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Engaging young minds: Innovative, themed workshops expand children’s horizons

There has been a noticeable rise in instructional workshops for children in Egypt over recent years, designed to deepen their intellectual, social, emotional and physical skills through engagement in meaningful, artistic activities. 2012 has seen a widening range of workshops that have introduced innovative and themed classes that encourage young people’s creative exploration.

Adli Rizkallah graffiti course

The revolutionary graffiti that sprung up on Cairo’s streets since the 25 January revolution is the main inspiration behind the recent launch of Adli Rizkallah Art’s course for teens.

The rise of graffiti since the revolution, on the walls of Mohamed Mahmoud Street and across the country, has attracted a lot of attention. Dalia Rizkallah, founder of Adli Rizkallah Art program, argues that street art holds much more than political processes.

“Graffiti helps young participants convey meaningful ideas or messages, whether social, environmental or political, through demonstrating their artistic skills,” says Rizkallah.

This course gives students in-depth background in graffiti techniques and prominent artists, as well as its history and functions. However, Rizkallah says drawing skills are not a must for participants.

“Some people just write a word, not necessarily a painting, to express themselves. So, it is all about having a sense of art, whether colors or calligraphy font, with which you can create your own piece of art,” Rizkallah explains.

Participants engage in hands-on activities to get acquainted with the concepts of teamwork and cooperation. All of the courses — inspired by the work and attitude of late artist Adli Rizkallah, Dalia Rizkallah’s father — seek to instil a love for creativity in children.

“Students work in groups to choose the theme they are interested in. Then, each one adds their own personal touch to the painting,” Rizkallah says.

The workshops take place at Diwan bookstore’s Heliopolis branch, Designopolis on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road and My Gym in Heliopolis.

Big Brain Academy

Big Brain Academy is a center that offers all kinds of cognitive and educational services for children who struggle with learning to read and processing information.

The 72-day program is based on brain training, which fosters the student’s core ability to develop cognitive skills including memory, attention, sensory processing, and reasoning.

“The brain is a complex network of nerve cells that can respond to learning challenges by engaging in specifically designed exercises so that the child can accomplish learning or thinking tasks easier and faster,” says Maysa Abdal-Latif, founder of BBA.

The intensive program is divided into two types of classes tutored by a certified brain trainer coach. While the first class is based on brain games working on stretching the children’s imagination to improve the accuracy of recall, the second course focuses on interesting computer games to build quicker processing.

The program provides one-on-one tutoring classes to cater to the learning challenges of each student.

“The student is the focus of attention in this program. Consequently, the neural development happens so fast that kids see changes in themselves and experience soaring self-esteem and a huge boost in motivation,” Abdel-Latif says.

Besides cognitive development therapy, all children enrolled in the program also benefit from speech and language therapy, behavior management therapy, and social skills development sessions.

Classes are held daily 6-9 pm, 90 Ahmed Orabi Street in Mohandiseen.

Teddy Tennis

Aimed at injecting fun into a professional, educational, and challenging tennis experience, Teddy Tennis was born.

Teddy Tennis provides a chance for children to engage in unique sporting activities that integrate music, stories, and illustrations revolving around teddy bear characters.

Before starting an activity, kids are shown a picture of the tennis skill they are about to learn or a game they are about to play. The trainer then plays the songs that will accompany the game so that the children can become familiar with the music and the rhythm. Utilizing the visual and the auditory senses stimulates children and enhances their ability to master the movements being taught.

“The teddy bear characters pique children’s interest in the sport and accelerate the learning process,” says Christopher Larter, a British national who brought the Teddy Bear franchise to Egypt last October.

“So, after very few sessions, children can already do both forehands and backhands; it is quite a sight to see a three-year-old hitting solid shots over the net.”

Teddy Tennis is currently offered at the Community Services Association in Maadi on Fridays. The program has six levels, each one with 10 sessions, open to children from age two and half to six.

The Treehouse

At the Treehouse workshop, young people practice the basics of the art of folding paper with the professional expertise of Mohamed al-Sherbiney. The art of origami or paper-folding is used as a tool to teach children how to be accurate, patient and have an artistic eye, as well as a sense of accomplishment, by following step-by-step instructions to come out with their own pieces.

Children ages 4-15 can attend the two-hour workshop at 3 pm on Fridays in Zamalek’s Sequoia restaurant.

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