Wales educational visits - Life is the pits

26th September 2008 at 01:00
Baking bread, exploring mines or sleeping in a yurt is all on offer - and need not cost a fortune, says Isabella Kaminski

Rising petrol prices and unpredictable public transport can make school trips in Wales costly. But you can give lessons a fun practical boost by making the most of local and grassroots resources.

Environmental projects such as the Down To Earth outdoor centre near Swansea, for example, are a good value way of introducing pupils to ideas of sustainability and citizenship, which are heavily featured in the revised curriculum.

Museums such as Big Pit and St Fagans in South Wales are good for learning about local history. They are free and also welcome school groups, says Jonathan Bussy, a Year 6 teacher at Llanedeyrn Primary School in Cardiff.

Jonathan has also taken a group on a more unusual trip to visit the Cardiff Bay barrage, a huge engineering project in the city's harbour area. "If you can get them out on trips you learn so much more than you do in the classroom," he says.

With a little extra planning, teachers of pupils with special educational or physical needs can also make the most of local museums and community projects.

Disabled access to centres has vastly improved, says Jane Pereira, who has recently retired as a teacher at Erw'r Delyn special school in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan.

"We have a group of children who can't go out without a nurse, so that is something else that has to be organised," she says.

Staff at the school use sign language to relay information to pupils with hearing difficulties, for example, so disability does not have to be a barrier to pupils going on school trips.

THINGS TO DO IN WALES

Down to Earth project, Gower (www.downtoearthproject.org.uk)

Fun courses about sustainability and global citizenship and outdoor activities. Pupils can make an earth oven to bake their own bread, or build a shed out of natural materials. There are courses in bushcraft, growing organic food and craftwork, and groups can stay in yurts and tipis.

Anglesey Sea Zoo (www.angleseyseazoo.co.uk)

Learn about conservation work or have a guided tour with marine biologists. For over fours, there are beach safaris exploring the coastline, lectures and interactive talks.

Techniquest@NEWI, Wrexham (www.tqnewi.org)

This science discovery centre, partnered with Techniquest in Cardiff Bay, has education programmes for all ages. The workshops and lectures are tailored to the curriculum and science shows are held every day.

Horse Drawn Boats, Llangollen (www.horsedrawnboats.co.uk)

Meet the horses, find out about local customs and do some basic physics by working out how much the boat-cranes can carry.

The Spaceguard Centre, Powys (www.spaceguarduk.com)

This independent observatory specialises in tracking comets and asteroids. The area has very low light pollution, which is ideal for star-gazing. Take a guided tour using the telescope, mini-planetarium, weather station and the largest camera obscura in Europe.

National Wool Museum, Carmarthenshire (www.museumwales.ac.ukenwool)

Groups can learn about the history of what was Wales' most important industry and watch textiles being made. The museum runs regular workshops and special events, including ghost stories and a Christmas fair.

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