So, as I sit here and type this entry, my class and I are currently on the second evening of our four night residential visit to England. This is the fourth year that the trip has happened and I thought I might share some thoughts regarding such visits.
‘Why would you do that?’
The most common comment made regarding this annual visit. We fly over from Belfast on the Monday, visit Alton Towers on the Tuesday and Thursday; with a visit to the ‘ThinkTank’ science centre sandwiched in-between.
For most of the children, this is a major event in their lives – spending 5 days away from their families in a different country. However, what a wonderful opportunity to mature and gain an excellent sense of your own independence!
‘What learning opportunities do the children get?’
As well as the more obvious science activities in ‘ThinkTank’ and the tenuous physics being taught through them study of roller coasters (ahem!) the opportunities the visit gives the children are outstanding:
– Independence. As already alluded to, this is a great chance for the children to develop their own character and confidence in being away from the family unit. What better way to develop their character before transition to post-primary than to share this common bond in being away together?
– Budget setting. My children are given £20 spending money each day from which they have to buy their lunch as well as any treats or novelties they might want. There is also a visit to a shopping centre on the last day so they are encouraged to put money aside to gain the main benefit from that experience. It is amazing how quickly their mental maths skills develop while working out of they can afford that picture from ‘Oblivion!’
– Self-management. Having to keep rooms tidy, share common dorm space, make their beds, today away breakfast utensils, clean up shower rooms, re-pack a suitcase, ensure compliance with air-travel rules, budget for their lunch, eat healthily instead of choosing the easy fast-food option, work to a timetable in the mornings and afternoons…
This is just a short list from the top of my head but, even then, it lends itself very nicely to illustrating the ‘real-life’ learning that goes on while here. Many of these experiences are so vital in our busy world.
There are many more reasons that I should list to illustrate the value of this time away but would begin to sound ‘preachy.’ However, each year I don’t have a line of volunteer teachers willing to take my place on the trip (though the assistants usually shine!) and I think that it’s a shame.
To share this experience with the children is, many times, a pleasure though it is hard work but the children deserve to see that there are adults who will go that extra mile for them so that they can look back on their school days and have at least one shining memory.
Minimise the risks and ensure that you have as much control as possible over proceedings – never putting your children in unnecessary risky situations. About the only things I can’t control this week are the piloting of the plane, the driving of the coach and the weather!
We are lucky to be able to stay in Smallwood Manor, Uttoxeter, where we are the only group in the premises during our stay. I heartily recommend them for their kindness to our children and staff over the years – nothing is ever too much trouble!
Don’t overpack and you will save money! We only allowed the children to take hand luggage on the flight and it was surprising how much money we saved – over £80 compared to last year when we allowed the children to check in hold luggage. Again, more life skills in operation.
Finally, give your children the benefit of the doubt – they might surprise you! We currently have pupils away with us whom other schools effectively refused to accept and they have been stars.