HOW I TURNED THE CLASSROOM UPSIDE DOWN (WELL, NOT LITERALLY!)
One of the most significant pages of my life has to be The Creative Kid Project (or CKP), a summer camp designed exclusively for secondary students to work on their imagination, creativity and social skills.
*Side notes: CKP was founded by four students from the U.S. and Vietnam with a strong interest in education, child development, and unconventional thinking. It's been running for 6 years now and regarded as one of the most trusted summer camps for middle school students. Every year a group of 30-40 students got selected through a series of tests and interviews, so I was very lucky to be selected as one of the first 28 students in CKP 2012.
The best thing about the camp is that you can deliberately express your opinions, your criticism over many issues and debate about them. This is very uncommon in Vietnam, as students are not usually allowed to speak up in class, or at least not without permission. The whole point of CKP was that there was no "teacher" in the classroom and we had to do a lot of self-learning and group-based activities, which helped developed our independence as well as teamwork skills.
CKP was not just a summer camp, it has become a second home for many kids, like myself, who would come back and contribute to the camp even after it was over. More on that later!
Imagine a group of Vietnamese 8th-graders got together for the first time and got told: "Here's a blank page of paper - please create something to improve your own school", it was tough. We never did any of that before, definitely not in school. Everyone was shy, no one dared to give his/her opinion, and I knew this was a great opportunity to develop my creativity so I volunteered to talk about my ideas first. It turned out that I was not the only vocally-active one in the group, other kids became talkative as well when they got more familiar with each other. The assignment became more and more interesting and filled with amazing ideas.
On day four, while other teams had already worked on planning the project, my team got nothing but a piece of blank draft. Fortunately, we got Cam Ly, one of the facilitators to guide us (remember there was no teacher!) She was extremely creative and artistic herself (my role model!), but most importantly she listened to every one of us with patience. Unlike a standard teacher, she didn't tell us what to do, but let us do it ourselves and make mistakes. I definitely think Cam Ly was one of the reasons
I aspired to become a Junior Facilitator in the years after that.
We realized that although some of us were shy, we were blessed with a team full of artistic individuals and art-enthusiasts. One idea led to another, and finally we came up with a fun project to revitalize the classroom through drawings, painting and redecorating. I remember spending hours on that plan, which even includes creating a bungee jump stair in class!
It was crazy but it also made me appreciate "having space to create", even in the classroom environment. In the end, we won the "Most Creative Team" award. But more than that, I learned that it was okay to change the classroom and make it better.
The first year of CKP was so short that most of us wanted to come back. A few were motivated enough to apply as Junior Facilitators (JF). Being a JF was definitely different from being a camper. I helped other facilitators in the organizing team to build the camp, sometimes I even shared facilitators' responsibilities to take charge of guiding certain group projects. I enjoyed being a JF, for one thing I got to know more about organizing skills, but I could also see myself in those kids and get the chance to relive moments with CKP.
CKP has grown so much in the last 4 years. It started off as just a very small idea, but now it has become one of the most influential summer camps, the most unique playground for secondary kids. I cannot feel more proud of CKP, and that's the reason why I always come back to this camp every summer to pass the fire to the next generation of campers and inspire them to follow suit.