School holidays are, to me, the best time for children to explore and learn new things. Every holiday, I endeavour to find activities/classes to occupy them meaningfully and maybe push them out of their comfort zone a little. It is my fervent wish that their minds and perspectives will expand from the learning opportunities and hopefully, they have a good time as well.
That is why I was really happy for the boys to be invited to attend week-long holiday enrichment camps at The Keys Academy. Sean learnt a great deal about design and coding at the top-notch Design Innovation class last March and we were thrilled to be back again!
Over the December holidays, Ryan attended the Space Robots holiday enrichment class (Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm) catered for 4 to 5 year olds.
Here are some of the activities he did at the camp over the week:
Introduction to space exploration
Over the course of the five days, the children learned about the solar system. The children learnt about the order of the planets, their unique characteristics as well as their relative size and distance in space.
One of the key activities they did in class was constructing a model of the solar system called an oriary.
Ryan happily reported that he made the biggest planet ‘Jutipier’ (he means Jupiter, haha) using a balloon and papier mache. The children depicted the planets (sytrofoam balls) fairly accurately – Earth is painted blue and green and white and Mars is a bold red, for example.
Ryan was super proud of his oriary when it was completed. I love it too – it looks like a cool minimalist art installation so we have proudly hung it up on our dining room wall 🙂
At the end of the five days, the children could recite the order of the planets as well as many interesting facts such as Mercury is the smallest planet and is closest to the Sun; Jupiter is the biggest planet and has 68 moons; Saturn and Uranus both have rings; Earth is the only planet that supports life and Pluto is not a planet because it is too small.
Besides the solar system, the children also learnt about Man’s space exploration to date. They learnt that the first man in space is Yuri Gagarin and the first man to step on the moon is Neil Armstrong from USA. They would also be able to tell you the first three animals in space: dog, rabbit and mouse!
Very impressive considering some of the children are only beginning to read!
Here they are singing about the solar system on Performance Day:
Introduction to Dash Programming
On the first day, the children learnt simple directions – forward, backward, left, right – and the concept of sequential and logical thinking.
To reinforce the learning, the children were given the chance to try their hand at simple coding apps. One of them was The Foos by codeSpark Academy – you can see a video of the app in action below (go download it!):
With a basic understanding of coding in their belts, the children moved on to programming Dash the robot to explore the solar system in the subsequent days.
They programmed Dash to complete a repeated routine (using the concept of loops) and react to the proximity of the planets (using the concept of conditionals).
I was blown away by what Dash was programmed to do. I had a peek at the code and while it looked complex, the facilitators explained that the concepts were introduced to the children progressively and in a simplified manner that could be easily understood by them.
Just to give you an idea, the final code read something like this:
Turn Right 60
Turn Left 60
Repeat until Obstacle in Front
Forward 50 Slow
Dash say Wee!
Launch with 100% Power
This is Dash the robot navigating its way through space (avoiding the planets/white dots on the floor) and shooting down an asteroid:
A visit to the Science Center
On their third day, the children went on a full-day excursion to the Science Centre. They checked out the Science Centre exhibit on the Earth and also watched an Omnitheatre show on Planets and the solar system.
Ryan had a great time at the camp and he loves rattling off the planets and showing off his knowledge of the solar system now 🙂
My initial worries that he wouldn’t be able to grasp the lessons (as he was one of the youngest in class) were completely unfounded. The lessons were well thought out and the content was pitched at just the right level – not too easy such that the children would get bored yet complex/detailed enough to hold their interest. I also appreciated that there were many opportunities for the children to work in groups, share and speak up in class.
Lastly, kudos to the facilitators who were clearly very passionate about what they do. They were patient and engaged the children well.
Sean attended the F1 Challenge holiday enrichment camp for 6 to 8 year olds.
The class brief: Your team has been ‘hired’ by Mercedes Benz to build the fastest F1 car. The children were psyched to take on the challenge! The class definitely seemed more advanced and grown-up compared to Ryan’s class. The children sat in a executive boardroom-style room, each equipped with a laptop.
Over the 5 days, the children learnt many things about the F1, such as what the name stood for (Formula – a set of rules, 1 – number 1), the duration of a typical pit stop (7 seconds!) and that every F1 car is made up of more than 80,000 parts.
Over the week, the children learnt about the design of a F1 car and how attributes such as weight, stability, and aerodynamics contribute to the performance of the car. For example, they learnt the rear wing works to keep the car close to the ground at high speeds.
The children proceeded to design their very own F1 car shells (chassis, front wing, rear wing) using AutoDesk 123D. Then they 3D-printed the cars and attached them to remote control units. Sean was super excited about the whole process and would update me everyday.
On the final day, the children delivered a presentation for us parents sharing what they have learnt during the week and showed off their racing skills. Very cute to them controlling and racing their tiny little cars!
Here’s a short snippet of Sean doing the opening presentation:
Here’s one more of the boys trying out the racing track after the class ended:
Sean had an amazing time. He has always been quite the geeky child who loves coming up with ‘inventions’ and tinkering with computers so this was right up his alley. He is already hankering for me to send him for the cool Mars Robot class that he spied next door.
It was a real eye-opener to see how much the children were capable of learning, once they were given the right learning opportunities in a conducive setting. Never again will I ever doubt that of my boys!
Overall, I think that the standard of the holiday enrichment camps at The Keys Academy is very high and I am not at all surprised to see their holiday camps fully subscribed. I will not hesitate to send my boys back again. If you are looking for quality enrichment classes with a focus on innovation and technology, I would highly, highly recommend The Keys Academy!
Disclaimer: Ryan was sponsored for the Space Robots class for the purpose of this review. We gladly paid for Sean’s F1 Academy class because we didn’t want him to miss out on the learning too. All opinions are our own and the pleasure was all ours 🙂