Moroccan school kids get a two-week spring break holiday in April, and that means one of two things – you enjoy relaxing at home or you go to spring language camp!!!!
Liz and I, of course, went to camp.
T– is actually the host city of the largest spring camp in the country, so we spent the past week teaching, talking to and running after 160 kids, aged from early teens to early 20s. It was exhausting and amazing, usually at the same time.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports here in Morocco sponsors week-long language camps in either English or one of the Amazieght (non-Arabic native) languages that is spoken here to help kids keep up on their studies even while on vacation (and to help them from being too bored). The camps are held in Dar Chebabs all over the country, and are usually day camps that provide either a full or half day of activities. The kids usually get lunch and snack, as well as classes and other activities to participate in.
In T–, however, you’ll find a different kind of spring camp. Our camp is one of the few overnight camps, with kids staying in the dormitories of one of the local high schools. Liz, myself, four other Peace Corps Volunteers and about 10 Moroccan counselors were running the activities for the week, and it was intense.
The camps are organized with a director (a Moroccan) and usually have a volunteer coordinator, who for us is an amazing PCV who lives near T– and who has been awesome at helping Liz and me get on our feet in our new town. She was in charge of coordinating between the Americans and Moroccan staff and organizing our activities.
Basically each American was responsible for teaching an hour and a half of English every day and then leading an hour and a half club activity each day. We each had a permanent English class that we taught, but the kids were split into groups for the clubs, so that each group rotated through the clubs and we just taught the same activity to a different group every day. The second week would have been run in a similar fashion if all the kids hadn’t signed up for the first week, resulting in the cancellation of the second.
My English class was made up of Beginning-Mid students, so they had some experience with English, but not much beyond greetings and numbers and such. Liz and I worked together for our club activity and did a bunch of team-building games, like the human knot and a lava cross, for anyone who has experienced those activities before. The first day of camp, which was last Monday, we spent most of the afternoon giving the kids language proficiency interviews, which sounds intense but really just means sitting down and talking with them one-on-one to find out their English level. Lots of great kids and lots of good English being spoken here.
The rest of camp consisted of English and sports activities in the morning followed by clubs and more activities in the afternoons. Moroccans love music, so most meals involved the kids forming giant drum circles by pounding on their tables, and most of our evening activities involved an on-going week-long talent show that stretched until at least midnight every night. That plus trying to communicate in my very broken Darija made for an exhausting but exhilarating week. Liz and I got the chance to meet a lot of the awesome kids who live in T–, and we hope to see many of them at the Dar Chebab in the weeks to come. In addition, the director of our Dar Chebab helped out at camp, so we got the chance to work with him a bit as well.
This past week brought a lot of great memories for me, but I think my favorite overall was doing the team-building games with the kids. After each game we would stop and talk about why teamwork was necessary to accomplishing the goal of the game, which we did by speaking in English with the kids who had advanced language levels and with one of the Moroccan staff translating for those who did not, as my Darija is still quite limited. Whether you’re talking about American or Moroccan kids, it’s crazy awesome to be able to hear their ideas about the world and their own lives. I can’t wait for next year when I’ll actually be able to talk…