We did our first day summer camp with our students last year. We joined a camp run by another school, and went off to a nearby island with them to play on the beach, have a barbecue, and do lots of small English games.
We learned a lot from the experience, not least that it is not particularly difficult to organise ‘English’ events. I liked a lot of what they did (putting students in mixed-age teams, having low-pressure competition throughout the day, being active, going outside), but found some of it less effective (forcing English onto students, some of the activities).
We organised our own summer day camp this year, and it was a huge success. Students and staff had a good time, it didn’t take all that much preparation, and I think it will help our schools’ reputation.
I’m going to list some of the things that went well below, in the hopes that it will be useful for other teachers or school owner/operators.
1. We found a company to do most of the work that does outdoor activities for kids’ groups like neighbourhood associations, etc. and they were able to provide a morning activity (making zunda mochi), lunch, bus there and back, and a beautiful outdoor location for a very reasonable price (1700 yen per person). This took almost all the pain out of the experience and meant that we just had to organise our students and think of some games to play in the afternoon. If we had had to provide lunch and arrange transport, it would have been much more work.
2. We had students from various classrooms and classes, so mixing them up was a priority. We made mixed age and ability teams, and had two teachers and fourteen students in each. This worked well, and after about ten minutes into the zunda mochi making you couldn’t really tell which students were in the same class and which had just met for the first time.
3. We had a lot of staff, mostly parents and university student volunteers. This really helped with logistics (helping the students do things and carrying stuff mostly).
4. We had a mix of structured activity and free time, which meant the students had a chance to play soccer with their friends if they wanted, but didn’t really have time to get bored.
5. The emphasis was not really on English (some of the students brought friends who were not studying English) but rather on having fun together and getting to know each other. This removed a lot of the pressure, and resulted in a much more relaxed atmosphere than the camp last year (where there was much more emphasis on English, to the extent of the safety briefing being done in English!).
The best thing about the day was the chance to just hang out with the students and run around outside. I think everyone enjoyed the day and made some new friends.
I am hoping to do more activity days like this, again not based on English so much as having a fun day out with friends. That way we can build our school community further.