Life as a Camp Leader by Lamorna Ash
Douglas - Oppidan Camp ‘Poetry Laureate.' Easter Camp 2018
Many might think that this camp is just more work.
However really it is a big thump-on-the-knee.
Oppidan is just like doing art work.
With Dragon’s Den you can make your own company.
And with languages, history, poetry tests, capture the flag, human charades.
It is positive to make your last vocally cracking games probability like Ludo.
Oppidan is sure to make you explore the wonders of our adventurous brains.
Socially, rather than academic war and destroys our fears for our future aims.
Oppidan is a bulging chance to win. Never something you should consider and bin.
When I was told I was going to the Oppidan Camp, I thought it would be like school or having a tutor. It was not.
Take maths. We were taught by students who were the same age as us. This was good because they understood the way we think.
The child teachers would write on a white board. We were encouraged to make suggestions for solving problems. What I liked is that we were in a relaxed environment. We sat on sofas.
We managed to cover almost a whole year’s lessons in an hour — or at least that is what it felt like. What was exciting for me is I learnt all about pi, and measuring the diameter and circumference of circles.
In languages, it was impossible to hide our weaknesses. We stood up in a circle, and one of the tutors would ask us to translate Latin and French vocab. If we got it wrong, we would lose a life. And after we lost two lives, we would have to sit down.
It felt like a game.
Then we were put into teams of three people. We were lucky that a boy in my team was bilingual in French. Each was given a Latin or French word. We had to write down all the declensions. The first team to finish got a point. My team came second.
In public speaking, we were told to research whether social media had a good or bad impact on the world. I think that social media is negative, but I had to argue the positive side of it.
One of my team did the introduction to the debate. I did the middle part: I made six points. Then it was an open debate, and we talked in a more relaxed way.
I learnt the important thing is to stay quiet and listen to what others are saying. Because then you can make an important point and win.
Outside, we did orienteering. There was an assault course where balloons filled with water were fired at us. Twice we played “Capture the flag”. I dodged all the teachers. The team I was on always won. And I captured more flags than anyone else.
The most enjoyable session of the week was Dragons’ Den. In my team of three, we spent the first hour inventing our business, making a plan, and designing a logo.
Our idea was an app with recipes for how to use waste food. We were each given £300,000 to create our companies.
The mistake we made was we were too loud in criticising other businesses. We did manage to raise money from one of the Dragons. But we were told that we could not win the contest, because we were not respectful enough.
We slept in tents. Before bed we roasted S’mores and told scary stories. I loved Camp Oppidan and want to go back.
“I appreciate what Oppidan are doing, treating children like young adults, stimulating their learning whilst having fun. His confidence is through the roof as is his self-esteem and self worth – this is a godsend.”
At the risk of self-promotion, this testimonial from an Oppidan parent encapsulates the breadth of education that mentoring allows. The narrative of mentoring and the success it brings focuses on support, direction and guidance. It highlights the role of the mentor in promoting development and potential commensurate with a child’s ability. It advocates humble curiosity, confidence and adaptability as the soft skills associated with “slow education” at the expense of prescriptive target-based tuition. In turn, this helps foster independence at school and at home, and a sense of self-worth which goes some way to helping manage the stress for children and parents in pursuing academic challenges.
It is self-evident that the mark of a good mentor is the rapport they are able to nurture with a student. This should be obvious. If the student doesn’t trust or value the mentor, little progress is made. We often say that the difference between mentoring and tutoring is intrinsic: as the relationship develops, the shift happens organically and the mentor takes on a different role that transcends academia. Once the child is invested in you, the sky is the limit as to what can be achieved. You are as much a mentor in the enthusiasm and the personality you bring to the lesson as you are in the actual content of the lesson.
As already discussed, the ethos of mentoring stresses encouragement, empathy and creativity within learning: above all, a sense that learning is fun and to be taken advantage of. But how does that manifest itself within a lesson? This is a question Henry and I are often asked. “The narrative sounds wonderful but what will you do differently?”
Mentors differ in their approach to one-on-one teaching not only in the personality they exude within that lesson but also in the way they teach and the content and the creativity they bring to it. A child will more likely do well with a teacher they like, but there are also specific techniques that help engage and promote active learning. Through these, they take mentoring from a frilly add on to something tangible which produces results and practical progress.
1.) Lessons must be student led: Too often tutors follow the same passive form of teacher-led teaching at schools. Instead, students of whatever age must be encouraged to take the initiative on what they want to learn and what they think would be beneficial to study.
2.) “I teach, we teach, you teach:” Research shows that if a child has to teach the material they have learnt, the material is far better understood. A move from lecturing to discussion and then onto teaching ensures marked improvement and gives children the confidence to be able to tackle difficult material.
3.) Active Learning: Encourage movement during lessons. Whether that be through placing an exercise on each side of a table and moving around it completing each exercise, or simply taking the lesson outside, taking a lesson outside a classroom environment helps a child relax and feel at ease.
4.) Focus on Self-Projection: Lessons should involve situations where children (and mentors) are asked to present, to speak about themselves, to debate, critique or question an article, passage or piece of literature. The Radio 4 game show “Just a Minute” is brilliant preparation for interviews as well as vital in learning to project.
5.) Mentor - Child Performance Reviews Mentors and their charges should spend time focusing on how the other person is performing. A novel concept at first, barriers are broken down and it’s hugely rewarding for the child to take control of the lesson.
6.) Demystifying the Comprehension: There is reason to suggest that the comprehension is the least popular task within the English syllabus. And rightly so – the concept is disconnected from what students take satisfaction from: real-life learning. A good tip is to practice comprehension skills on the book that child is reading – they’ll take far more interest in something they are already invested in.
7.) Overcoming Perfectionism: Allow a child to be wrong. Often. Discussion on “thunks”, a collection of questions with no simple answers, helps children understand the process and train of thought and the need for clarity in explaining their reasoning.
8.) Super-Curricula Studies: A brief from a parent to improve a child’s English or Maths should still involve aspects that go beyond what the curriculum dictates should be taught. 20-word summaries of books they have read, poetry analysis contextualised within what they are learning at school, art history or even situational thinking (working out the date of historical events based on clues you are given) help keep things fresh in otherwise often-dry subject matter.
9.) Lesson-Analysis Oral plenary sessions at the end of a lesson help round off what has been learnt and negates any sense of confusion within the child. What has been learnt? What are the key points? How do you evaluate what has been learnt? How could you apply this knowledge?
These techniques are neither novel nor are they the only way to make a success of teaching one-on-one. But if in a small way, they help change expectations and make the child look forward to the lesson, then I would argue progress is being made.
By Walter Kerr
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