Understanding the value of outdoor learning in Normandy for UK schools

Published: 16th September 2016

 

What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.

Alfred Mercier

 

Worthwhile and valuable learning experiences  

As a teacher, there is a drive to make the time spent in school as meaningful as possible. However, teachers don’t need to feel confined to the barriers of the school walls in order to maximise this time and what their students can garner from work in the classroom. 

Outdoor learning is something we have no doubt all heard of, but understanding how this translates to actual learning outcomes can be murky for those who interpret the approach as limited to skill-based residential trips to UK activity centres.  

There are a series of stages (many teachers consider as hurdles) to overcome to even approach this option for transforming the learning experience into knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours. Taking a group of students abroad can be met with trepidation, but it is important to realise that the value of the learning experience far outweighs the preconceived notions of ‘too much paperwork equals too much trouble’. 

View across Mont Saint Michel

Travel abroad and there will be a million and one things you can do, which immediately and directly impacts upon a student’s development positively. The journey itself is an education, but it is the experience of a different culture with new sights and smells which will most likely last longest in the memory. What is the beauty of providing an experience like this? It doesn’t have to involve jet lag nor does it have to break the bank.   

Step into the limelight Normandy. A region that has long been a favoured option for schools shows no sign of slipping off the radar for primary and secondary educational establishments. Why? While the reasons could fill the pages of your educational planner, we can zone in on 5 clear explanations alone:

  1. Location

  2. Cost

  3. Variety across the curriculum

  4. Contextual learning opportunities [specifically situation]

  5. Château du Molay; utilising local experts

With these in mind, teachers may need to seek out compromises where schools limit the number of viable school trips abroad. They may need to combine subject themes or learning goals. Most certainly teachers will be considering the backgrounds of their students and considering the cost of any trip on a family. Here we break down these 5 points and highlight how Normandy contributes to a valuable outdoor learning for schools and their students. 

Hop over the Channel 

Location 

Wherever your school is positioned in the UK, a coach journey down to Portsmouth, Dover or Folkestone will soon see your students transported into Northern France. Choose the Euro Tunnel and 35 minutes later, your school group will be on the road along the French coast to Normandy.

Discovery in Normandy

Your subject may not be history, but with so much to discover in the Normandy region it would be rude not to dive in to explore the battle scars of the area. Famous for the role played within World War II, there is a rich collection of landmarks designed to support learners. Take to the beaches of Normandy for fieldwork where students can walk in the footsteps of the Allied forces. Lookout from Arromanches and the remnants of Mulberry Harbour, see archive footage of the war efforts at the 360 degree cinema, or make your way to the American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach. But what is the value of doing this? The list of key sites linked with World War II in Normandy can seem endless. This isn’t some mere walk around sites which may or may not connect with the individual student on a poignant level; these visits each provide a lesson. A lesson that ticks the boxes for acquiring knowledge; experiencing something new; opportunity for investigation; promotes further enquiry; encourages students to voice their interpretation; and allows for the learner to engage with something real. Engagement – this is something Normandy has in abundance with students involved with curriculum learning, team-bonding activities, and absorbing a new culture through sights and smells. 

Accessibility – Not just to learning opportunities, but to the physical area itself. Normandy’s location has a variety of landscapes that includes towns, purpose-built structures, historical monuments, and areas of natural beauty. This diverse range of sites allows schools to access a wealth of valuable resources just the other side of the Channel. From the market towns of Honfleur and Bayeux where students can challenge themselves with conversation with native speakers to the unique sight of Mont Saint-Michel where students can engage in adventure trails, this variety not only allows for different areas of learning, but supports different styles of learning. 

Lovely location, excellent food, fabulous accommodation. Good activities and flexible, friendly staff who ensure you are happy from the moment you get there. We’ll come again!

Wisbech Grammar School

No need to break the bank

Cost

Students at Chèvrerie du Mesnil

Cost due to distance, cost due to transport, or cost due to the number of students you’re taking, Normandy provides a solution to all. Teachers will be thinking about the families of their students, what type of trip is feasible in the eyes of the school, and how does the value of the learning outcomes stack up against price. While we may be talking about Normandy and not New York, it is important to remember this as the two destinations cannot be compared on parallel terms. Normandy provides a focus; visits to suit multiple subject disciplines within easy reach and at a cost that will keep the school’s governors and Senior Leadership Team happy. 

Travelbound’s Château du Molay also helps in providing accommodation to groups of all sizes with a support team who can lead a range of on-site activities. Featuring dorm-styled rooms, the château saves groups from having to find potentially expensive alternatives in the area which may not be able to match up with the standard of accommodation, capacity, or location. 

Language-based activities and excursions with a historical focus to tours that will support food technology and music are in abundance in Normandy meaning there are plenty of options for the price-conscious Party Leader. No need to compromise on the learning outcomes, Normandy’s museums and areas of interest provide a price-sensitive mix focused on educating young learners through interactive, structured, and thought-provoking activities and exhibits. From learning about local production methods at Chèvrerie du Mesnil (goats' cheese farm) and discovering key events from the 20th century at Mémorial de Caen (museum) to understanding the science and history of maritime life at La Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg, a truly bespoke educational tour can be created for schools travelling to Normandy.

