School Field Trips

Here’s an interesting little piece from Mumbai newspaper, DNA looking at ‘new age school trips’.

DNA Article

There are a couple of aspects that rather saddened me. Firstly, where did ‘History’ and the past suddenly become something so unimportant that we can discard it all in the pursuit of ‘relevance’. Unfortunately, I feel the issue is not that children no longer need or want to know about the past, but two things are required for visits to zoos and museums to work;

a) Teachers need to prepare the ground with students in the classroom, sometimes over a few weeks, building an anticipation/ expectation for what they’re going to see and do. Then, when the children travel there need to be well thought out activities to do at that place. Then, there need to be meaningful, stimulating activities to follow the visit. It’s no good just piling a load of children in a bus, taking them somewhere and then expecting something exciting to come out of it.
b) Museums and zoos need to put in the efforts that actually suggest that they genuinely want to offer a high quality service. Through my years in India I have really been saddened to see the quality and standard of museums and places of historic interest. I don’t want an ‘entertainment’ sound and light show. However, what i do want is to learn of the history, the people, the experiences. In late 2008 I visited Kunming, China. There I got to see what can really be done with a modern museum – it was comfortable, spacious, all exhibits were preserved and laid out very carefully. I was visiting on a mid-week afternoon and there was hardly anyone else around. The place had lots of eco-friendly features like movement sensors, so lighting was on only in those areas where anyone was visiting. There was lots of information available, so i knew what i was looking at and its significance, available in a variety of languages. Sad to say, i don’t believe I’ve seen anything as good or as effective here in India. It’s all achievable and i believe if the commitment was there to create world class museums children, schools and families would be fascinated to visit.

What’s that one about people who forget the mistakes of the past being destined to repeat them? For this and many other reasons we must not write off the past as though it’s somehow irrelevant because we’re marching in to a bold new future. We just need to work a bit harder at how we introduce the past to children.

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