The work with children is very important because at the early stages of the development the basic values and models of behavior are shaped. In this respect, children at the age of 10, being at the concrete operational stage of the development, are particularly sensitive to their environment and adults are still very important for them and the highest authority. This is why it is very important to direct their development at this stage in the right way. In this regard, it seems to be quite useful to make children closer to nature and teach them the history of people who managed to live in harmony with nature and succeeded being deprived of all benefits of modern civilization. At the same time, they should learn that modern people also constitute a part of the nature and their actions should not be destructive, instead, they should find the balance, when human activities do not harm the wild nature. In such a context, even a short period of time spent in the summer camp may be very useful for children since there they could combine recreational and learning activities.
First of all, it is necessary to start with the brief description of the camp, personnel and the group of students that is supposed to spend three days and two nights in the camp. The camp is supposed to be situated in a remote area where there are little impact of the civilization or, simply speaking, where there are a few, if any, signs of the city life. The major goals is to bring children of ten years old from cities to the wilderness, where they could live just a few days within the natural environment, which actually was the normal environment for their ancestors. The camp is situated near a forest and a lake. The camp should have the basic infrastructure, including four houses with two bedrooms for children and one for an adult, an instructor or teacher. The idea is that 40 children would be divided into four major groups. An adult, an instructor or a teacher, should be the head of each group to take of the children or to assist them if they need some help, guide them, etc. Each group would consist of ten students which would live in one of the four houses and each bedroom would be shared by five children. The group of ten could be divided into subgroups of five boys and five girls. Therefore, there would be two parts in each group, one of boys and another of girls. Each group could be treated as a team, or tribe and get its own symbol. For instance, it may a deer, wolf, bear, and fox, or any other symbol, which should be taken from the wild nature. For instance, it is possible to replace animals by some plants. In such a way, even before starting an active stage of the training program for these children, it is possible to prepare them to the program and make them feel closer to nature.
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Before each groups receive its own symbol it is possible to introduce children to the historical background and just tell them that they are now at the forest which was inhabited by Indians in the past and that each Indian tribe had a good tradition to have its own animal that symbolized their own tribe and this animal was highly respected and honored by people. In such a way, children will get some basic information about historical background of the place which is inseparable from nature.
After that children could occupy their houses and spend some time together getting acquainted with each other and their teacher/instructor which heads the group. In general, there should be four teachers/instructors who should inform children about the schedule and develop together with children certain rules of behavior which should be common to all children. It is important that teachers/instructors gave children a positive example and showed them how they should actually behave because at this age children still view adults as high authority and it is very important that teachers could provide them with a positive example and model of behavior.
Naturally, children need to be properly fed and for this purpose it is necessary to have a canteen with a couple of professional cooks who could prepare various dishes, preferably of the local cuisine, using fresh vegetables, fruit, juice, etc. The main point is that the food should be healthy and no junk food is admitted. During the dinner, the camp leader should explain children that this camp is made in accordance with old Indian traditions and for the next three days they would try to live as Indians did. Moreover, even the slightest details are important here and food is one of such details. This is why children should be convinced that this food was prepared according to Indian traditions using ingredients they took from nature. For instance, it is possible to ask student what they could eat living in this area. On receiving different answers, the camp leader can invite them to taste the food that was prepared from the local products.
After the dinner each group of ten should gather in or near their house and create their own tribe. The point is to make children feel that they are a team. Teachers/instructors could gave children the basic information about Indian tribes that lived in the area and their social organization. Using this information, students should create their own tribe. This means that they should invent their own symbol or chose the one that was suggested to them at the beginning, they can even invent their own names in Indian style, create the symbols of their tribe, such as a flag, for instance. In the evening, when the tribes are formed, each group would present their tribe. They may do it in various ways, from a theatric role-play, to a kind of game, or ordinary presentation of their symbols, members of their group, etc. Teachers/instructors should guide children in the process of elaboration of their tribe and assist in presentation. The main purpose of these activities during the first day to make children better acquainted with each other and their teacher as well as with groups. At the same time, in the form of a game they acquire new knowledge and model the Indian tribes, i.e. reconstruct the history of the area where the camp is situated. Moreover, they get closer to nature as Indians were. In order to make the presentation more realistic it is possible to create a campfire. At the end of the presentation, the camp leader will inform children about the schedule for the next day, informing them that next day the four tribes of Indians will go to the forest to try research the location since the trip to the forest will the main activity of the second day.
The second day should start with the preparative activities for the trip into the forest. At the beginning teachers/instructors should inform children how they should behave in the forest and what they should do if they get lost in the forest. Also it is possible to give them information concerning orientation in the forest, the local nature with a retrospection in the history, namely to Indian tribes which used this knowledge to survive in the areas. After that children may be involved into a competition during which they should use the information they have just received from their teachers/instructors in order to answer the questions concerning the orientation in the forest, geography, history, etc. The competition may be organized in the form of a game. Finally, when children are ready and informed they can head for the forest into the trip. During the trip it is also possible to give students some tasks, such as name all the plants they encountered in the forest or some tasks on orientation, etc. Also it is necessary to tell them about the surrounding nature and those people that lived here in the past.
At the end of the day, it is possible to organize one more competition based on the questions and tasks children should perform during the trip. The results of the children are calculated and the winners, the group that wing should receive a reward. Basically, reward is a very important part and every competition and successful activity of students should be rewarded to motivate them and increase their self-esteem.
Finally, the third day should be focused on the acquaintance of children with the history of people and the local area that will enlarge their geographic knowledge they received on the second day. The main event of the day should be a visit to the hut of an Indian chief. Basically, it is necessary to build a hut where the major elements, such clothes, weapon, tools, decorations, and other elements of the everyday life of Indians are collected. It should be a kind of excursion when children who have already learned some information about the surrounding nature could see the objects of the past civilization and could better understand the conditions of life and lifestyle of Indians in the past. In such a way, they will get new knowledge and acquire new experience. It should be said that the last day would mainly informative when children will not be involved in some tiresome activities such as trips because they will need energy for their trip to their homes. At the end, it is possible to organize the final dinner around the campfire, in a traditional Indian style when all students could feel each other as a team.
During the communication with children it is important to use simple, comprehensible language which meets their level of the development. It is very important to give them practical examples taken from real life, especially when they are instructed how they should behave in the forest. Visualization is very helpful when children are informed about the life of Indians and the prepared equipment, such clothes, tools, etc. will be very helpful. All the activities should have a form of a game that is a natural activity for children of their age. Moreover, this will help to maintain their interests while the expectation of reward for a successful performance of some activity, fulfillment of a task or victory in the competition will keep them motivated and they will behave.
In conclusion, it should be said that children will acquire a very important experience since they will combine education with recreation and, what is more important, they will not even view this as a learning process but it would be a kind of a game for them.
Bialeschki, M. D., Henderson, K., & Ewing, D. (2003). “The voice of the campers: Research findings through qualitative data collection.” Camp Research Symposium, American Camping Association National Conference, Denver, CO.
Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., Greathouse, S. (1986) “The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and Meta-analytic review.” Bulletin of Educational Research,66, 227-268.
Marsh, P. E. (1999). Meta-analysis on the effects of camps on self-esteem and self-concept. Masters thesis, University of Indiana, IN.
Russell, G. (2004). Modern Education. New York: Random House.
Shasby, G., Heuchert, C., & Gansneder, B. (1984). “The effects of a structured camp experience on locus of control and self-concept of special populations.” Therapeutic Recreation, 18, 32-40.
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