S is for September and School Trips

The ABC of why school trips are the key to beginning a new school, starting another academic year and making everlasting memories - they go together as perfectly as 1,2,3.

This summer as I packed for a trip to Sweden for a friend’s wedding I ticked things off list after list; purchased all of my tiny toiletries, poured away the milk, cooked-up perishables for the freezer, emptied the bins, turned off plug sockets, over-watered plants, double-checked flight plans and pushed and pushed to meet work deadlines. In the distraction and focus of all of this adult stress, I forgot to get excited about the trip. I have never had the money to travel much but I have always loved it. I love the sense of adventure, the taste of different cultures, cuisines, cities and countries. For lots of us growing-up, the opportunity to go abroad, have adventures and visit exciting places wouldn’t have been possible without the school trips we were able to take. 

At 17, I flew with my school to Barcelona. I loved the school trip and remember it so vividly. I purchased postcards as keepsakes as I knew I never wanted to forget this adventure and that I wanted to one day return. Ten years later, I did. I went on that trip as a solo adventure after my first heartbreak – the kind that erodes your confidence, self-worth and energy. Yet, walking around that city once more, I collected more postcards and made memories and I realised that the heartache didn’t break me. Little by little, step by step, adventure by adventure, my confidence built back up and I remembered the person I used to be. 

The kind of person who at 16 cut out an article from a newspaper about a big gallery exhibition in London and stood in front of every teacher, faculty member and school governor to persuade them to take us on an 8 hour coach trip to this exhibition. The school agreed and took us on the trip; it built our confidence, enhanced our learning and broadened our understanding on the subject. The subject it enhanced was not actually Art but English Literature. 

A school trip does not have to mirror an exact subject in order to have a valuable and far-reaching impact on students. Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) has reported that subject specific school trips have been proven to give students a deeper understanding, knowledge and context in a subject. Ofsted have also reported that school trips, most especially outdoor adventurous activities, are also shown to vastly improve students confidence, understanding of education, well being and even behaviour and attitude they return to school. Education Business, a company that provides business information for decision makers in Primary and Secondary education noted:

“The Education Committee undertook an inquiry into outdoor learning which recognised the cross-curricular nature of out-of-classroom learning. It found that outdoor education contributes to learning in a range of areas, including […]  learning through outdoor play […] group activities that build self-confidence and social skills; these may include adventurous activities that teach students how to deal with an element of risk, and; the use of the environment as a tool to enrich the curriculum across subject areas.

Essentially, it is the confidence gained on these school trips, through adventurous outdoor learning, that has the broadest spectrum of impact across both the curriculum and the student’s own wellbeing. This is clearly demonstrated in the following findings:

“Young people become more resilient and optimistic, and their emotional health and self-esteem improve. 93% of teachers agree that School Trips influence their pupils’ personal development, in particular their confidence and self-esteem. The quality of young people’s relationships improves, in particular with their friends, family and teachers. 93% of teachers observe better relationships between pupils on return to school. An improved enthusiasm and confidence in learning – their attitude towards learning improves, and they become more confident, capable learners in the classroom. 60% of teachers observe an improvement in their pupils’ performance in the classroom on return to school”

These reports give evidence to what many of us know to be true anecdotally from our own experiences of school trips. Now, that is not to say that a lot of us don’t also have memories of bad, boring and even embarrassing moments on school trips. I even did a work experience once where I spent a week washing mould off industrial mineral waste – an experience and aroma I wish I could forget. However, we also know that the right school trip or educational day out can not just improve but transform the lives of young people and the choices they go on to make. At the time they may not even know or fully comprehend the benefit of these experiences. I certainly didn’t. Yet, every one of those postcards I began collecting on school trips at 16 years old, have now been taken to a range of schools on my own educational workshops. They have inspired part of a  gallery exhibition called ‘The Power of Postcards’, which is a culmination of a project where I was part of a team that provided cross-curricular CPD training for teachers. 

Dorset Adventure park has a unique advantage of being the perfect site that is geared up for, extremely experienced, trained and prepared in leading school trips. The well thought out programme offers school groups a 90 minute session on the park, spending 45 minutes on each lake. Dorset Adventure Park provides wetsuits and buoyancy aids for all and has capacity for up to 100 students. The sessions include free-play to start and then structured challenges and games, run by fully qualified Lifeguards. For the mud trail there is a 90 minute session across the 2km trail, featuring more than 50 obstacles. Students can then go around the course as many times as they wish during the session! Crucially, schools and teachers can easily access all of the necessary documents needed to plan a safe and successful school trip by clicking on the following link. Dorset Adventure Park is also the perfect location for an entire educational day out. THe water park is situated at the foot of the historic and spectacular Corse Castle. Schools can spend the morning at Corfe Castle on a guided tour, lasting between 60 and 90 minutes. These tours cover topics from KS1 & KS2 in the curriculum. A day that combines the two is a great demonstration of utilising the benefits of school trips that have contextual subject value as well as the benefits from adventurous exploration.  

A visit that focuses solely on Dorset Adventure Park has no less value. As we have seen, the adventurous, fun, exciting and outdoor excursions improve students’ confidence, motivation and wellbeing that extends when they return to the classroom. Out of school learning is crucial for more kinesthetic and 3D learners who benefit from education outside of textbooks and classrooms. It is also hugely inspiring and formalising for students with vocational interests. Last summer, Dorset Adventure Park was contacted by a Mother of a 16 year old who had visited the aqua park when they were a child. The mother shared that:

“When he was 11 years old he met your lifeguards and was obsessed that it was what he wanted to do. So, five years on, he qualified just after his 16th birthday and his GCSEs and bagged himself a job at our local water park. It was your awesome lifeguards that sowed the seed, they inspired him and he is literally living his dream job and it all started at Dorset Adventure Park.”

Sow the seeds of energy and inspiration, build up students’ confidence, make memories that no child will ever forget and set a student on a path to their dream job by booking an unforgettable school trip this September. Click on this link to discover the school trip packages, costings and all the useful information you need to start someone’s adventure of a lifetime. 

The Power of Postcards: a snapshot of an exhibition and some of the educational visits inspired by my school trips. 

Words by Olivia Lowry.

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