‘School Trips Change Lives’ Says The National Trust

School trips to look at local ecology seem to be very successful in encouraging children to appreciate their environment. If this works for local eco-issues, surely it can work also for wider social ones? The ‘How Do They Do It?’ scheme has been very slow to get off the ground, but perhaps its time has some. Who will help to make it happen?
Tha National Trust has been running a Guardianship Scheme for some fifteen years, with almost one hundred schools in its programme. The idea, now evaluated by Dr Alan Peacock of Exeter University, is that ‘trips’ out of school make a difference to the way children understand their world… and the evidence, reported in Dr Peacock’s evaluation (Changing Minds: The Lasting Impact of School Trips), is that such trips do exactly that.
Environments are social as well as ecological
The benefits of ‘nature walks’ and the rest, confirmed by Dr Peacock and his colleagues, will come as no surprise to those of us who have been lucky enough to experience these as part of growing up. Nature walks amount almost to an entitlement for all chidlren, wherever they live – the city has an environment and ecology just as much as did the village of my early years.
If even a passing aquaintance with the world immediately around us is of long term benefit, how much more can it benefit us to know something of our neightbours – the other side of our town, the other end of our country, or indeed the other side of Europe and beyond?
Preparation and support are the keys
But it’s not enough simply to ‘do a school trip’ – where teachers are still brave enough to undertake this daunting exercise. To maximise the positive impact chidlren must firstly have a real idea before they depart of what they are likely to encounter; and they must have opportunities to meet and get to know local people when they get there.
Such demands are a tall order. They require a genuinely integrated approach to the curriculum, and a degree of planning which goes well beyond that of the time table.
So why not start more simply? By all means carry on with the ‘holiday’ style visits which some schools try hard to provide for their students. But what about also looking at ways of integrating the ‘widening horizons’ agenda for both children and adults?
It’s part of the regeneration and renewal agenda, too
Provision of opportunities for learning about how other people do things is a recurrent theme on this website.
Those who would perhaps find the sharing of experience most useful are often those who can least afford and / or organise it. There’s a real need to do this… and if it starts by simply going to the other side of one’s own city with the intention of meeting new people and seeing new things, that’s great.
The professional challenge
This is a challenge for teachers, regeneration specialists, community development workers and many others. Can people be encouraged to move beyond their own experience in ways which are comfortable and positive, so that they are better equipped to make genuine choices for their own communities?
And, critically, are we as practitioners up to this ‘challenge’ ourselves? Do we agree, as the Peacock evaluation indicates, that direct experience is good, provided it is properly structured and supported?
How do they do it?
Are we ready to give time to a programme such as How Do They Do It? where, as I have suggested on many occasions, small groups of young and older people together go to new places and ask just that of something which seems to be working well? How can this idea be improved? Who will join forces to help it along?

Posted on February 6, 2006, in Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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