Field trips are back & Expo 2020 is the top destination

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Students of Nibras International School visit Expo 2020 on a field trip
Overwhelming support from both students and parents is  encouraging more and more schools to organise school trips 

Dubai, Dec 20, 2021: Schools in the UAE have started organising field trips after a prolonged gap amidst stringent guidelines and extensive preparations. Expo 2020, with specially designed pavilions for students, has emerged as a top destination for schools. Parents meanwhile have expressed overwhelming support to send their wards to trips and at times even overnighters. 

Meanwhile, authorities have permitted schools to organise trips but have imposed certain restrictions. The Ministry of Education (MoE) along with the Ministry of Health have sent out clear guidelines on the dos and don’ts while undertaking school trips during COVID. In Dubai the KHDA has also issued guidelines for schools to follow. 

“School trips are now allowed as long as they follow the basic precautionary guidelines,” says David Wilcock, Head of Primary, The English College Dubai.

As per the MoE guidelines, schools are mandated to ensure that all participants follow COVID protocol. 

“The Ministry has announced that school field trips can take place again but that they must be done in line with the guidelines issued by the Dubai Health Authority and KHDA. During these trips, all schools must ensure that everyone adheres to all the health and safety measures outlined by the authorities – keep masks on at all times, maintain social distance, temperature checks, etc.,” says  Margret Benson, Librarian, Nibras International School. 

There are basic guidelines about maintaining bubbles, not sharing food and other material, staying home if sick and others too, says Antony Koshy, Principal, Global Indian International School Dubai. “Schools have to also take permission from the place of visit prior to the field trip,” he says. 

Cristinel Anghel, Head of Department – PE, Nibras International School, says strict guidelines for the health and safety of students have to be followed during the trips. “Our students have adapted to the safety precautions and are thriving in these learning opportunities,” she says.    

“Due to the pandemic, the effort, planning and organizing school trips while keeping the precautionary measures in place such as face masks and social distancing have multiplied many times. However, the benefits outweigh the effort as field trips have several advantages connected to them. It is not just a fun picnic. It is a stress- reliever and mood uplifter,” says Aleemunnisa Syed, Senior Leadership Team, Administrator, HSO and Exam Officer, Star International School – Al Twar. 

“We ensured the bubbles would not be mixed keeping that [safety] in mind and made bus arrangements accordingly.  Personalized prior risk assessments were made to all places to check for the protocols and safety measures for our children,” says Arwa Arsiwala, FS Year Leader Al Salam Private School Dubai adding that a nurse from the school was sent on every trip to ensure the health and safety the children. 

“Hence conducting trips was a challenge compared to the pre-pandemic trips,” she says. 

Meanwhile, schools are also expected to keep all essential documentation related to school trips in place. “We need to comply with the guidelines and keep the record of the itinerary, communication held with the coordinator and parent, consent of the parents and any other essential documentation for tracking,” says Shumaila Shahzadi, Curriculum Head of Moral Social and Cultural Studies, Al Salam Private School Dubai.

However, it is not compulsory for parents to send their children on school trips. Most schools have however indicated an overwhelming support by most parents and students for school trips. 

“The parents have been overwhelmingly positive. In the small number of trips organised so far we have had almost 100% attendance.” says Emily Hopkinson, Head of Secondary, The English College Dubai.

“Parents are very excited to send their children on the school trips. They have shown huge trust in the health and safety protocols that the school follows and the massive vaccination drive and safety guidelines that are implemented by the UAE government,” says Syed.

Tara Foster, Primary Headteacher, GEMS Metropole School – Motor City says parents have been keen to start sending children on overnight residentials again. “Our first field trip was an overnight trip to the planetarium in Mushrif Park for our Year 5 students, which was an extremely positive experience for all involved. We have three more planned for the remainder of the academic year,” she says.  

As per Koshy, both parents and school prefer an outdoor location to a closed environment.

Meanwhile, the 173-day Expo 2020, with more than 190 countries participating and being organised in the Middle East  for the first time, has emerged as one of the top destinations for school trips. “Expo 2020 is the perfect location for educational school programmes that take learning to the next level and bring education to life beyond the classroom,” says Syed.

Apart from the Expo, the other places of interest are Dubai Aquarium, Green Planet, Sharjah Space Centre, Kite BeachAl Quoz Pond Park and Ski Dubai.  

Given the COVID restrictions and the logistics involved in organising the trips, schools have been particular about choosing locations that can accommodate a large crowd. “Also, the capacity of the venue must be sufficient so that students can be accommodated within the recommended one metre physical distance. Third party providers have stringent rules to follow and schools follow these, including bus numbers and safety measures they already follow,” says  Wilcock. 

While in general field trips have been considered an important part of a student’s learning journey, where students explore on their own and connect their learning with the real world, the prevailing circumstances have thrown up several challenges.  

“Some trips have involved a lot less ‘hands on’ experiences for the students and this has diluted the experience somewhat.  Children have still maintained high enthusiasm levels as it remains novel but the learning experiences need to significantly improve to make them worthwhile from an educational perspective. However, we have made use of conducting trips in the open air to make them safer and just moved them to the cooler months of the year.” says Hopkinson adding that the opening of the EXPO however has provided fabulous opportunities. 

 

With inputs from Ritika