A trip to remember
Elaine Booth, teacher at Latchmere School
Thursday, December 5, 2019
If pitched at the right level, a trip to a historical or cultural location can be just as valuable in the early years as it is for pupils further up the school, as we found on our trip to Hampton Court Palace, says Elaine Booth, teacher at Latchmere School in Kingston-upon-Thames.
An educational visit will only work if it is tailored to the needs and ability of the child. While a tale about the exploits of King Henry VIII might appeal to an audience of older pupils, a story-teller dressed as an explorer can engage young children using rhyme, rhythm and song, challenging them to use their communication and language skills.
One of the benefits of learning outdoors is the opportunity for physical descriptions such as ‘over the wall’ or ‘around the tree’. New surroundings can provide a rich language environment for the young learner, and our location presented the chance to introduce exciting new words, such as topiary and turret.
We’re going on a beast hunt
Combining a story with activities makes a narrative memorable, keeping children involved from start to finish. Young children love the challenge of a treasure hunt, and by encouraging them to search for the statues of magical beasts in the palace gardens, our storyteller tapped into their sense of adventure.
Once they are involved in an activity, children are often happy to embrace unfamiliar concepts. The beast hunt encouraged children to try out new phrases such as ‘loyal greyhound’ and ‘graceful yale’, as they discovered the statues.
A tour of the gardens sparked discussions about how each statue represented the attributes of the king – bravery, loyalty and grace – which tied in well with the children’s personal, social and emotional learning.
Supporting learning from home
Few early years trips would be possible without a willing army of parent volunteers, and our school was fortunate to have so many parents helping out on the day.
Involving parents in a trip like this demonstrates how positive it can be for young children to learn outside the classroom. Parents can see the children’s learning experience for themselves and watch their child engage with their surroundings in the company of their peers.
And when their child comes home with another story about a brave dragon or sings a lullaby for King Henry, parents will know what has inspired that creativity.
Back to the classroom
Of course, the trip itself is only part of the story. The learning doesn’t stay outside the classroom, but it informs the new concepts a child has learnt once they return to their educational setting. For early years children, this is all about reinforcing the new vocabulary and ideas through songs, stories and role-play.
When children re-told the stories from the palace back in the classroom, it was fascinating to see just how much they remembered of the visit.
There is much that can be done to underpin the early years areas of learning too. The visual element of a trip to an exciting location can be particularly evocative, and children can re-create this. Our children drew pictures of their own magical beasts.
Once the children are engaged, there are opportunities to expand on the themes of a story, by encouraging children to tell their own stories or create their own activities based on their experiences during the trip.
Introducing young children to a totally new environment helps to develop their understanding of the world around them. And the visit can provide the stimulus for learning long after the day itself.
Taking a group of early years children on a school trip is never going to be the easy option, but for a memorable, rewarding and enjoyable learning experience, you can’t beat a day outside the classroom.
Find out about more learning opportunities with Historic Royal Palaces here