“Around the World” Summer Day Camp

The participants with their diplomas sporting big “American” smiles

This past week we had an “Around the World in 5 Days” themed English summer camp at our school with students in 3rd through 5th grade. Each day, we “traveled” to a country on each of the continents (minus Antarctica), learned about the country, and did a craft and/or game inspired by that country. The students had passports that we glued stamps into each day after we “traveled” to the country. We had a lot of fun and a decent turn out, so I’d say it was a success!

Day 1: Making mosaics
Day 1: Valeria with her finished mosaic of a pizza
Day 1: The finished mosaics

On Monday, we traveled to Italy in Europe. We learned about Italy, talking about some of the popular places people like to visit, then created mosaics from paper, inspired by the famous mosaics of the Roman Empire. The students also received their passports for the week and their workbooks. We learned some English vocabulary, such as boot (the shape of Italy), canal, and bridge.

Day 2: Learning African drumming thanks to our guest Peace Corps volunteer, Anne
Day 2: Learning an African dance
Day 2: Filling out worksheets for vocabulary and fast facts about Senegal

On Tuesday, we traveled to Senegal in Africa. A fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Anne, joined us and taught the students some African drumming and dance, which the students really loved! After, we learned a bit about Senegal and some English vocabulary such as grasslands, savanna, and prehistoric.

Day 3: Doing the Hokey Pokey
Day 3: Playing Simon Says
Day 3: Making, and then unraveling, a human knot

On Wednesday, we traveled to two countries: The United States of America in North America and Peru in South America. Some vocabulary we learned included stars, stripes, prairie, rain forest, and guinea pig. We played some classic American children’s games outside, such as Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and the Hokey Pokey. It was a lot of fun!

Day 4: Our camp workbooks and passports
Day 4: Playing Simon Says with our guest volunteer, Alicia
Day 4: The students with the mandalas they colored

On Thursday, we traveled to Thailand in Asia. A fellow volunteer, Alicia, joined us. We learned about Thailand, including some favorite Thai foods and English vocabulary such as spicy and jungle. We did some simple meditation while the students colored mandalas and listened to some meditation music (I’ve never seen them be so quiet!). After, we played a children’s game from Thailand called “Stealing the Leaves”, which was fun!

Day 5: Making paintings inspired by Aboriginal dot painting
Day 5: Water balloon fight
Day 5: Our finished paintings

On Friday, our last day, we learned about Australia. After learned some interesting facts about Australia and looking at a bunch of photos, we made some paintings inspired by Aboriginal Dot Paintings. They turned out quite well! Since it was the last day, we then went outside and played games, including a water balloon toss and fight! At the end of the camp, we handed out diplomas and reflected on the camp.

I think the kids really enjoyed the camp and they learned a lot about some places and countries they didn’t know much about before. They even asked if there would be another camp next week! This was my last official project in Moldova, and the last time I will work with my students. Friday was a bittersweet day because of that, but I bought the two older students that helped a ton throughout the week some ice cream and we sat and talked for a while. These two students are in 6th grade and I only taught them for part of my time here, so I didn’t know either well before the past two weeks. I was so impressed by both of them and the camp wouldn’t have been so successful without their hard work!

“The Future is Ours” Summer Day Camp

My site mate Amir and I decided to go all out for our summer work this year and planned two one-week day camps for June. The first camp wrapped up this past Friday, and we had so much fun! The camp was a half-day camp about leadership with students in 6th through 8th grade. We had 24 students sign up but only about 8-10 showed up daily. Although a little disappointing, I think the students that did come really enjoyed it, and it was a success!

Day 1: What are our values?
Day 1: What are some of our skills?
Day 1: What are some of our skills? Individually? As a team?

Because our students are younger and have little leadership experience, we stuck to the basics and also made sure to include lots of team-building and fun activities as well. The first day we talked about our values and our skills. The students made posters about the values they had in common, such as family, health, friends, and peace. They also wrote poems about the camp. We chose the one we liked best and said it throughout the week (translated to English):

“We have a beautiful camp, Here we feel at home, We discover many things, And learn about everything. It’s summer camp, It’s hot outside, We are joyful, That we are here. We meet our friends, And talk with them day by day, We’ll do our best, We won’t return home!”

Day 2: What are some leadership qualities?
Day 2: Some examples of famous leaders
Day 2: Playing Simon Says

The second day we talked about what a leader is and some examples of internationally recognized leaders. We discussed the qualities of leaders and also named some people in our community who demonstrated those qualities and who are leaders in the community. We played some games outside as well. I was surprised to find out that these middle-school-aged kids were perfectly happy playing classic American kid games such as relay races, Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and even dancing the Hokey Pokey! I guess for them these were just fun games and they were mostly new games for them! The students’ favorite activity of the day, however, was “The Number Game” where they had to try to count to 20 as a group without any communication or gestures (every time two people say the next number at the same time, it starts over at 1- it sounds easy but is actually quite challenging!). and the “Chair Activity” in which the students sit in a circle with their chairs close together then lay their head on their neighbor’s legs. The chairs are then removed from beneath them, and they have to see how long they can support one another without anyone falling.

