Education Insights | Learning outside the Classroom

Many adults have fond memories of a field trip outside the classroom. The things we often liked about these trips can range from; further understanding of a topic, seeing things we had only seen in pictures, spending time with teachers outside the classroom and even just ‘being out of school’ for the day!

Just two weeks ago, an excited group of Year 2 and 3 pupils climbed into a coach on their way to the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. They had been focusing on past and present habitats in their IPC theme. They were interested in looking at the similarities and differences between historical and present habitats and the animals that live/d there, so we all felt that the Natural History Museum was the perfect destination to search for more information.

A couple of weeks ago, Years 4, 5 and 6 ventured 2 hours away to the Tianmushan area. We wanted to get the pupils out into nature and encourage the values of courage and responsibility. On top of this, Years 5 and 6 had been studying plants and their different methods of fertilisation.

This year, pupils in different year levels in Wellington College International Hangzhou have picked strawberries, discovered temples, ridden on a steam train, planted trees, sung beautifully around Christmas trees and explored wildlife in nearby areas.

These trips mean a lot of organisation by many people. Before we have received approval for the trip, a member of staff must visit the venue prior to the actual day to answer (among many others) the following questions;

  • Is it safe?
  • Does the venue provide valuable learning experiences?
  • What will the children do there?
  • Should the teacher design activities to accompany the trip?
  • Does the venue include content in a language we can access?

On top of that, we must involve the operations department and Sodexo, our catering service company, to arrange transport to and from the destination, and to help arrange food for the children.

So, what’s the point? With this amount of organisation required before we even step foot on the bus on the morning of the trip, would it not be easier to just stay in the classroom and have normal lessons? Maybe! However, imagine how much our pupils could be missing out on.

Academically, trips can be a tool that connects the classroom concepts pupils have been learning about to the real world. The activities that are completed in these trips can boost children’s subject knowledge. When Year 4 visited Lingyin temple for example, they saw the features of the temples that they had learned about and they were able to identify things in common that hadn’t already been discussed during class time. Trips can introduce new knowledge and vocabulary. For example, last week at the Natural History Museum, Years 2 and 3 were introduced to the concept of an archaeological dig! This was something that was brand new to them and not something that had been done in the classroom. When they went to the zoo, members of Year 1 were introduced to the English names of some familiar animals and were encouraged to describe their habitats, widening their vocabulary in an exciting and real context. Trips can spark curiosity and leave children feeling inspired. Children have returned from trips with an improved attitude, more interest and questions that can be used by teachers and parents as opportunities for further learning experiences.

Trips can provide even more than solely academic advantages, complimenting Wellington’s vision of a well-rounded and holistic education. Jay Greene from the University of Arkansas describes trips as “looking through a window into a broader world filled with different people and ideas”. Trips outside of school to places like museums and galleries can provide children with intellectual stimulation and critical thinking skills, and have been found to increase tolerance and inclusivity. When taking our pupils out of school, we expect that they will show responsibility in looking after their possessions and kindness and respect to each other and others we come in to contact with.

Also important is the huge enjoyment that children and staff get from school trips! It’s exciting for us all to get out of school and see something different. Children get to practice their independence, sit with their friends on the bus and partner up with people during activities. They eat their packed lunch, which is something different to our usual school lunches. They get to meet new people and ask lots of questions. They see real things that we can sometimes only show pictures of in the classroom. Activities arranged are often novel and unique and children return from their trip exhausted but excited to share what they did and what they learned with other children, teachers and their parents.

Each of the trips that pupils of Wellington College International Hangzhou have been on this year have been closely linked to our values and identity. Each teacher has been impressed by the way our pupils have taken concepts from inside the classroom and applied them to the trip setting. The links to our curriculum and values have meant that each trip has been meaningful as well as enjoyable and each pupil has returned with a deeper insight into their learning.

As our children start their new academic year in August, the opportunities to further enhance the skills and understanding mentioned previously will become paramount when we look further into school trips and the value that they will provide in the children’s education.