I’ve worked as a camp counselor for the last 7 summers of my life, and even though this summer is different from any of the previous ones for a variety of reasons (living in a desert, speaking Arabic, needing to wear things like pants and long-sleeves), the seasonal transformation is still present: voila! it’s July and I’m a sunburnt camp counselor again. Last week with the help of several other volunteers, teachers, peace corps staff, and my landlady’s daughter, I put on a program called Brain Camp for a group of 25 middle school girls.
Brain Camp was designed by a couple of Peace Corps volunteers here in Jordan to encourage students to practice the kinds of thinking skills that aren’t frequently taught here- things like problem-solving, planning, creativity, and opinion formation. The kids spend the week learning and practicing these skills through games, activities, and art projects, and at the end of the week they work in teams to come up with their own creative solution to a real life problem- the water shortages here in Jordan. You can read more about the Brain Camp program and the educational needs it addresses in this delightful New York Times article.
When I first started planning for the camp I was worried that the kids wouldn’t be interested- most American kids I know would not be that enthusiastic about spending a week of their summer learning critical thinking skills. But these girls really surprised me. Not only did we get two times the number of girls we expected, but most of them arrived early every day, listened to the presentations with attention and respect (some of them even took notes!), and appeared to be having the time of their lives the whole week. I guess to kids that have spent most of their education practicing rote memorization and repetition a week of wacky games and learning can seem really exciting and fun. It was wonderful spending time with these girls. Their commitment, respectfulness, and sense of fun were a joy to take part in. I can’t wait to do it again next summer.