Few teachers have the time to put together a perfect bespoke outing, most need a little help and structure when planning a school trip. In this article, we’ll list a few of the UK’s best educational attractions and suggest some ways to build a great trip.
The Houses of Parliament
Regardless of what they study, there’s no reason any UK pupil should turn down a trip to the home of British democracy. As both a working parliament and a living monument to history, the Houses of Parliament are the perfect site to educate children of all ages. What’s more, they offer a great opportunity for students outside of London to see the unique and vibrant capital city in all its glory.
Still, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when planning a school tripto Westminster. Luckily, parliament recognises that, and in July 2015 launched the Parliamentary Education Centre. Located at the north end of Victoria Tower Gardens, the education centre seeks to provide a ‘dynamic, stimulating environment’ in which to learn about UK politics.
As well as more traditional pedagogical methods, the centre uses state-of-the-art virtual reality technology to provide an immersive, unforgettable experience. Virtual rooms place students inside the House of Commons and the House of Lords at key moments. Winston Churchill welcomes them to the lower house, while they can explore a 3D representation of the Lords at their own leisure. The ‘discovery’ space, meanwhile, recreates a historical event in each chamber: the 1908 suffrage protests in the Commons and the Duchess of Queensbury’s 1739 attempt to gain access to the Lords.
Using modern technology helps ensure the experience appeals beyond dedicated history and politics students. And teachers get to engage their pupils in learning about their political system in stimulating, exciting ways.
The Eden Project
Relaxing rural Cornwall is perhaps the polar opposite of the busy capital. And if you want to encourage your budding biologists and botanists, consider planning a school tripto the West Country’s fascinating Eden Project.
The centre is dominated by two large biomes – artificial environments housing a jaw-dropping variety of life. Representing a rainforest and Mediterranean environment, respectively, each biome can place students in the heart of thriving exotic plant life without ever needing to leave the country.
In addition to an outside botanical garden, the project also boasts ‘the core’. Opened in September 2005, the core is a dedicated teaching and learning space for educational visits. It mixes hands-on and classroom activity with arts exhibitions – and has also hosted world-famous music acts at the annual ‘Eden Sessions’. It’s perfect for anyone planning a school trip, and the project’s website makes things even easier with a list of example lesson plans.
Again far from the hustle and bustle of the city, Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Romans to protect their rule in England from ‘barbarous’ Scots north of the border. Budding historians will be thrilled to explore how and why the wall was built and to gain insights into life in Roman Britain. Children are thrilled by interactive studies of Hadrian’s cavalry, while all can enjoy the chance to see this rugged landscape for free.
Teachers planning a school trip, meanwhile, can make use of a vast array of materials. The website offers worksheets and other teaching resources, and also has links outlining how the site is relevant to students of all levels – from Key Stages one to four up to GCSE and beyond.
While each of these attractions does good work actively seeking out and catering to educational visits, there’s still a lot of material to sift through. And teachers are obviously busy even at the best of times. For this reason, you’d be well served by booking your excursions through a company specialising in teaching and learning trips. Pick a destination now and get ready to inspire your students.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational travel for school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. With over twenty years’ experience providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom, John and his team help teachers who are planning a school trip give their students an experience to remember.