Day 3: The “Chair Activity”- learning to support one another
Day 3: Playing a Moldovan volleyball game
Day 3: Building marshmallow and spaghetti towers

On Wednesday we discussed team leadership and solving problems. We did some fun activities this day as well, like the Human Knot (where everyone links hands with two different people and then have to “unravel” the knot so that they all form a circle again) and building marshmallow and spaghetti towers in teams. Another volunteer, Alicia, from a nearby village joined us this day, and the students taught us three Americans how to play a volleyball-based game, which was a lot of fun! The students really loved the “Chair Activity” in which students sit in a circle with their chairs close together then lay their head on their neighbor’s legs. The chairs are then removed from beneath them, and they have to see how long they can support one another without anyone falling.

Day 4: “Poisonous” Spider Web game
Day 4: Visualizing our dreams for the future (Mrs. Maia, our school accountant, is on the left and was our primary partner for the camp. She helped us a lot on this day helping explain why goals are important!)
Day 4: Confidence building activity by writing anonymous compliments on each other’s backs

Thursday was another fun day and we talked about setting and working toward our goals. The idea of having a plan for our lives and then taking active steps to achieve it is not very common in Moldova, so the students struggled with this part of the day quite a bit. Our main goal was for the students to understand that although our goals may change throughout our life depending on circumstances and our wishes, it’s important to think about where we want to end up and then take some small steps now in order to reach that dream. By the end of the day, the students demonstrated that they now understood the importance of having a plan and knowing what some steps might be to achieve their goals. Since it was a difficult lesson for them, we planned some less serious activities for the afternoon. They made summer bucket lists and did a photo scavenger hunt, which they LOVED. We also talked a bit about Self Confidence and wrote compliments on one another’s backs.

Day 5: Receiving diplomas
Day 5: Water balloon toss
Day 5: Water balloon toss- good thing it was really hot outside!

Our last day, Friday, was a more laid-back day. We reviewed what we had learned throughout the week and handed out diplomas, then headed outside for some games. After our snack break, we recited our poem once more and did the chair activity again. This time, they were able to hold the circle up for over 3 minutes! We then finished the day with a water balloon toss followed by a water balloon fight and a couple of team “photo challenges”.

Day 5: Photo challenge with the prompt “people dancing”
Day 5: Water balloon fight

It was such a great week! The students are begging my site mate to have another day camp later in the summer (I’m wrapping up my service and leaving in two weeks). It was a great way to finish up my time with my older students, and I’m so glad they enjoyed it so much! I definitely enjoyed it as well!

Here’s a video with even more photos from the camp:

Moldovan Summers

Summer starts early in Moldova, on the first of June.  It is a hot and humid season and also very busy for most Moldovans.  They planted their gardens and fields in the spring and now they have to weed and care for the plants.  They have to tie up the grape vines and harvest the fruits and vegetables that have ripened.  They have to clean their houses and change out the heavy rugs for lighter ones.  They have to keep careful watch over the chicks and ducklings and goslings.  They have to prepare their homes for visitors, perhaps their grown kids and grandkids or friends home from working abroad.

Inversely, for education volunteers in Moldova, summer is not quite so busy.  Our partner teachers and school administrators are busy tending their gardens and fields and children who are at home during the yearly break of the town or village’s grădiniţă, or kindergarten.  Our students are busy working in their family’s gardens and fields or helping out at home with younger siblings.  Us volunteers are working around these busy schedules, having an English Club here and there, maybe a week-long summer camp, or perhaps working on implementing a grant project.  But even with these activities, we have much more free time than during the school year.

Some days I sit on a swing on our house’s patio and listen to the birds sing and the breeze move the grape vines above my head.  Sometimes I go to the garden and pick strawberries or cherries or raspberries, coming back with a full belly and red-stained finger tips.  Occasionally I accompany my host mom on an evening walk to visit a friend or run errands.  At night, I debate whether I’d rather end up with itchy bug bites along my arms or my legs or sweat in the hot room with the window closed.

If I were asked to describe summer in Moldova, I would say this: It is hot and humid and there is no relief, but it is also beautiful.  There are huge fields of golden grain and green cornstalks and yellow sunflowers.  People are out and about, working together in the fields to ensure everything gets done.  Gardens are bursting at the seams with flowers.  Tables are brought outside for eating.  There is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, all picked right from the garden.

I’m not sure I would want to experience these hot summers every year, but there is still lots of beauty to be found despite the heat.