Summer Camp Planning

Both of us have a half-ish week this week. It’s finals. Which is crazy. I never remember having midterms or finals in middle school. Maybe a mid-sized test towards the end of the year but they were never that serious – especially not as serious as it is as here.

For the past 2 weeks our Korean coworkers have been shouting at kids to get out of the office!; they’ve been hiding tests under books and generally acting crazy. Kids cannot see the test or the teachers writing it. The whole staff has to approve the final questions for all grades so there were teachers running around the whole school looking for signatures and stamps. Inevitably there will be parents and students that complain to all the departments – that question was worded strangely! or There’s a spelling error, you should give my student an A!. To combat this, the English department has used Chris and I have to double check wording and the “appropriate answers” allowed by the tests. It’s intense.

The reason tests are so intense here are because the students actually have to apply to go to high school. They are all guaranteed a high school – it’s not like you won’t get in and then you have to go get a job. But there are better and worse high schools. For instance, we have the Daejeon Foreign Language High School which is probably one of the best in the area. If students want to go there they’ll have to get letters of recommendation, essays, good grades, great test scores and proof of outstanding language skills (sounds like getting into college). So midterms and finals are important to getting into high school.

My school is taking final tests Mon-Tues-Wed while Chris’s school is Tues-Wed-Thursday. After that we have 2 weeks of off-book lessons about anything.

Then in three weeks we’ll start our summer camps. We’re each teaching 2 weeks worth of summer camps. The first week is 1st grade the second is 2nd grade. It’s a little weird because my camp starts on a Wednesday and ends on a Tuesday. While Chris’s is a normal Mon-Fri Mon-Fri thing.



The cool part is we design it completely – it can be about anything, it can be themed or not, and we can teach almost anything we want.

Initially that was almost too open. We complain about having to teach from the text books all the time but when we’re given absolute freedom we clam up. What should I teach? How much does it need to focus on lessons? Can we do crafts or play games?

From the beginning I have wanted to do a summer camp themed like an American one – s’mores, fires and camping – altered somehow to be indoors. Then I started doubting that the kids would like it, so I started switching to popular culture. This lead me to be really into the idea of a books to movies camp. Read bits of the book, look at clips of the movie, do a project or game related to the movie/book. Etc. But I just kept going back to the “great outdoors” or “all-American summer camp” or whatever I should call it.

I worry that most of my kids are too indoors-y. They go car camping sometimes but they are definitely 8+ hour-a-day screen-exposed preteens. They do stay indoors more than out – they use their phones or a screen all day and sometimes all night (Korea has/had a Cinderella Law that forbid kids playing video games after midnight). Some are completely addicted to video games – at least two of my students in my after school club are.

So I thought- do I satisfy this screen love with an all-indoor camp focused on movies and books? Or do I fight against it in a possibly-futile attempt to get them to do crafts and try new things? When I do this with my 8-student club I’m usually met with resistance and confusion. Do I really want to fight that with 40 kids over two weeks?

For some reason I decided that I do. So I picked the great outdoors theme and got it (surprisingly) approved yesterday. In addition to writing scary stories/folk tales and campfire songs… and, of course, learning culture and new vocabulary terms, we’re hopefully going to do some pretty cool things:

  • make paracord bracelets
  • eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • learn about American summer camps
  • go on a scavenger hunt
  • navigate with maps
  • make dream catchers
  • play Red Rover and possibly other games
  • make solar oven hot dogs
  • research animals and make animal track stamps
  • try Ants on a Log (peanut butter, celery, and raisins)
  • take illusion photos
  • start a fire without matches

The last bullet I wasn’t sure if I would get approved. “Sounds dangerous” was the initial reaction until they decided “well we’ll just have to go outside for that one” Uhhh… yeah. Yeah we will.

I established that we would be learning fire safety before we did it. Also that half the kids probably won’t even start a fire. Also each group will have their own water and I will personally bring a  fire extinguisher it was deemed less dangerous. It received full approval when it was decided it could be a race between teams. I think that actually could make it more dangerous but we’ll just set some serious ground rules down.

If the bullet list looks like too much fun for an educational summer camp. It is. I worry that a certain vice principal could  crack down on it if they look at the schedule. However I think these kids aren’t given a chance to really be kids all the time. Plus it’s the best kind of English language learning. Just by coming to camp every day and having instructions in English they will have more exposure than they usually do. Also, this is a lot more real-world English, following directions, doing research and making things requires more brain power than memorizing key phrases or even vocabulary words. Its a great immersion because if you aren’t paying attention you won’t know how to play the game or make the craft. Which for 6 and 7th grade students should be good motivation.

For now, I’m writing at 30+ page booklet for the camp to use. Basically I’m creating my own textbook, which I love. I love writing, I love putting pictures on stuff. It’s been actually really nice to have to think the activities through ahead of time so you can put them in the book.

Early draft:

writing book


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