Posted in Family

Another term, another topic, another school trip…

Sidcup station platform signage, in Southeaste...
The starting point for all my childhool journeys (Photo: Wikipedia)

These days, it seems a term does not go by without the children being taken on a school trip. This policy is especially valuable in these rural parts, where our children do not have as much opportunity to travel as their city-dwelling peers.  I’m quietly envious every time Laura comes home clutching a permission slip for the current term’s trip. I was raised in suburbia and by the age of 12 I was regularly taking the 30 minute train ride into London to visit museums and parks at weekends. Not only did I travel without an adult, I also used to take my much younger cousins – unthinkable these days for reasons you don’t need me to go into here. But we had very few school trips, and none at all in primary school.

Laura’s school outings are always carefully planned to enhance the term’s topic, and the destination is not always obvious. I wondered where on earth would they go to study the Second World War. It emerged that for visiting schools, the Steam Museum at Swindon will recreate an “evacuee experience”. I had a lump in my throat as I packed her off to school that day. She had to wear a 1930s frock and take a teddy, wear a gas mask box over her shoulder and have a luggage label bearing her name pinned to her cardigan. However did my grandparents cope with those farewells? (I’m thankful that they did: it was my father’s evacuation to the Cotswolds and his consequent love affair with the area that made me realise at a very young age that I wanted to live here too.)

Demonstration of Roman army shield formations
Taking health and safety precautions a little too far on the Roman topic school trip

I thought I’d guessed the destination for Laura’s “Ruthless Romans” topic trip. Surely it had to be either Cirencester, Chedworth Roman Villa or the Roman Baths at Bath? But no, they headed off to foreign parts – across the border into Wales for a fabulous day at Caerleon Roman Remains. The photos of the children dressed as legionnaires made it look as though they’d travelled back in time. It was a trip they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Where, then, would they go for this term’s topic? It’s “The Awesome Outdoors”, and not, as one child first reported, “Automatic Doors”. (Her mother thought this unusual theme would lead to some interesting science and technology lessons. It was several days before she realised her daughter’s mistake.)

I love the alliterative titles teachers give to their topics. It’s great psychology for generating excitement. I wondered where would their “awesome” destination be. I thought about my own travels when I was Laura’s age. I was lucky enough to spend my ninth year in the USA, where my father was working. We saw Yellowstone Park’s geysers, the Badlands, the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes – all pretty awesome to a child who till then had thought Sidcup was the centre of the world.

Laura produced the note from her bookbag with a flourish.

Spring blossom at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum - just 5 miles away

“We’re going to Westonbirt Arboretum!” she cried excitedly. A pause.“Where’s that again?”

Of course! Where else? The environment on our doorstep is hard to beat in terms of awesomeness. The Arboretum’s education department is second to none, so I know her class will have a fabulous, memorable time and come back filled with wonder.

To children, any trip is far from school if it requires a coach to get them there – and there should just about be time for a sing-song on the way. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for globe-trotting when she grows up.

(This post was originally written for the Tetbury Advertiser, April 2012)

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about another of Laura’s outings in The Ring of Truth