EXAM season is approaching us fast and for many parents and children, the Easter Holidays will be an anxious time of revision. I will say what I always say – time spent filling the brain as early as possible with those useful facts will pay dividends later when the facts pass from your short-term memory to your long-term memory where they are committed to memory ready for exam day!
But it is also a time when the days are getting longer and, hopefully, warmer and we start to think of the Summer Term ahead and long sunny days which will bring out the day dreamer in all of us.
Many children will be embarking on school trips – international, national, regional or just local – in the Summer Term and long holidays ahead. These can be a stretch financially for parents but they are so vital for their child’s development.
Remember what it was like if you have children – or even when you were a young child – when they or you went on a school trip for the first time: the anticipation and the excitement and the memories.
If you grew up in the 1970s and 1980s like I did, that first school trip may have been a day out at the zoo. Close your eyes and remember just how exhilarating it was to see wild animals in the flesh – to watch them, hear them and even to smell them.
These days, primary school children might be off to a farm or a city farm to see animals leap from the storybook and their imaginations into reality.
I think it is hard to underestimate just how important that experience is for them. I am sure we can all remember a similar experience and such experiences stand out in the landscape of our childhoods.
As our children grow older, it is important not to let them lose that sense of wonder that is so precious when they experience things in the world around them for the first time.
Some of you will have children for whom a trip to a historic site induces that awe and amazement as it brings their work to life – perhaps a visit to a castle or even to a monument like Stonehenge will be imprinted on their memories for life; all the more so because they have learnt about it first from a book or in a school lesson.
A visit to an art gallery can switch on a lifetime’s love of art and culture which can enrich a child’s life forever.
This experiential learning is absolutely vital to a child’s development – even if that trip was or is a relatively simple one. Who hasn’t seen the wonder of a young child playing in a park or even digging in a garden and seen how much they get out of such experiences?
Experiences out of the classroom can help older children to have an overview of an event they might have read about a thousand times at school but never really had a chance to think about what it might have been like to experience themselves.
Children of all ages from my own school will be visiting the World War I battlefields this summer. For those of you who have been there, you will know how seeing the existing trenches and the rows of graves in the World War I cemeteries tell the story of the bloodshed, horror and loss more than words on a page can do.
School trips support and invigorate children’s learning throughout their education so whether you are wishing farewell to your young child on the way to a city farm or a safari park, or your teenager on a visit to France, remember that the experiences they gain in the field will enlighten their learning and build memories which will shape their lives for ever.