Holly Cave categorises some fun, educational activities tailored to teachers and pupils alike.
Despite the advent of a more rigorous National Curriculum and a perceived growth in risk averse activities, school trips are still thriving. Across the UK, attractions and learning centres have more on offer than ever before for teachers and pupils, offering a change of scene, inspiration, memorable learning and a whole lot of fun.
How many children would turn down the opportunity to visit the home of British chocolate, Cadbury World in Bournville near Birmingham? A specialised Chocolate Trail hand-out guides students through the attraction’s different exhibits with a question and answer format. Cadbury World has just launched a brand new talk about the Mayan civilisation that ties into the Ancient Civilisations curriculum changes. Designed for Key Stage Two, it engages students in the story of the Mayan’s role within the early history of cocoa through multimedia and interactivity. With educational provisions for primary and secondary students, the attraction offers downloadable teaching resources from its website, along with talks related to history, design and technology, business studies and geography. Organisers can visit for free in advance and prices start from £7.90 per pupil. LEGOLAND is another popular national attraction that offers a programme for schools.
Using LEGO bricks, students can learn about computer programming, geography, wildlife conservation and much more. A National Curriculum “map” helps teachers tailor their day to the 55 rides, live shows and attractions available to a relevant area of study. Prices start from £5 per child for a pre-school visit and there are plenty of optional extras, such as lunch boxes, workshops, storytelling sessions and other events. There are a number of excellent outdoor activity centres around the UK, many of which combine a day out in the open with a variety of educational themes. At Path Hill Outdoors near Reading, school days out are focussed on fun and are embedded with early years and primary curriculum. During the summer months, Path Hill run some unusual, nature-related events for schools such as a “moth watch.”
Julia Warwick, Associate Director at Path Hill Outdoors, said: “One of our groups came up for a three day residential camp focusing on the Battle of Hastings. “Over the course of their stay, the children learnt about King Harold, the Normans, had a medieval banquet, jousted in wheelbarrows and finished with a battle where they used their own handmade shields.”
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING & MATHS
The team at Monkey World are passionate about preventing the illegal trade of primates. Their Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset nurses monkeys and apes back to full health, rehabilitating them before placing them back into their natural habitat. The charity produces education packs and workbooks, as well as downloadable work sheets related to biology, habitats and conservation issues. Monkey World is an inspiring place to take schoolchildren thanks to the drive and commitment of its volunteers and employees. The Deep is based in Hull and is easily one of the UK’s best aquariums and wildlife centres, welcoming over 30,000 pupils through its doors each year. With a purpose-built Learning Centre and lunch area, The Deep is a great choice for an organised day out. The Deep offers a range of penguin-themed workshops covering habitat threats, climate change and food chains, alongside a range of other activities, workshops and presentations all created by the team of in-house teachers. A half-day visit is advised for those wishing to include an educational workshop and general entry to all the exhibits. Goody bags can also be pre-ordered.
ENGLISH, DRAMA & LITERACY
Younger pupils will love the World of Beatrix Potter, tucked away in the beautiful Lake District where the author lived and worked. Sarah Melhuish, Communications Manager at the World of Beatrix Potter, said: “The good thing about our school trips is that we have a comprehensive downloadable resources pack for teachers. “We also offer free garden talks and can arrange tours with other local attractions at great prices.” Peter Rabbit Tea Parties are available a couple afternoons a month from April. The attraction is always popular on World Book Day, offering free entry for children dressed as their favourite character. Plus, Beatrix Potter makes an appearance to read a tale in the foyer.
London schools often head to Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank, where students can really appreciate the living and breathing nature of the playwright William Shakespeare. The educational team offer a year-round programme of learning events, courses and projects for learners at Key Stage Two and above. Over 70% of London state schools have taken part in their outreach projects. Book into a workshop on a play of your choosing, visit Sackler Studios for drama activities or enjoy a stage version of the Playing Shakespeare series – designed specifically for Key Stage Three, Four and A-Level students. The next production will be Othello, playing at the Globe Theatre from February 2015. Visit www.shakespearesglobe.com to apply for tickets.
The living city of the North, Beamish offers a multi-sensory experience that will be incredibly memorable for students of all ages. Despite the nature of the site, the Beamish Learning Department tailors to the needs of pupils with physical disabilities and learning difficulties by offering a detailed access document and creating suitable activities.
Tons of online resources help teachers create lesson plans about the modern history of Britain and the Literacy Resource is an especially nice touch, which helps students write accounts of their visit and create letters for thanks to the museum. Located near Milton Keynes, historic Bletchley Park is more popular than ever thanks to movie blockbuster The Imitation Game. The workplace of the World War Two code-breakers has just announced a new bursary scheme, which provides free school trips for groups most in need of financial support. During their time in the building, pupils will learn about the history of the code-breaking effort, enjoy the regularly-changing exhibitions and take part in talks and activities to test their own skills. Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset has seen many comings and goings since its inauguration in the 7th century. Younger pupils will love learning about medieval cooking in the Abbot’s Kitchen and a variety of tours give students the inside story on the church, the abbey, local myths and legends and life as a monk. Trails, follow-up activities, quizzes and art activities make this a multifaceted experience.
MUSIC, ART & DESIGN
The UK is so rich with galleries and centres for creativity that it is tricky to pull out just a few. For novelty, Bradford’s National Media Museum’s eight floors burst with both famous and cutting edge film, photography, television, animation and new media. There’s a spellbinding 3D IMAX cinema and school groups from Key Stage Two upwards can arrange to take part in workshops, talks, TV production tours, study days and live interactive show CinemaMagic. Admission to the museum is free. The Tate isn’t just about London. Sister galleries of the capital’s Tate Modern and Tate Britain now welcome groups in St Ives and Liverpool. School visits to all four are free of charge, though activities such as object handling, sketchbook tours and sculpture workshops carry a fee.
If you enjoy your visit, you might be interested in joining with a local project led by the gallery or registering for the BP Art Exchange—a global online learning project that connects schools, galleries, artists and cultural institutions worldwide to test new ideas with teachers and young people. The National Galleries of Scotland are spread across three galleries in Edinburgh and house art from Scotland and all over the world. The learning team cater for early years right through to further education. A huge range of stimulating workshops will help little ones make feathered masks and search for animals in famous paintings, while older students can roll up their sleeves for an artist-led drawing tutorial or discuss the meaning of identity.
THE BEST OF THE REST
The enchanting appeal of York Minster caters to all age groups studying religious education and even schoolchildren will gaze up in unfettered awe at the magnificence of this building. For younger ones, treasure hunts and exploratory trails lead groups through the cathedral. The website (www.yorkminster.org/learning/school-visits) also provides plenty of factsheets and activities for completion before, during or after your visit. Prices start from £3 per pupil for a self-guided visit, but there are lots of options to consider such as guided tours, climbing the 275 steps of the Central Tower and multimedia workshops in the Learning Centre.
Geography trips don’t have to involve visiting centres or attractions. However, the varied countryside of the Elan Valley in Wales boasts a terrific visitor centre well-equipped to deal with twitchy students. An ideal day trip from Birmingham, Cardiff or Manchester, your group will be well looked after by a specialised Environmental Education Ranger free of charge. Transport grants and risk assessments may be available for new schools.