Many people have watched, or have at least heard of the travel/adventure based show “The Amazing Race.”
This particular concept is a perfect model for an ESL summer or winter camp. Of course, teachers can’t very well have students taking on the crazy and dangerous challenges that we see on the show, but the idea of having to pass through challenges as you ‘travel’ the world is a fantastic theme to tie things together. It allows teachers to give lessons on different countries/cultures and create some super fun activities and challenges that the students must complete for points. But here is a twist. While friendly group competition is a fantastic way to keep camps interesting and the students engaged, sometimes it’s fun to put a little more at stake. Point systems allow everyone to measure their progress and see where they stand compared to the others, but even a point system can be a bit intangible. An egg, now, that’s something you can hold and try to protect. Of course your eggs will be tied to points. If your team breaks an egg they lose half of their points, or whatever the teacher feels is appropriate, but the big loss will be the fact that one of your eggs is ‘dead’.
So, why not just leave your eggs safely in their cartons hidden away in the back of the fridge? Because they are your contestants, obviously. Therefore, they must be with the group for every one of the class activities and challenges. One of the first activities in this camp would be decorating and naming the eggs. It’s also fun to let the students design and make little egg carriers in an effort to keep their eggs safe. Note that the students must be able to remove the eggs from this protection to complete some of the challenges. Once the eggs are decorated, named, and loved, it’s time to put them at risk! Here are some great challenges that do just that.
Try The Following Egg Racing Activities at Your ESL Camp
There are several versions of this activity. One, involving building a protective device and dropping eggs from a high point, is described in a science camp post elsewhere on this site. The egg drop referred to here is less complicated and time consuming. All you need is a large glass of water, the cardboard interior from a toilet paper roll, a tray/pie plate, a golf ball, and an egg.
Set the pie plate/tray on top of the glass of water. The glass should be nearly full and sitting somewhere that will not be damaged in the event of spills or splashing. Place the cardboard tube upright on the pie plate directly above the water glass. On top of the tube balance an egg. The golf balls are for practice runs. If you strike the edge of the pie plate perfectly level and parallel with the floor, it will shoot straight sideways, hook the bottom of the cardboard tube, and drop the egg safely into the glass of water. Any deviation will result in omelettes. It can be pretty tricky to get right, but the teacher can control how hard by having glasses with narrower or wider mouths. It’s best if it is quite difficult but manageable at least some of the time.
To tie this into class have each group set up their egg drop station and practice it with a golf ball several times. Be sure every member of the group gets a chance to try. Once the students have realized that there is a pretty good chance their eggs are going to be decorating the top of the desk, set up the English part. It can be almost any Q&A style game focusing on the material taught earlier in the camp. After explaining the game, set a benchmark that groups must reach (ie. you must get eight out of ten correct). If they reach this benchmark then they are not required to attempt the egg drop. If they do not, then they must play rock, scissors within their group and the loser must attempt the egg drop. Broken eggs result in a point penalty.
Many teachers are familiar with the old fashioned egg-on-spoon race where students must run a set distance holding an egg on a spoon. It was a fixture at many of our Elementary School sports days. Well, here is a more challenging variation. You will need two spoon (one large, one small), a relatively small container, a large container, and a lot of M&Ms or Smarties (anything small and round works, but these double as a snack). Set the containers at opposite ends of the course and fill the large one with M&Ms. Students must use one spoon to transport M&Ms from the large container to the small container while holding the egg balanced on the other spoon. They can choose if they want to use the large spoon for M&Ms or for the egg. Students from each group must take turns, and the first group to fill the small container wins. Broken eggs are penalized.
The Great Balloon Obstacle Course
This one takes some significant preparation by the teacher. You will need various colours of balloons, athletic tape or straps, printed out words, and various obstacles. Before class print off a series of words, place them inside of the balloons and inflate the balloons. Be sure that you colour code them (ie. blue balloons contain nouns, yellow contain adjectives, etc.). All balloons will be herded into one corner of the classroom. Set up a relatively easy obstacle course. Perhaps some skipping, a little crawling under desks, that sort of thing. Students will be completing it three-legged style so it can’t be overly complex.
Start the students at the far side of the room from the balloons and pair them off within their teams. Each team should have a single desk at the start point. Explain to them which balloons contain which categories of words and that each team can have only one pair in the obstacle course at any given time. When the teacher says go, the first pairs start into the obstacle course. Once they have completed all the obstacles they grab a balloon and take it back to their group’s desk, pop it, and lay the word on the desk. As soon as the first pair is back with the balloon, the second pair can start into the course. This goes on for whatever set time limit the teacher has decided on. To win, the students must use the words to create the longest complete sentence(s).
Oh, and they must do the entire obstacle course carrying an egg. As one pair returns with a balloon they hand off the egg to the next pair heading in. If teachers want to make it harder, they can make them carry and egg on a spoon. To make it easier remove the three-legged element of the race.
It seems self-evident, but every one of these activities comes with a very good chance of broken eggs.
Have cleanup materials on standby and be aware that the students (and you) may well end up wearing some egg. Adding the eggs as something to lose really adds to the competitive part of camp. If a group gets to the point where they have no eggs left, they can ‘buy’ another egg by sacrificing a set number of their points. Teachers will have to decide how many is an appropriate number based on their points system. It’s essential that it does not put that team completely out of the running as they still need some incentive to try their hardest during an activity. Aside from that, come up with as many great activities as possible to put eggs at risk. Your students will have a great time.