After a summer of big fun, it's going to be a little difficult to get children back into school mode.

Dubai's Department of Economic Development, however, has several tricks up its sleeve to achieve the near impossible during Back-2-School Surprises, the penultimate week of Dubai Summer Surprises 2004.

From today until next Wednesday, the DED has planned a calendar of more than 25 sets of edutainment events and activities at malls and other select DSS venues around the city.

Most of the activities, DED officials said, are themed on reintroducing discipline and a love for learning into children and simultaneously helping them prepare for the start of the school season.

Back-2-School Surprises week will open officially tonight at 7pm with a ceremony at the main stage of Modhesh Fun City. The operetta will focus on the development of education, and President His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan's role in the supporting the development of education in the UAE.

If the secret recipe to ease the transition back to school is equal parts — fun and learning, the DED's activities should have children clamouring for more. Everything from learning good values to boning up on creative writing, art and craft, computers, chess and general knowledge has been included.

At the Hamarain Centre in Deira, for example, children can fire up their imagination with The Never Ending Story, where they can add a line each to the ongoing story to create a story that never ends. The activity, in English and Arabic, comprises a huge book with a set of decorative writing materials.

The mall will also host the 'Fun Classroom', a game show with the emcee as the class teacher asking students selected from the audience to conduct different educational and fun tasks on a competitive basis; and a three-dimensional version of Snakes and Ladders, with positive and negative values like Honesty, Faith, Generosity, Vanity and Disobedience as the different squares.

Across town at the BurJuman Centre, a Creativity Zone has been set up with several fun-filled activities including a creative book, mini-classrooms that teach children how to create art from recycled material, a cyber school with general knowledge quiz, a creative book and a Pencil Classroom, a life-size model classroom built entirely from pencils.

With a view to educating children about social responsibility, the DED has also teamed up with nonprofit and community organisations to boost children's awareness of those less fortunate.

At the Al Bustan Centre in Ghusais, the DED and Dubai Club for Special Sports have come together for a special 'Express Your Feelings through Drawing,' and a chess competition.

The DED has also tied up with Bait Al Khair, and has established special booths at various malls where children can enjoy fun-filled activities and proceeds going to the Bait Al Khair fund.

The DED is also sponsoring two trips of the Wonder Bus during Back-to-School Surprises week, one of which will be exclusively for special needs children and the other for orphans.

At the Deira City Centre, children can take part in building a four-metre tall tower by inserting pencils into a prefabricated model of the tower. More than 100,000 pencils are expected to be used in building this tower by the end of the week.

The mall will also a host a computer-based 'Double Click' competition.

Two Back-2-School Surprises villages will also be set up at Al Ghurair Centre and at Hamarain Centre in cooperation with Dubai Women's College.

Other edutainment activities like the 'Reach Your Dream', 'Challenge and Win', 'Think and Win' and other workshops will be organised at the Mercato and Oasis Centre malls.