In July 2016, Walter and I sat down to discuss the thought of putting on a summer camp for some of the children we had worked with in London. We fondly remembered our own prep school days and happy memories of camping, both at home and on school trips. There is a sense of adventure and simplicity to those memories, to a time when little else mattered and great fun could be had without the need for modern or technological comforts. We had seen first hand how our mentoring ethos took roots in the outdoor setting of the Peligoni; a different set-up to our regular one-to-one tuition and mentoring work in London, but one that worked just as well. We put our heads together for how children could take advantage of their holiday time, to prepare for school tests and transitions, while having a great time and making new friends. The idea of the camps has been to subtly infuse each and every moment of the day with value-adding moments; to help children mature and learn while having fun. Just as our mentoring ethos dictates, a child’s education shouldn’t forget the soft skills that are in fact the hardest to pinpoint.
On this basis, we founded Oppidan Camps with one core principle: to take learning outside of the classroom. After two successful trial camps in 2016 that took place in Wiltshire and in France, 2017 brought ten ‘educamps’ and well over a hundred children to Oppidan’s various sites in Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.
The camps have taken on three forms: private camps at a client’s own home, school camps with us and finally our own camps with varied groups of children who often don’t know each other at all.
The menu has included a plethora of activities, many of which were simply things that Walter and I loved as children. Dragons Den business pitching, creative writing, maths on the tennis court, poetry and performance workshops, cooking, team sports and challenges, capture the flag, rocket building, tent pitching, lake swimming, fire building, BBQing, marshmallow toasting, ghost storytelling, German Spotlight and a sometimes slightly chilly night in one of our canvas bell tents. We have loved every minute and it’s been phenomenally rewarding to see such a positive response from the children too.
Though the scheduling and execution has almost seamlessly gone to plan, the camps involve a huge amount of work and we’re grateful to all those who have helped. Firstly, thank you to our parents, without whose support Oppidan would cease to exist. Thank you also to Tilly who has worked tirelessly in the office to take bookings and arrange the minutiae of each camp. To our mentors: a brilliant group of young and enthusiastic people who have entertained and inspired at every turn. And lastly, thanks to our chefs, who have slaved from 7am to 10pm to ensure that the best home-cooked food ends up on the table.
But what plans for 2018? We have big ideas to make Oppidan Camps a permanent feature on the summer calendar. We hope to offer Oppidan EduCamps throughout the summer with exciting additions to come.
By Henry Faber