A Class Without Walls – How learning outdoors can break the barriers of learning for the modern student and teacher
Published: June 11th 2014
Learning Outside the Classroom is more than a manifesto. Enter any school and you will see attempts to broaden the experiences outside the classroom, even if it is still within the school grounds. Away from the cloud of the unknown and growing uncertainties under the Gove concept of learning, there is an army of ambitious and creative teachers joined annually by a host of new recruits bursting with ideas and energy. However, as much as we turn to a combination of innovation and ‘old-school’ resourcefulness, there is an element of the learning process that is hard to replicate in a limited environment – experiences.
A memory of a school trip abroad is an experience many teachers can remember or wish to replicate for their own students. Actually going about organising the trip and putting the tour in place is an experience less desired. This means the chance to study plate tectonics in the Bay of Naples erodes and the idea of walking on Omaha Beach to trace the footsteps of soldiers on D-Day is slowly washed away. Sometimes there is a fear that we are alone in planning the trip, organising transport and accommodation and even running the trip, but we’re not. From online tools like Evolve to complete school visits in the locality to an experienced company like Travelbound with 28 years of experience in school travel, it is possible to run (and enjoy) an educational tour abroad for your students.
The chance to experience the world beyond the atlas, library box loans and videos on the beaten-up school VCR player is an essential part of a young person learning and developing. Whatever the age, ability or personal circumstances of the student, schools continue to grasp this opportunity to provide an experience not replicated within the school walls. An emphasis needs to be placed on the all-round benefits of learning outdoors and the importance of personal, social and health education.
Like with anything, we as educators like to tap into what we know. Our comfort zone is made up of the tried and tested strategies for learning and experience of learners. A trust needs to be developed in entering a new learning environment that has been vetted by our peers and where opportunities to truly deliver a new and unique experience for your students exist. Let’s dive back into what we learn about pedagogy. How can you make your teaching interactive, impactful and interesting? Looking at the principles of VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic) you will be hard pushed not to tick all three off when learning outdoors. Providing a real life hands-on experience where boys from Boston Grammar School can experience the German specialities such as Schnitzel, Bratwurst and Frikadellen, take a lively guided tour of Marksburg Castle to explore the grizzly life and times in Medieval Rhineland or undertake a language task in Boppard cannot be replicated with a plate of Frankfurters from a supermarket for a German themed afternoon in the school hall.
Promoting effective teamwork, opportunities for independence and allowing students to face new challenges and overcome fears are valuable assets gained immediately from entering and adapting to a new environment. For Staffordshire University, a trip to Tokyo allowed for students to explore culture, fashion and diversity. From watching a Shinto wedding, visiting the famed Mount Fuji, attending a Buddhist tea ceremony and walking through the fashion district of Harajuku, students described the tour as an ‘amazing opportunity’ and a ‘dream come true’. When we learn, we develop and take on something new. The trip offered the opportunity to witness something they had never seen before and experience something real, something authentic.
Learning outdoors does provide a truly unique experience. It is an opportunity for you to provide your students with inspiration and a chance to challenge them to think. Whether you wish to ignite a passion for a subject, improve focus or even reduce poor behaviour an educational tour abroad allows you to tap into the students and better understand the triggers for learning and the breaking down of barriers to raise attainment.