[First published on 15 May, 2004] International schools offer the widest range of activities for the summer, when students can spend time brushing up on academic subjects or pursuing new interests, from rocket-making to music. Summer camps in these schools are also popular for those looking to transfer from the local to international sectors, or to other English-medium schools. Many of those who attend are students in the schools themselves. This gives children from local schools a chance to immerse themselves in an English-language environment, and experience a different type of school culture, with smaller classes, better facilities and greater interaction between students and teachers. Hong Kong International School in Tai Tam runs one of the largest summer schools. While the first session, starting in mid-June, attracts mainly HKIS students, the second is popular with those from local schools. It also runs a gifted education programme for local students. Dean McLachan, director of HKIS' summer programme, said: "Summer school is a good opportunity to meet a lot of people, make friends and enjoy different facilities. Kids normally pick a couple of academic courses and mix in the recreational." Among the latter, "hydrorocket" making and marine biology are particularly popular. Alan McLeod, principal of Canadian International School, said many children are enrolled in summer programmes in international schools as stepping stones to joining such schools later. "They get the opportunity for immersion in an English-environment, in a very different type of setting to what they are used to." The Canadian school's courses range from maths problem solving to water polo, fashion design and TV production. Catherine Fu Xi-mei, secretary for Chinese International School's summer programme, is expecting about 600 students to enrol. Of these, about 40 per cent will be from outside the school. Its programmes are bilingual, in Putonghua and English. That fact and the school's facilities attract many students. "Most parents give their children two academic periods and two fun ones a day so they get both a physical and a mental workout," said Ms Fu.