One of the things that never ceases to amaze me, is the massively varied range of school trips that my kids get invited to attend – and by definition, in this country where volunteering is both the culture and the expected norm, a selection of parents are usually summoned along to assist too. Now, when I was at school (yes, I know, they’ve ceased using horse and carts since those days, along with the quill and parchment paper …..), I can remember there being only two class trips each year which were greatly anticipated and looked upon as ‘end of year’ treats. One took place just before Christmas-time, where the whole school usually embarked on coaches to the local pantomime for Christmas joy and cheer (and in many ways, it epitomised a complete pantomime just getting 240 kids under the age of 11 just there and back); and then a final time towards the end of the school Summer term. This final end of year trip was greatly exalted and awaited. Each class had one particular destination to which they would venture, and from memory, this never altered year upon year. Most notable, was the trip to Chester Zoo (usually, the favoured destination of choice for most schools in the north-west of England), and for another year, we took a quest to Ribchester to see the Roman remains (I think the bus driver actually got lost getting there as the time it took to reach there nearly had us up as skeletal exhibits too). Funny, what sticks in your mind …..
Well, over on this side of the pond, school trips are a lot more prevalent and used to embed learning from different parts of the curriculum throughout the school year. I’ve lost count how many trips each of the kids have been on. Some are quite novel in nature. One of particular note, was a day spent at an Arabian Stallion Stables a few weeks ago with my middle kid’s Grade 4 class. It’s a reading literacy project which is innovative and based on experiential learning, aimed at motivating children to want to read, enhancing their literacy skills and developing confidence in reading – all within the confines of being on a ranch, in a barn, with live horses – just outside Edmonton. It was superbly structured – and amongst many other activities, involved each of the class reading a passage from ‘Black Stallion’ (a novel) to one of the beautiful Arabian horses. The passionate staff insisted that the reading promoted a sense of calm and relaxation in the horses, but I hadn’t quite prepared myself for witnessing a horse actually fall asleep whilst being recited to. I kid you not. He actually dozed off. Amazing it truly was – and memorable.
Another marvellously patient horse, just stood there whilst each of the class stuck ‘stickies’ to his body, naming his various body parts. I’m sure he knew them off by heart if only someone had asked him. In another corner of the barn, one lucky horse had been selected to be ‘groomed’ by the class using the various brushes and tools. The kids loved it, and also throughly enjoyed the hands-on experience of touching and interacting with animals. By my observation, the horses loved it too – and I don’t blame them. It reminded me that a trip to the hairdressers and local spa wouldn’t go amiss for myself either …
The star attraction was a dog named, King, who was clearly in command of the whole experience. As soft as they come, he adored being the centre of attention with the kids. He was accompanied by a donkey – yes, an actual donkey, with 4 hooves and an eeyore to boot. He was just missing his film partners – a ginger tomcat and green ogre, to complete the set.
I know teachers are often challenged to demonstrate a linkage to the education curriculum for these type of trips. But sometimes, taking a risk and providing innovative and creative ideas to stimulate learning will leave the biggest indent on a child’s memory. We’ll never know whether the kids who went with me remember that trip in 20 years from now. I know I will and I hope they do. I’ve got it on my list to mention to my middle kid – if she doesn’t remind me before then, a long time from now.
So, next time you’re looking for a fun thing to do, go and read to a horse. I may adopt the same philosophy and take my blog posts with me next time. I bet they fall asleep …..