Do School Trips Educate Our Young?

I’m fresh from a school trip today and as a student teacher on placement, I wanted to share my experience as to whether or not school trips are – in my opinion – educational. The school trip in question was at Dundee’s Discovery – the ship which took explorers to Antarctica over 100 years ago.image1 The class had been doing the Discovery as a topic in the classroom and had covered many activities to go with the topic so that the children had some idea when they were in that part of the ship, what the sailors would have been doing. This was extremely educational. The whole layout of the ship was amazing and took you around each part with things to do like pull the rope and signs up with information on. There was a video too, which had loads of pictures from the expedition and of the sailors and it talked you through what the conditions would have been like for the men. There was even a talk for the children set up where they could try on clothes and compare them to current clothing meant for icy weather.

Me riding a camel in Egypt. A once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.

Me riding a camel in Egypt. A once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.

However, although this was an extremely educational trip for the children, why is there a lingering question from parents and the media around school trips being educational? School trips can be for an hour across the road in the local post office to a three week trip in India. The possibilities are endless. I was lucky enough to go on several school trips in school and in high school one teacher imparticual has inspired me to take my children on school trips when I am fully registered. I went to Edinburgh, London twice and Egypt with this teacher and I can hand on heart say they were some of the best experiences of my life – I learnt so much and I was never homesick because she planned so much for us to do. We were also made to fundraise to keep the costs low and if I did carol singing in one tesco around the highlands of Scotland those christmases, well, I sang in them all! I was truly lucky to have her as my teacher, she really cared about us as individuals and our experiences growing up. This is the type of teacher I aspire to be.

However, enough reminiscing about my own experiences and onto the question in hand. Do School Trips Educate Our Young? Well, the Scottish curriculum supports school trips by having an area on their website where you can find places in Scotland to go that they consider educational. This can be found here.  Education Scotland also say “Heading away from a young person’s familiar environment can provide new perspectives and lead to fresh discoveries.” So if our own curriculum supports school trips, is there really still an issue? Many teachers find that risk assessments put them off of actually taking the children outside of the classroom and I can see their point. Being involved actively in Girlguiding, I know just how much of a hassle risk assessments can be when I take the girls away or even outside of the hall for an evening. But surely as teachers we need to look at the positives? So you may spend 4 hours (yes, I really have spent this amount of time on a risk assessment before now) on a risk assessment which is a huge pain – but think of the experiences the children will have had by the end of the trip! Surely that alone is enough to persuade any teacher.

Through my reading I have read time and time again how outdoor education helps young people to be physically active as well as teaching to understand how to assess and manage risk.

This is a really good poem put onto a video about outside education by Hollie McNish. I think the main point that she points out is that schools are there to open doors to children. How can we do this unless we actually take them outside to see the world around them. A trip to the park can be educational enough for 3 and 4 year olds – I did it all the time with the nursery last year – because you can talk to them about what they see plus you’re giving them exercise by walking around and playing (major health and wellbeing benefits). The other reason we used to take the children to the park was because it was free. Cost is a huge issue for schools these days and if you can’t afford a proper educational school trip with all the bells and whistles to match then what you as a teacher will be giving your children is essentially something like a trip to the park. However, I have already explained how a trip to the park can be educational.

These are only two very short points on how educational school trips can really be. If we covered them all I would be writing this blog all day. So, to conclude, what I am saying is, school trips are all educational. They aren’t all boring or non-educational or costly. You just need to be thinking about them in the right context?

8 thoughts on “Do School Trips Educate Our Young?

  1. M MackieM Mackie

    Hi Katie. This is a really interesting topic – thanks for sharing.
    I totally agree with you that something as simple as a trip to the park can be hugely beneficial.
    I once joined a year 1 class (England) on a school trip which was just a walk round the corner to the local library. On the way, the children completed tally charts and made notes about things that they noticed (linked with their classroom learning). It was so simple and completely free, and yet the children got loads out of it because the teacher had planned appropriately.
    Ultimately, my opinion is that any learning experience (be that a school trip or a lesson in the classroom) is as good as the teacher makes it (no pressure!)
    As you said: If teachers view trips as a way to extend and deepen children’s knowledge and understanding, then they are incredibly educational. The danger is when trips are seen as a ‘treat’ and no real thought or planning is put into the learning side of it.

    Also, it sounds like your trip to the discovery was fab! I’m very jealous.

    1. Katie Rebecca WhithamKatie Rebecca Whitham Post author

      Thank you so much Michelle for your reply!!
      Firstly the Discovery trip was really good – I will definitely be going back in my spare time to properly look round! I totally recommend it if ever you get a chance and the children were so engaged the entire trip, there’s just so much to do!
      Secondly I totally agree with your opinion! If teachers don’t make a trip a good learning experience and see it as a treat the children really won’t be getting anything out of it other than they think they’ve done something good to deserve it.
      Thirdly, sometimes the free trips are the best – I really miss my friday mornings at the park with the little ones in the nursery! 🙁 Your teacher from England sounds very organised – I could learn a thing or two from her.
      Katie Rebecca

  2. Carrie McLennan

    I am delighted that your school trip to Discovery caused this blog post! I think your enthusiasm for school trips is something you should harness for once your are fully qualified and don’t be put off by the risk assessments!

    1. Katie Rebecca WhithamKatie Rebecca Whitham Post author

      Thank you Carrie, It was a fantastic day out and I hope to write more posts like this in the future.

    2. anna murray

      It’s also worth noting that lots of museums – like Verdant Works and Discovery – have a pre-made Risk Assessment that teachers can download and lots of resources to help teachers get the most from their visit (both pre-visit and follow up for the classroom) – always worth an ask!

  3. Tara Harper

    Dear Katie Rebecca,
    You have made some interesting points about school trips and you are absolutely right that they can be the most inspirational, engaging, motivating experiences for young people. You will often find that P7 children will remember their trip to Landmark or the Discovery before they will remember about the amazing maths lessons you taught them!
    I think you are also correct in identifying that the culture of risk assessment that is continuing to build in our schools does put teachers off and whilst maybe it shouldn’t, it understandably does.
    I didn’t ever shy away from taking my children on school trips but as a class teacher, and latterly as a headteacher, the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the children did weigh heavy on me and I rarely relaxed until everyone was home safe and sound. You cannot underestimate that feeling of responsibility and not every teacher is going to be willing to take it on. However, you are right in saying that a trip to the park can be just as beneficial so perhaps there are compromises that can be made.
    This is a really interesting post, certainly in terms of the juxtaposition between more stringent health and safety considerations and the importance of experiential learning; perhaps something to look into in more depth in the future?!

    1. Katie Rebecca WhithamKatie Rebecca Whitham Post author

      Hello Tara, Thank you so much for your comments. I think that every child should have the opportunity to go out on a school trip and I hope this came through in my blog post 🙂


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