This week at the Excellence Center our winter holiday camp in Hebron, Palestine opened. The camp runs for two weeks during the holiday break when the students to not have school. Our eager students come six days a week for three hours, from 9:30am-12:30pm. There is great interest in this winter camp and we have twenty-seven children participating. The students begin the day with an hour and a half lesson in Arabic, then they have a half hour break, followed by one hour of English class.
Osama, our director and Safa’, one of our local Palestinian Arabic teachers give the students their lesson in Arabic each day. The students are taught life skills such as: communication, leadership, time management so that they can achieve success in school and in life. The one hour English lesson is taught by our international volunteers Fabien and Nathan.
Safa’ tells us they recently spent class time discussing different types of jobs and the students talked about what they would like to do when they grow up. The teachers like to keep the lesson captivating by using many different teaching tools such as media and educational games. Safa’ tells us, “today they were very happy, they liked the video we had prepared for them about careers and we talked about jobs such as being an engineer, biologist, doctor or veterinarian.” Safa’ also told us about a game they played yesterday, “we give a student a picture of a smiley face, like emojis with different expressions matching different moods, that student comes to the front of the class, acts out the emotion and the other children in the class try to name it.”
The goal of our winter holiday camp is to teach the students important life skills. Everything the children learn in this camp sets them up for success in school, family situations, friendship and with people in the community at large. One of these skills which can open many doors for them later in life is English. Subjects such as weather, family, hobbies and introductions are covered. The subjects are purposely not very difficult so the students can practice the most important skill, speaking. The students bubble over with excitement at the chance to converse with our international volunteers.
The English and Arabic teachers coordinate before they begin their classes and the general theme of the class in Arabic will be the same as the class taught in English. However they are some subjects that do not cross over. The other day Safa’ tells us they worked with the students on perfecting their reading in Arabic. Due to the hard focus on speaking skills during English class this was not something our international volunteers covered. The schools in Palestine teach primarily just English grammar and vocabulary so the students often have extensive skills in this are but cannot carry on a basic conversation, this is where the Excellence Center steps in and fills this gap in knowledge.
One thing is clear and that is that the students are interested and eager to learn. They come here morning after morning on their winter break and each day they arrive and leave with obvious excitement and happiness. Says one off our international volunteers, “it is incredible, their desire to learn, that is my favorite thing about teaching these classes, how engaged and participatory the students are. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Their excitement rubs off on you.”