The seventh week of PST ended with trainees from each village putting together an “English Camp” for area children to become exposed to English and foster an interest in the subject. This would be perhaps the most freeform teaching activity we would undertake during training. In order to organize this event we were supposed to perform a needs assessment to determine the age of kids we should focus on, what shape our instruction would take and what time would work for the largest segment of our target audience.

In addition to the needs assessment we would have to find a venue, inform and invite participants, assess the English language instruction needs of our audience, get approval from parents, teachers, village officials, and mount many other logistical hurdles. I would love to say that the trainees in Manisrenggo were able to arrange this entire event without a hitch, but we did not. PST’s demands on our time simply did not allow us to make all the rounds necessary to coordinate an event of this scale singlehandedly.

Most of the legwork was done by our superb community liaison, Aziz. We would not have been able to complete this crucial part of PST without his help. Unfortunately, Aziz’s industriousness backfired on us a little bit when we ended up having close to 200 children attend our camp when we only planned to have around 80.

Manisrenggo’s amazing community liaison eating his favorite fruit, durian
The morning of English camp Sonam and I had to teach two classes at SMP 4. I woke up at 4:30, a little late for me, mandied, got dressed, had breakfast, and met the other Manisrenggo trainees to take an angkot to our practicum schools. We got back to Manisrenggo from practicum at 12:00, thirty minutes before we planned to meet to make the final arrangements for our camp.

There are 12 trainees in Manisrenggo. Each trainee would work with their practicum partner and play a game that used English with the kids for fifteen minutes before the kids moved to the next pair of trainees. Our camp was scheduled to be two hours long so each pair would see each group of kids once. However, two trainees that were supposed to work with us had fallen ill and wouldn’t be able to participate. We decided to keep each game at fifteen minutes and the extra time would be consumed in moving the kids from one area to the next and with opening and closing the camp.

Sonam and I tried to play charades, a tried and true classic, with our first group of children. We used simple words like happy, sad, run, swim, cat, or chicken. But since English isn’t a required course in Indonesia until seventh grade, and almost all of the kids were in fifth grade or below, most did not know the words. We told them what they would be acting out in Indonesian each time. Their lack of English vocabulary wasn’t a huge issue, after all we were supposed to be teaching them. The real issue was their trepidation to act something out in front of their peers. Indonesian students are notoriously shy, and for that reason we decided to change course.

For our next group we decided to scrap charades and try a game we learned in LA. It is really more of an icebreaker for large groups, but it works to teach numbers as well. We asked the kids to “mingle” around an area. We would call out a number in English and they would have to form a group with as many members as the number we called out. People that couldn’t find a group would be out of the game. A simple enough concept, right? Not in Indonesia. The children we were working with stayed in preexisting groups instead of walking about individually. They all moved in the same direction and stayed next to the same people.

Since the “mingle” game didn’t work well either we tried to play something else; a game called “electricity” that we also learned in LA. No English required with this game. The kids would form two lines, standing side by side, and hold hands with the two individuals on their right and left. Sonam would hold the hands of both people at the end of each line and squeeze their hands at the same time, the kids are supposed to then squeeze the hand of the next person in line, and that person would squeeze the next person’s hand until the person at the end, upon feeling their hand squeezed, would run towards Sonam and grab an umbrella that was on the ground. The person that grabs the umbrella wins. The problem this time was if one person didn’t understand the concept then their entire team would fail, and we were never able to get all forty kids to pay enough attention for everyone to understand.

Next, we tried to play “red rover red rover,” an American schoolyard staple. We once again asked the kids to form two lines, but this time they formed a line of boys and a line of girls. Upon explaining the rules no one understood why they would want someone of the opposite gender in their line and I was unable to convince them otherwise.

With our last group we did the “head shoulders knees and toes” song but I don’t know any of the other verses so that lasted for about two minutes before we tried to play “Simon says,” but couldn’t get anyone to follow Simon’s instructions without demonstrating what Simon wanted them to do. After the fifth group we ended the camp. It was very hot and even some of the kids were complaining about the heat. When an Indonesian child says it’s hot out: it is hot.

Some of the kids that came to our English camp

We tried five different games with five different groups and none of them worked like we expected. Probably my most “Peace Corps” experience to-date. I wouldn’t call the camp a failure though. We were flexible and we adapted. There are many things that could have been better, but there are also many more things that could’ve been much worse. The kids had fun and so long as they were happy that’s the most important factor to consider.

English camp was a terrific learning experience and something that I will absolutely think about when planning similar events at permanent site and even after Peace Corps service.

2 thoughts on “PST English camp

  1. Good pic of Aziz with a durian, have you tried it yet? Ro and I picked one up in Chinatown a couple years ago, the taste didn’t bug me as much as some people, but I wasn’t fond of it.

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    1. From what I understand, most people don’t like it the first time they try it, it’s alright the second, and the third time it’s great. I’ve only had it once so far and the adage holds true.

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