This week our Grades 7s and 8s returned to the slopes in our annual Middle School ski trip. After a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, it was a pleasure to share this enjoyable experiential learning opportunity with our oldest students. Special thanks to our trip coordinator and Assistant Head, Mrs. McKay, and the entire team of teachers who accompanied the students and chaperoned during the trip. With the exception of a couple of minor mishaps (!), everyone returned happy and intact after a week of fun on the slopes of Ontario. With the fresh snowfall we have recently had, the timing was perfect. While you may have some “tired teens” lolling about your house, rest assured that they got a healthy dose of outdoor exercise during this week’s excursion.
School trips like these are an opportunity for students to spend quality time with their peers and teachers and learn in a fun and unique way. They are a chance for them to take a well-deserved break from the traditional classroom environment, giving them an opportunity to explore the real world a little more. At Matthews Hall, school trips start as early as kindergarten, and as children grow, they become progressively more exciting like our Middle School ski trip and overnight camp for Grade 5s. In time and at high school, such trips can even take students overseas, where they can develop a range of skills and passions.
What are the benefits? First of all, school trips are a chance for kids to spend some time away from the familiar environments of their home and school and develop a sense of independence. On overnight trips, they learn to be responsible for feeding themselves, getting themselves organized for each day’s activities, and managing other tasks that are often aided by their parents.
They are also able to socialize and bond with classmates and teachers in a way that’s impractical during lessons. These bonds are important, not only because they allow students to feel a strong sense of community spirit; but also because it helps them feel more connected to classroom discussions upon returning to school. Teachers are also able to use school trips as a way to motivate their students. Plans for such shared excursions are anticipated with enthusiasm and can encourage hard work and good behaviour throughout the rest of the year.
Of course learning new things is also a major outcome of such experiential opportunities. What about excursions that cross borders? Trips further afield can help students learn about different cultural traditions and languages, especially if they interact with native speakers. This helps them develop an authentic respect for diversity. What’s more, experiencing famous landmarks and historical buildings in person is far more memorable than reading about them in books. By beginning with local trips and moving beyond our daily spheres of learning, we are preparing children for independent experiences in high school and beyond.
One of the most important learning outcomes of field trips and experiential excursions is increased self-confidence. The skills and relationships developed on school trips can help boost student confidence, helping them to feel more comfortable taking risks, raising their hands in class, and trying new things. It’s undeniable that school trips are great for boosting academic performance in unexpected ways, not to mention, they are a chance for young people to build life-long memories and strong relationships.
While many field trips occur during the school day, extended field trips promote social growth for participating students by encouraging positive interactions among the students, teachers, and chaperones. Students experience independence away from home and the classroom and they also benefit teachers. Teacher and student relationships often develop or improve, and many teachers gain new perspectives and insights into the classroom to which they will return.
What a great way to begin the next term!
Ric Anderson, Head of School