My favourite memories of school are from a school trip to Normandy back in 1992 when I was 16. We camped and met other students from Germany and Holland, we went on a bike ride and a farmer gave us a glass of cider at the end of the ride. On our day trip to Paris we were tear gassed in the metro – some students got their belongings stolen in the kerfuffle and then to top it off one of our students got lost in the red-light district. It was a fantastic experience – I learnt to budget my money for the week for the first time, to be patient with others who were annoying me, I ate foods that I had never even heard of and just loved being absorbed in French culture. I got to see my teachers in a different light, they were nice human-beings far removed from the strict verb conjugating oppressors they appeared to be in class.
Last week I had a fantastic opportunity to be that teacher and I took a group of students to an international conference in Denmark, the changes I saw in them by the end of the week made the long hours spent on preparation and risk assessment writing worth it. Their confidence grew as did their independence, teambuilding skills, leadership skills, ability to communicate with others, their self-esteem and their resilience. They also found it hilarious to see me petrified on the highropes course and I am sure the video of me crash landing on my head at the bottom of the zip wire will be viral on Monday back in school.
Traveling to Denmark I let the students take the lead and make all the important decisions at the airport and on the train – which enabled them to show a real sense of maturity and independence. At the conference there were over 100 delegates from 15 secondary schools representing 9 countries from all over the world including Kenya, South Africa, Germany, England, France, India and Australia. Our students listened to some inspirational keynote speakers who spoke about democracy and fake news, one of which was Vincent Fella Rune Møller Hendricks a Danish philosopher and logician. He really got the students thinking about information and how it is presented in a believable manner and the impact social media now has on news and democracy. We got to go on a geological expedition to Møns Klint which are chalk cliffs along the eastern coast of the Danish island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. Student leaders from the school took us on an historical tour of Copenhagen including a canal trip and visit to Rosenburg Castle. We also had the chance to visit the Danish Parliament, meet politicians and see it in session which was amazing.
Students took part in a journalist project and got to make their own news on global warming, health, fake news and immigration; the workshop was led by News Decoder. As part of the project students got to interview a top UK scientist, a farmer in Kenya, teachers, a Danish environmental expert and fellow students to produce their stories.
We visited a highropes course set in the grounds of a castle. It was -4 degrees and snowing but that didn’t stop our kids who volunteered to take part in an optional third session after lunch whilst other students had opted to stay indoors. The lunch was amazing, we were treated to a traditional Danish Smörgåsbord although it seemed wrong having a cold buffet with the temperature as it was outside, but it was so delicious we soon forgot it was cold. After a cultural evening where all the students performed something to represent their country, Friday the last day had come around far too quickly. We had the closing ceremony and a keynote speaker then it was time for the sad goodbyes and a long delay at the airport. I was so proud of our students they did not complain once about the bitter cold, being home sick, having to present to their peers in public, sleeping in a room with 8 other students they didn’t know or being mixed into groups with none of their friends. They really did approach the conference in the spirit that Kurt Hahn would have wished for and I believe they found there was more to them than they thought they knew.“There is more in us than we know if we could be made to see it; perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.” Kurt Hahn
School trips for a teacher are a huge responsibility and can be extremely stressful. To enable me to do so I have received rigorous training and everything I plan needs to be approved by an Educational Visits Coordinator. I will spend next week catching up on all I have missed from being out of school for a week and the marking which will have piled up.
No doubt I will get usual insensitive question form other teachers – “did you enjoy your little holiday last week?” – It was far from a holiday, if it had been a holiday my family would have been there and I would have relaxed and read a book. However, it was well worth it to see the change in those students.
Do the benefits of a school trip outweigh the risks?
I would love to hear your opinion or any stories about your school trips and what they mean to you.
Here are some articles I have found on the subject.
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