Pupils at Ashurst Primary School in St Helens, Merseyside, were inspired by a new learning experience, led by their own curiosity on Lake Windermere.
A floating classroom can bring fun, excitement and adventure to any school trip. And when you add that to the stunning Lake District scenery around England’s longest lake, you can’t go wrong. That’s according to the pupils who took to the waters of Lake Windermere for their Geography and Field Studies trip.
Most of the children in the Year 5 class from Ashurst Primary School in St Helens, Merseyside, had never been on a cruise in the Lake District before. So, stepping aboard Windermere Lake Cruises’ vessel, Miss Westmorland, was a real eye-opener.
The school group set off from Bowness Pier on Windermere Lake Cruises’ Islands Cruise – a circular trip lasting around 45 minutes. It provides fantastic views of Windermere’s many islands (locally known as ‘holmes’) as well as nearby mountains, wooded shorelines and bays.
The pupils were welcomed aboard by boat master Rob Beale who has over ten years’ experience of working on Windermere and a wealth of knowledge about the famous Lake – and he needed it. The children were fascinated by their surroundings and fired off question after question: “How deep is it? How old is it? What creatures are in it?”
“The reason I booked the trip was because we are studying North America and the Great Lakes,” explains Year 5 teacher Katie Crampton who is also Ashurst School’s history and geography coordinator.
“We had previously explored North America (in the classroom) and wanted to compare the Great Lakes with the Lake District. The children devised their own questions, so they were able to compare.
“They used Digimaps (an online mapping service for schools) to find out how many Great Lakes there are in total and compared this to how many they were told there were in the Lake District. They then used pictures and their own research to find further facts that were similar, for example how they both provide fresh water for nearby towns and both have similar activities taking place on the lakes.”
“The trip was really educational and I enjoyed the whole day. I loved learning about the different lakes, habitats and activities.” Isabella, aged 10
Katie said it was wonderful to take pupils on an exciting and educational school trip, adding: “They loved the Lake District. Boat master Rob was so knowledgeable and was able to answer all the questions the children threw at him. They had a wonderful time.”
The school group began the day by visiting Brockhole – the Lake District Visitor Centre and one of the stops you can make when taking a cruise across Windermere.
Here, the children were given a range of activities by the centre to undertake fieldwork. Some children were asked to find out what problems Brockhole might face – such as littering – and how to overcome such issues.
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To find answers the children had to conduct fieldwork looking for clues and signs around the grounds. They had to become ‘geography detectives’ – and this helped their learning back in the classroom.
The school says that one of the wonderful things about the “floating classroom” experience was that the trip was led by the children’s own curiosity. Both boat master Rob and the staff at Brockhole enabled the children to learn so much by asking questions. And everything they learned during the experience in the Lake District was carried forward into their next lessons in school.
“It was wonderful to take pupils on an exciting and educational school trip. They loved the Lake District. Boat master Rob was so knowledgeable and was able to answer all the questions the children threw at him. They had a wonderful time.”
Class teacher Katie adds: “The children still talk about the trip now, which shows the impact both places had. It also allowed some children to have an enrichment opportunity, which they have never experienced before.”
What students said about the trip
“I loved finding out facts about the Lake District. I was surprised to find out just how old Windermere is. This trip really sparked my interest further in geography.” Halle, aged 9
“My favourite part of the trip was the boat cruise over Windermere. It not only brought my learning to life, but I also loved asking the boat master Rob questions about the lake.” Oscar, aged 10
“I had an amazing time when completing our fieldwork. I could not believe that the lakes have 19.8 million visitors (on average) every year.” Tom, aged 10
“I had never been on a boat before and was so excited to experience this. It was so fascinating and has made me want to visit the Lake District again.” Charlie, aged 9
Back in the classroom
“Educationally, the trip was amazing. It allowed the children to extend their geographical thinking beyond the classroom,” said Katie. “There was a chance for the children to demonstrate progression of skills, and it allowed the children to become – and think like – true ‘geographers’.
“At Ashurst Primary School, fieldwork is an essential part of our curriculum because it offers opportunities for personalisation of their learning and we believe that the more sensory experience aids memory and meta-cognition.”
For more information about Windermere Lake Cruises, call 015394 43360 or visit www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk.