When I started Abbey Primary at the end of P2 in 1997 one of the first things I remember being told about was the P7 trip to Arran. It was the pinnacle, the "big" trip at the "end" of our primary school careers (we actually went in Nov if I remember right). Little did I know all those years ago, not only would I get to experience it as a pupil, but as a teacher as well and see my own students have that same incredible experience, an experience that can’t be replicated in the classroom.
Even now the memories of my own trip stand out as some of the best moments of primary school. Yes, I know how to read and write but I don't REMEMBER learning to, but I do REMEMBER my experience at Arran at the Outdoor Centre. Not all education, can be measured on a spreadsheet, and nor should it be! Education should also be about experiences and memories and that's what the Arran Outdoor Education Centre provides along with valuable life lessons! They provide experiences that many children might not ever get anywhere else! Memories that they might not get the opportunity to make if not for the centre!
Before you even get stuck into the activities, the first thing the centre provides is the opportunity for young people to stay away from home for a few nights. That separation from parents/family is possibly the first, and longest, the pupils have had, and don't underestimate that! It might seem like a small thing, but to a 10 to 13-year-old it's massive! I remember my own experience; being in a strange place and sharing a room with three other people was scary the first night.
There’s a responsibility put on the pupils that might not always be expected at home. Rooms are inspected every morning and with no one there to pick up after us we very quickly learned to keep the room tidy, not leaving our things at our backsides. I’m not saying I arrived home and suddenly my room was spotless from then on, but it was a valuable lesson.
All of this is even before we talk about the activities themselves.
Often outdoors learning can be seen as “just a bit of fun”, as I said, it can be very difficult to measure the results on a spreadsheet, and at the time if you ask a pupil what they learned they often might not even realise exactly what they are being “taught”. Looking back now as an adult, and as a teacher, I can see the team-building exercises we did. Learning to work collaboratively with other to solve problems but in a way that was fun, and often out of our comfort zones.
I don’t know why, but even to this day I remember “winning” the night time group orienteering competition around the centre. At the time I just saw it as an opportunity to run around with a head torch on and have a laugh, but looking back now I can see it was about problem-solving and collaborative skills. I was never the best at anything in primary school, I wasn’t “top of the class” or won any of the races on sports day, but that feeling of being good at that one activity was such a massive boost… in fact I think I still have the wee certificate in my parent’s loft!
The centre is a place that provides an opportunity for the “middle of the road” kids like me to step out of the background. It’s a place that helped me, and so many others, realise we are capable! It’s a place where confidence is built! It’s a place where memories are made!