IT for Change (ITfC) organized Back to School Camp initially at GHS Jayanagar 9th block and followed by camps at Hombegowda Boys High School (English and Kannada medium) and GHS- Yediyur. The camp included activities like library activity (English and Kannada), picture storytelling, word scattegories, foundational mathematics, everyday science activity, solving puzzles and other fun activities. All the students enjoyed the camp sessions and actively participated throughout the camp days. These activities in the camp helped the students enjoy and gain meaningful learning experiences.
The objectives of the camp are as follows-
1. to help students get acquainted and reoriented to a structured learning environment;
2. to help students appreciate the relevance of school and apply the learning in real-life situations;
3. to encourage appropriate peer interaction and teamwork in a healthy environment;
4. to inculcate scientific reasoning and logical skills in students through various activities;
5. to support the building of foundational language and mathematical skills and conceptual understanding among students;
6. to ensure each participant gets adequate hands-on experiences;
7. to provide and strengthen various skills like reading, writing and listening along with the planned activities;
8. to prepare students to meet the academic demands of high school.
We started the “Back to School Camp” for class 8 students of GHS Jayanagar 9th block from January 19, 2021, to January 22, 2021. All students actively participated in all activities throughout the camp. Later we did a similar camp for class 8 students of Hombegowda Boys High School, each week separately for Kannada and English medium students, and later we conducted a similar camp for class 8 students of GHS Yediyur. The teachers of these schools were supportive and helped us in conducting the camp sessions at these schools.
The activities for the camp were intended to bridge the long gap in students’ academic life and thus support and build foundational mathematics skills, reading skills and thinking skills. The ITfC team were distributed in such a way that the facilitator and student ratio was 1:6. This helped the students to get individual attention, clarify their doubts and perform the activities with ease. Each day comprised of balanced activities from mathematics and language, and thus the activities were multilevel and had varieties catering for the needs of the individuals.
Before beginning the camp at schools, initially, the education team sent an IVRS to the parents of the pupils. The facilitators also took up the responsibility to inform the parents of each student about the camp and its need for their children, to encourage and get support from parents in sending their wards to the school. Each camp day either starts or ends with games, to spread a healthy fun-filled learning atmosphere, and thus encouraging the students to attend school regularly. The team regularly shared feedback on various activities and modified them from time-to-time to meet the suitable needs of the learners. Students were also given an opportunity to drop questions on what they liked to learn, in the allotted box.
The list of activities that were conducted in the camps were - language basics, awareness on health and hygiene, puzzles (Tangram ), number line basics, scattergories, everyday science activity (colour mixing, separating mixture using different methods and acid-base test using natural indicators) number sense and foundational geometry, picture-based storytelling, reading activity (Kannada), making clock and timeline by students, matchstick puzzles, quiz time and indoor games (chess and other board games).
The students actively participated in all the activities and enjoyed them. Many students developed basic reading skills and made use of the library time allotted to them. The depiction of the story, by listening and drawing them out, encouraged them to explore their hidden talents. Other activities related to mathematics helped the pupils to understand the basic concepts of arithmetic and geometry and apply them in real-life situations.
The camp was good exposure for both students and facilitators. Many students expressed this camp, as first time experience and shared their experiences with the team members. The first back to school camp at GHS Jayanagar 9th block was a first-hand experience for many of the team members and hence had difficulty in conducting the activities according to the needs of the learners. Later, with initial camp experience and constructive feedback, the activities were modified and more time was allotted for library activities and indoor games, along with other activities. Most of the activities were team-based, which helped the students in a team to build a strong bond with their peers and thus help each other in completing the tasks. The students build self-confidence over the period and also build a good rapport with ITfC team members. Thus the camp encouraged healthy peer interaction and also allowed experiential learning for the students.
The camp was a good learning experience for both students and facilitators. There were many difficulties that we faced during the camp at schools. All students at these schools hailed from different socio-economic backgrounds and hence all the sessions had to be conducted in such a way, considering the heterogeneity of the classroom and providing equal opportunities for all students. Many students worked and then attended the camp sessions, some students did not have interest to attend school, some students had difficulties in travelling to schools and some others needed hostel facilities which was unavailable due to the present pandemic situation. The students also lacked self-confidence and communication skills, due to which they could not express their thoughts or ideas freely, and this also caused an obstacle in performing their activities with ease.
The camp through joyful learning experiences helped the students to an extent to bridge the long gap in their academic life. It also provided the students with an opportunity for self-expression and thereby helped them to improve their self-confidence. The various activities conducted during the camp developed team spirit, curiosity to learn more, take up responsibilities, construct their knowledge and also provided a hands-on learning experience. Thus, all students were provided with ample resources and opportunities to help them reconnect back to school and academics.