For memories, learning and the journey

28th October 2011 at 01:00

Going Places is the title of this month's special feature, which focuses on school trips, from museums and galleries to outdoor activities and science centres. One thing Curriculum for Excellence is clear about is the benefit of experiences beyond the classroom; they add to the depth and breadth of learning and enthuse pupils.

We may be in the middle of a recession, but millions of pounds are being poured into Scotland's museums and galleries, which should enhance children's understanding of their heritage. This year has seen one launch after another: the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in January (21 million); the Riverside transport museum in Glasgow in June (74m); the newly-refurbished palace at Stirling Castle in July (12m); and the transformed National Museum of Scotland in September (47m). Next up will be the restored Scottish National Portrait Gallery in December (18.6m), and further down the line the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre in 2014 and the Vamp;A at Dundee in 2015.

It clearly fits the Nationalist agenda, and it's unlikely to be opposed by any of the Scottish political parties. Take a look at the work being done at the Burns Museum, not just on Scottish language and literature but all the cross-curricular themes touching history, politics, economics, religion and the environment (p18-21). Read how the children responded: "When you read the poems you have in your mind what he is describing, and what we saw when we went round the graveyard and across the bridge all matched up. It was an amazing experience."

These are the days children remember all their lives. They are the lessons that stick, that open up minds and imaginations; that reach all the senses and teach empathy and understanding. They surely are some of the experiences Graham Donaldson is referring to when he writes of the new curriculum sparking a desire to continue learning, rather than just preparing pupils for qualifications (p33).

School trips can teach young people about themselves and how to cope with life, to push beyond their normal limits. The Outward Bound Trust has been taking children up mountains and down rivers to battle with the elements and discover new inner strengths (p22). Whether it's physical challenges, teamwork or leadership tasks, they can come away with new confidence and self-esteem.

That is something some children require more than others. Our News Focus this week (p12-15) investigates why looked-after children are struggling in education, and one place that is succeeding in raising their capabilities is Kibble Education and Care Centre in Paisley. One way it does that is through music and drama; another is outdoor learning.

"Going places" is not just about school trips. It's about young people travelling far literally - and metaphorically. It is vital that these facilities do all they can to help schools afford them (p7).

gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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