07-04-2020

I know that this is probably not one of the things that is foremost upon your mind at this stage as we move into week 4 of lockdown. Additionally with the prospect of this being with us until the end of April, should we really be thinking beyond that date? Yes!

We will see relief eventually; I read an article which was very positive and hopeful for the Balearic Islands over the weekend and even the Queen said in her address to the British public on Sunday. ‘Better days will return’.

I have run this article before but feel that it is even more important to reiterate the message that keeping brains active during the summer break is vitally important and I don’t just mean summer camps either; MTA offer extensive tutoring for students from 5 years old too.

More than ever this year parents and students alike will need a well-earned change from enforced confinement.

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

So why do we bother to undertake this huge task 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:

  • Physical Activity
  • Competence and Achievement
  • Self-Definition
  • Creative Self-Expression
  • Positive Social Interactions
  • Structure and Clear Limits
  • 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 multi-sensory means to gather and process information. It has been proven that using a multi-sensory 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.

In summary then, no fads here. A good educational camp is a marvelous way to keep brains active and develop other life skills. Never more so than this unprecedented year.

Put in a sprinkle of tutoring as well and you can definitely help the ‘brain drain

So, as always, while you consider your options for summer 2020, let’s enjoy the beautiful spring weather, stay safe and if you do decide that your child may be attending either tutoring or an educational camp I hope they have a most uplifting and fulfilling experience which will stay with them throughout the following academic years.

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