Real or Virtual School Trips
I must admit I might have been telling a slight fib with the title of this waffle. I wanted to talk about the value of school trips, although that doesn’t seem to be an attention grabbing title, so I thought I would put a slight slant on it and relate it to technology as well. So if you are planning on reading on then please let me count you onto the bus, travel sickness people at the front near the bucket, seat belts fastened and off we go!
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When I was teaching in primary school, which was still only like five years ago now, I wanted to take the children out on some kind of trip every term. This could be anything from a walk down to local university to do some bird watching (Read my Fun with Nature blogs to hear more about this) to a coach trip to a museum or event. Although this was sometimes difficult to organise, I had a really great teaching assistant who had the letters stored efficiently on computer as well as risk assessments and a wealth of willing parental helpers. With the children going out most terms they almost started to accept that it was part of the learning environment with them frequently asking…”when will we be going on our trip this term?”
Awe and Wonder – One trip that I always used to try and organise was a trip to the theatre. This would either be as part of a theatre run workshop, to see the Christmas pantomime (not long now!) or a theatre production related to a topic – for example the Horrible History productions which included the second half in 3D! I got to know the theatre staff well and they even used to give me prior warning so I could book the two front rows of the dress circle! – posh I know. We would include a price of an ice cream/ice lolly within the price (without telling the children) and I still remember their faces as the trays arrived and they all settled down to eat and enjoy. I also remember their faces when they first entered the auditorium. For many of the children this was the first time they had been inside a theatre and they were, being only year 3/4, amazed by the size and the colours. I remember one child sitting next to me whispering to me – “Mr. Wilson, this is the poshest place I have ever been to!”. When arriving or entering various other places, this sense of awe and wonder was also reflected on the children’s faces – looking up at the central tower of York Minster was another time I remember it. As you might have gathered, I’m not a traveller at all, always saying that I can see places and events on the internet. There have been times when I have seen sites which I would have loved to capture on my camera, but no matter how many shots I took, they never did. Visiting these sites virtually might be informative but only being there would actually engage all the children’s senses fully and give them an experience to truly remember. This experience would certainly be firmly embedded in the children’s memory contributing to their learning from trip.
Being the expert – Children are always learning and extending their knowledge. School trips and visit play an important part in this process, often providing additional information and knowledge which the children cannot gain from textbooks and/or images. As we all know, there is that Teaching Standard (3) which focuses on subject knowledge. As you browse the primary curriculum (am I the only one who does this before I go to bed?) you suddenly become aware of the number of areas that teachers have to be ‘experts’ in. The students have organised a University Challenge style quiz between the students and tutors and being on the tutor team is somewhat worrying since I go completely against the common belief that teachers know everything because they are teachers! One way I have extended more subject knowledge is by going on trips with the children. I always used to get involved in the activities, including dressing up as a Roman soldier or being a member of staff in a Victorian classroom. In these situations I have listened and learnt with the children, extending my own subject knowledge on the area. I think I know more about York Minster now than I ever did after listening to the fantastic guides there take the children around. You also get all the additional information which you would find hard to read in books. With conference chats and Google hangouts being readily available, this is one area of school trips which I can see linking well with the virtual teaching space. Although it would be better to interact with the ‘specialist’ in real time, the option to ask questions to people the children could never possibly meet – e.g. NASA specialist is very appealing. I have heard about conference chats with authors and actors. Definitely something that would equally provide some awe and wonder.
Real Life Contexts – The real world can sometimes seem very dislocated from the classroom environment unless the connections are specifically made. One of the assessment for the students on the mathematics module used to be looking at a setting and recognising the opportunities for mathematics there. This might be from a sign or a building or even a complete setting. The important aspect of this was to emphasis that mathematics like science and the other curriculum areas, was not restricted to the classroom but are part of life in general. When I have taken the children on trips which react historical periods, I have seen history ‘come to life’ for the children. In the same way visiting an art gallery or wildlife centre means that the children actually see the creatures and artefacts for real. Making this link is important and allows the children to apply the skills and knowledge that they have to the real life environment or even develop new areas of knowledge and skills.
Trips and visits are an essential part of learning. There are many issues which work against the organisation and implementation of trips from cost, work load and health and safety. With the emphasis still being firmly focused on children’s progress the time for trips might slowly be removed or even be reduced to a ‘summer award’ status. To me, school trips and visits (both away from the school and to the school) will always be an essential part of the children’s learning and will actually contribute to the children’s overall progress not only within the curriculum skills but in the progression of life long skills and experiences – was that a little too controversial? Technology can be used effectively along side the ‘real’ trips to support the application of skills to real life contexts as well as interacting with experts although it cannot surely replace that moment of awe and wonder that children have when they actually see things for real.
I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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