Tajra Playschool The University Playschool started operating officially in April 1996 to make it easier for parents of young children to study or work on campus and to serve as a centre for research in Child Development and Early Childhood Education. Initially, it catered for children under 5 years of age throughout both the winter and the summer months.
The University Summer School has built a reputation for bringing out the creative streak in children and for teaching them new ways to tackle tasks. Until a few years ago, two different Summer School programmes were available on campus. One programme "Kids on Campus - Summer School in Creativity", focussed on children aged between 5 and 12. This was co-ordinated by Mr Joseph Giordmaina and Ms Sandra Dingli and concentrated on the development of thinking and creativity in children. The other programme was for children aged between 3 and 5 and was run by The Playschool which at the time was co-ordinated by Ms Lillian Azzopardi and later, Ms R.M. Privitelli.
Today, the University operates one Summer School under the umbrella of the Faculty of Education's Department of Primary Education headed by Dr Joe Mifsud. However, each aspect of the original programme, creativity and fun, still maintains its individual identity. The programmes are co-ordinated by Mr Brian Bonnici (under 5's) and Ms Cynthia Farrugia (over 5's). The main aim behind the Summer School's programme is to develop thinking and communication abilities in children aged between 5 and 12 and basic skills in children aged between 3 and 5. To date the University Summer school boasts a total of 450 children.
Each programme uses a thematic approach. While the programme designed for the older children centres around a story per week, the one designed for the younger ones centres around nursery rhymes. Through ëPhilosophy for Children,í the older group is urged to think about the given story, indulging in aspects of meta-cognition, where children are required to think about their own thinking. Issues such as gender are also tackled. This approach is backed by the 'Edward de Bono Programme' where children are given the tools required to help them develop thinking and reflection skills, including the well-known 'thinking caps'. Through I.T. activities, swimming, drama, art and craft, children also practise developing their communication skills: oral, visual and tactile.
For the younger group, the programme is modified so as to cater for their particular stages of development. The philosophy behind this programme is for children to learn through play. Sessions mainly focus on art and craft with special attention given to the development of motor and communication skills. Activities include water-play, pretend play, imaginative play and also free play amongst others. Movement activities, building on co-ordination and basic drama are also part of the curriculum. There is a low teacher-pupil ratio so that the children derive maximum benefit from the programme.
The Summer school is open to everyone. It is multicultural in nature and welcomes children with different abilities and from different walks of life.