52 Year 3 and 4 school children recently enjoyed a three-day trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall. Here’s how they got on, plus a look at what other teachers can organise on their own school visit.
Within the space of three days a group of Cornish students travelled to tropical rainforests, South Africa, California and the Mediterranean without ever setting foot out of their home county.
The Year 3 and Year 4 pupils from Constantine Primary School embarked on an exciting journey when they spent their annual summer camp at Cornwall’s Eden Project, which has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world. The dramatic global garden is housed in tropical biomes that nestle in a crater the size of 30 football pitches, and provides a gateway into the relationships between plants and people, as well as an insight into the story of mankind’s dependence on plant life.
Assistant headteacher Caroline ‘Cags’ Gilbert, who is also the school’s coordinator for educational visits, said: “We took 52 pupils on their annual residential camp to the Youth Hostel at Eden, and our daily activities and workshops were provided by the Eden Project education team. With so many workshops to choose from we were able to select and pick a variety to cover many areas of the curriculum.”
The Eden Project is home to what’s said to be the world’s largest indoor rainforest, where visiting schools can experience four of the global rainforest environments; tropical islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and South America. There is also a rainforest canopy walkway. Other areas cover different parts of the world, including the Mediterranean biome with its orange and lemon trees and olive groves, along with a 30-acre outdoor garden.
Staying in the Eden Project Youth Hostel is also part of the adventure as the unique accommodation has been made from shipping containers, in keeping with the attraction’s ethos of sustainable living. The hostel has 174 beds in 58 modern ensuite bedrooms, and welcomes school groups of all sizes.
As an educational charity, the Eden Project offers a wide range of options for schools including the flexibility for teachers to design their own stay for a choice of school workshops and challenges. There are also evening sessions providing the opportunity to go on site when it is closed to the public and enjoy an atmospheric visit to the rainforest biome at night.
Caroline said: “Our first workshop was Rainforest Rangers which set the scene for our stay and after receiving our brief we were able to venture into the huge Rainforest Biome independently. Our task was to search for possible shelter, food sources and ways to store and carry water.
“We also took part in Potions and Commotions which both the boys and girls loved. This enabled them all to be so creative and become lost in nature with their thoughts and imaginations whilst also being challenged. The results were great with some superb poetry and art being cleverly woven into the whole package. Other workshops included flag making, den building, ice skating and storm patrol.”
Caroline said the combination of the varied workshops and the setting contributed to the outcome of every session being “far more than expected”.
“This was the pattern for all we took part in,” she said. “The pure awe and wonder of Eden adds to the spectacle also. What a backdrop and environment to work in! The fact you can explore the biomes at night when no one else is there was also a highlight. We spotted so much more than can be seen in the daytime including learning about where tree frogs can be found to hearing the sounds of the jungle at dusk. It was a real experience being the only people there.”
She added that staff can take a back seat during workshops if they wish, enabling them to watch children approach the various tasks and activities and observe them engaging in all kinds of conversations. However, she added that this wasn’t the case during their visit.
“Everything was so inspiring we all just had to get stuck in too,” she said. “That in itself says something about the thought and detail that has gone into the education packages that suit a very wide range of abilities, enabling all to take part and extremely motivating for us all.
“What a great but exhausting time we all had. This was one of those residential experiences where if you had to analyse the exact outcomes it would be far too difficult. The children clearly learnt a lot and retained so much information making many inks within their learning. However, the exact knowledge, experiences and learning obtained is simply unmeasurable yet so valuable, as was the level of enjoyment.
“Our daily web posts showed a snippet of the amount of fun we had including some outside orienteering to hit those OAA objectives we often try to work on during times out of the classroom.
“We can’t thank the education team staff enough for what they did”, concluded Caroline. “Their thoughtfulness and commitment to making all things possible makes the Eden residential a special one. It was absolutely amazing and we have booked again, returning this year with a new group of children and they can’t wait.”
Back in the classroom
“As the school topic was rainforests the visit provided the inspiration for plenty of work back at school,” said Caroline. “We always do a big display after any school trip and the students splashed the Eden Project all over one wall. We visit Eden every two years so it also provoked a lot of interest from the pupils that will be going in the future and they really enjoyed looking at the photos and talking to the children that had been and asking them questions.”
The visit was also featured on the school website, which is used by pupils, and in addition the pupils took part in diary writing and recount sessions once they were back at school.