Students from throughout New Haven made the choice to spend their spring break last week at an unlikely place — school.

At elementary and middle schools across the city, faculty members organized and ran activities to prepare students for the upcoming Connecticut Mastery Tests and have a little fun in the process at “CMT Camp.”

Principals at several local schools said they were concerned that children would end up wasting time during their spring breaks and wanted to provide a constructive alternative.

“A lot of students are at home, watching television, being unproductive,” said Lola Nathan, the principal of Davis Street 21st Century Magnet School.

While this is not the first such program that New Haven schools have set up, the timing of the tests has changed this year. Usually, CMTs are administered in September, a few weeks after students begin school. But this year, for the first time in 20 years, they have been moved to March. In addition, the number of students taking the test this year has increased and will include third- and eighth-graders, in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Under the law, test scores determine how much federal funding each school receives.

Leroy Williams, the principal of Clemente Leadership Academy, said he prefers that schools stay open, even when classes are not in session.

“The only difference is that this week, we focused more on the test,” he said.

Williams said he thinks students understood the importance of the CMTs and are therefore motivated to put in extra work studying.

“The kids want to achieve,” he said. “They’ve got to pass the test.”

But Williams said tests such as the CMT should not be “the end-all to everything” and the time required to prepare for them is unfortunate.

Nathan said the schools aimed to provide fun diversions for the students while at the same time drilling them on strategies for this week’s tests. She said her school provided many different activities for students last week — such as music, sports and bowling — between the study sessions.

Nathan said participating students and parents were enthusiastic about the CMT camps.

“The kids were very diligent,” she said. “There’s no transportation for them, but the parents picked them up and dropped them off anyway.”

But Wells said she thinks too much importance is placed on testing, and that she tried to help students relax.

“We try to teach them not to stress about tests,” she said. “We talk about nutrition, we talk about getting sleep. … We tell them they don’t have to be like college students and just cram the night before.”

The CMTs begin today. All tests will be completed by March 28.