Students exploring the Memorial de Caen

Choose your subject focus

Variety across the curriculum

Combine subject areas or find your focus with a range of options to tailor your tour to meet the requirements of your school. Normandy is awash with towns that not only offer historical sites, but open students to a distinctly French culture. 

There are opportunities for students to work in groups and develop those all-important teamwork skills as they investigate life for locals in Normandy during World War II, discover the art of biscuit production Les Sablés d'Asnelles, come together to discuss Monet’s inspiration at his gardens in Giverny. There is a tour for all in Normandy with local factories, market towns, and historical landmarks welcoming school groups with open arms to impart knowledge, engage young learners, and ultimately inspire students towards future learning.  

A fantastic opportunity for students to discover the history and culture of Normandy, to share a learning experience, and to bond with staff and peers. A wonderful trip!

Perry Beeches

Normandy is well-placed to support schools seeking cross-curricular outcomes. For schools seeking this option, the number of towns offering something for all means teachers will not have to fear students are learning something out of scope. This is because for every excursion Normandy offers, there is a shared outcome – student enrichment. The Normandy Tourist Board has played a big part in supporting the region in ensuring an authentic experience for visitors. Embracing culture, holding onto the region’s history, and promoting areas of interest have not only opened up opportunities for locals, but for visitors to seek out and engage in meaningful learning experiences. 

Placing learning in real-life contexts for students

Contextual learning opportunities

Students exploring the locality

Underpinning contextual learning sits the idea that meaningful learning occurs when there is interaction between their experience and the ideas they have around the subject. Placing students in a new working environment where learning can be placed in a real-life context allows this connection to occur. Forming a part of successful learning, it is this ‘situation’ that sees students engage as the barriers to learning are broken down. With something ‘real’ in front of them, learning is interpreted as something of value; ergo meaningful learning. The learning journey doesn’t start and end here as teachers need to nurture this interest and develop the experience into extended learning back in the classroom.

Normandy is a great option to provide students with multiple platforms that encourage participation, interest in subject matter, and discovery. Take a moment and consider what sparks your interest. Is it something that shocks you? Is it an idea that has a connection with another? Whether it is staring at the relic that is the Bayeux Tapestry or looking at the paint strokes of a Renoir masterpiece at the Musee des Beaux Arts, students are presented with something they can relate to; something that makes studying the Norman Conquest of England or the masters of Impressionism meaningful. These are the moments that highlight the true value of learning outside the classroom and how it directly lends itself to meaningful learning.

Another very enjoyable stay. The staff were extremely helpful and great with the children. Our driver was, once again, a source of local knowledge and amazingly patient with all our questions. We were also lucky to meet D-Day veterans at the US Cemetery.

Buckingham Primary School

A local Travelbound team in Normandy

Château du Molay

Providing schools with valuable learning opportunities is all part of the Travelbound experience. Supporting the array of interactive exhibitions and sites that Normandy offers, Travelbound have thought about how students can interact and engage in learning experiences away from the local landmarks. 

The Château du Molay sits just 25 minutes southwest of Bayeux and is Travelbound’s very own accommodation in the heart of Normandy. An on-site team welcomes school groups to the historic region of Normandy and provides the perfect base to explore the area. Extensive grounds and facilities allow for groups to enjoy activities, including archery, swimming, survival activities as well as frogs’ legs and snail tasting, plus a host of options for the evenings.

 

Providing local knowledge, the vibrant staff at the Château du Molay support teachers in making the school trip to Normandy all the more special. Providing Party Leaders with a chance for downtime, the on-site staff can lead activities at the château and engage learners in a choice of team-building tasks. 

A service few others can offer but hugely beneficial to the experience schools can enjoy in Normandy, Travelbound’s years of experience of working with local contacts means students have even had the opportunity to meet D-Day veterans and ask any burning questions they have from their experiences of World War Two.  

A comprehensive service that prides itself on supporting schools throughout their stay in Normandy, makes an educational trip to Northern France all the more valuable in ensuring students gain the most from their time away from school.

It’s been a brilliant week. Thank you all. Friendly, welcoming and comfortable. The food was fantastique!

Newton Abbot College

Meaningful learning in Normandy

Enjoy what you do and it will be all the more memorable. Outdoor learning is an approach that is not only accessible but malleable; a concept that can be moulded to suit the learning requirements of your schools and learning needs of your students. Finding a platform that ticks the boxes for schools can be difficult, but Normandy has continued to find the answers.

Whatever your subject focus, price bracket, distance from the French border, or desired learning outcomes, the Normandy region provides the solution. Choose from a range of excursions allowing students to place learning in context, engage, and be inspired to discover more. Take your school group to Normandy on an educational tour and you’ll likely come away with similar rewards to your students; a greater understanding and a thirst for knowledge.

 

 
To find out more about school tours to Normandy or to speak to a member of the team, speak to us on 01273 244572 or click to contact us
 
 
 
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