Why school trips are a source of inspirational learning

Ben Evans, headmaster at Edge Grove Prep School, explains why school trips should be about engaging young minds

Regular school trips whether in the UK or overseas help pupils to develop a range of highly valuable life skills. These skills are accelerated by external influences around them and in some cases exposure to new cultures, challenges and unfamiliar surroundings.

School trips can also offer a great opportunity to push children right out of their comfort zones, which helps to nurture independence and boost self-confidence as they learn to adapt and appreciate differing environments.

Well-planned, organised school trips can enrich lives and feed souls. But school trips also take careful planning and preparation and if you give the experience careful thought, such trips can be a wonderful extension to curriculum work. 

Children have a natural thirst for adventure and I’ve been quite humbled over the years following various overseas trips, by the increased levels of maturity that travelling abroad brings out in young children, it is quite astonishing. It broadens their horizons as the expectation to behave responsibly and confidently is somehow magnified the minute they cross the UK borders and arguably into any public place outside of the school grounds.

What is remarkable is their natural enthusiasm for discovery and adventure while on a school trip, not to mention their ability to adapt and also to inspire others around them.

It’s worth remembering that skills gained via school trips also need to be harnessed and translated into everyday learning at school.  A good teacher can ensure that these skills are retained by the children by encouraging their use in practice.

Children should be given responsibility while on school trips, they should also be encouraged to question their preconceived views (i.e. the food will be terrible if you’re visiting a developing country) – it is interesting to see how these views are altered when they experience the true reality of some of the loveliest food they have ever tasted!

Being given responsibility for being on time and for having the correct equipment are all activities we expect from pupils in the classroom and trips overseas particularly, provide another environment where we can test these skills further.

My biggest piece of advice while out on a school trip is don’t spoon-feed children; however tempting it might be, allowing children to discover things for themselves and to use activities to harvest their understanding of what they have found out via questions, discussion, debate and challenge is all part of the learning curve. Can they justify their thoughts? Can they change their opinion when faced with new evidence? 

Giving children positions of responsibility when back in school can also help to translate some of what they will have learned on school trips.

The nice thing about trips in the UK and overseas is that all skills are transferable. I’d also argue that modern life necessitates the acquisition of these skills if you are to succeed in life.  In the case of overseas trips, the world is actually very small and communication with people of different nationalities is essential, as is having an understanding of their cultures.

School trips should really be all about engaging young minds and encouraging the ability to react to different circumstances and scenarios without panic or fear – this is a formidable skill to have in any workplace environment today.

When it comes to planning school trips, some schools worry about the possible risks or reputational damage that may be caused if a trip doesn’t go according to plan. But preparation is the key here, the more you plan, the more watertight your arrangements and schedule is, the less likely you are to come up against an issue that cannot be resolved easily.

Once you have everything in place you can look forward to a stimulating and rewarding trip that will inspire, educate and liberate all who participate. 

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