With the end of Summer School 2018, we take a look behind the scenes in our most recent magazine.
Summer has come to the mountain. The Gondola is open for walking and the only sound is the distant ringing of cowbells. Where students once bustled to lessons and activities, peace now prevails.
For a while, at least. Because less than a week after the last Aiglonian waves goodbye, 200 students will be pouring into Villars to attend the Aiglon Summer School. And for Enterprise Manager Mrs Fiona Tweedie, things are about to get interesting.
“Students tell us they have a great time, but it’s a summer school rather than a camp,” she says. “Even though we’re not constrained by the school routine, it’s still very structured. Every day has an element of learning and challenge – there is very little down time!”
The Summer School day is structured around a range of courses in the morning: interactive English or French; Maths and Science Investigator; Technology, including website design and even 3D printing; SAT exam preparation and Leadership (for the older students). In the afternoon, there are activities such as team games, cookery, drama, swimming and, of course, exploring the mountains. All students go on a two-day expedition.
“Each student has a staff group leader for activities, who becomes like a big brother or sister,” says Mrs Tweedie. “We’re sensitive to the fact that some of the children are away from home for the first time – the staff talk to them about it if they’re missing home, but generally the students are too busy!
“They have to hand in phones and devices, so some students, especially the teenagers, can be a bit shy at the beginning, but it’s such a friendly atmosphere they soon get over it. We’ve had quiet students we’ve had to work on to bring them out of their shells, and by the end they’re up on stage, dancing!” Other evening activities include ice-skating and bowling, and sports tournaments, barbecues, and discos. Some of the staff are alumni; some are university students or full-time teachers from other schools. “We have a good mixture of enthusiasm and experience,” says Mrs Tweedie. “They come in full of energy for a month of very hard work, and they totally buy into making it a brilliant summer. The students, too; each year some of them join Aiglon main school.”
There are 35 staff on the team, with more in catering, housekeeping, and at the health centre. “We may look relaxed in shorts and a polo shirt, but before the students arrive it’s spreadsheets galore,” says Mrs Tweedie. “We set everything up so that once the students arrive we can roll with the programme. My best bit is at the end, when the parents come up and shake my hand and tell me what a fantastic time their children have had, and that they can’t wait to come back next year.