Children rarely get to fly away en masse for educational purposes. However, recently they did thanks to a unique UK wide competition run by UK-based Airline, Monarch that gave 600 pupils, across three schools or further education institutes, the opportunity to board flights to numerous historically-significant European locations, complete with in-flight education and activities aimed at bringing their historical studies to life. The intended purpose was to provide real-life context to topics which would otherwise be relegated to a textbook.
The three lucky schools awarded these fun, educational holidays were Fulbrook Middle School, Icknield Community College, and Harris Academy, Beckenham and they took flight on April 24, 2013.
Entry and Selection of Winning Schools
Entering schools for this competition was very simple, with a straightforward, question-based, online application. Eligibility for application required that pupils were between the ages of 7–9 and 11-14, and that an elected representative or head teacher provided 200 words explaining why their school deserved to be chosen. Naturally, all children needed necessary travel documents, such as passports and identification, but once awarded, flights, meals and itineraries were all provided by Monarch as part of the prize.
Though the winning schools exercised control over their application and eligibility, they only had use of the aircraft for 1 day so the flight destinations were to be to places that were relatively near. One school took a trip to Verona from Manchester. This particular trip included in-flight lessons about the Italian language, history and geography but the real education began as the plane landed, giving the pupils the chance to apply their newly-acquired skills and knowledge to learn the real story of Romeo & Juliet.
Another school flew from London Gatwick to Gibraltar, with the students receiving a short Spanish lesson along with a class on Gibraltar’s history. These classes were similarly intended to deliberately tie in with their planned activities upon landing.
The final destination was Dubrovnik from Birmingham. During this flight, students received a brief conversational German lesson, and a whirlwind tour of Dubrovnik’s historical and geographical landscape to prepare them for some on site challenges.
The primary aim of this scheme was to put the fun back into learning and to find more contextually relevant ways for children to learn. A carefully constructed itinerary ensured that these schools got the most out of their experience and visited some of Europe’s most inspiring destinations in a way that meant they had fun and learnt a lot all at the same time.
The Future of Education?
The idea of using flights for educational purposes is an interesting one and could be adopted by almost any subject. A science lesson could discuss the physics of flight or travel north for a look at the Northern Lights; a geography lesson could give students the opportunity to see a mountain range, or follow the line of tectonic plates, and a history class could visit any palace or battlefield in Europe. Even if it is a competition that isn’t rerun, for the pupils, it’s a lesson they’ll never forget.