a most uplifting and fulfilling experience which will stay with them throughout the following academic years.