How important are children’s life experiences? by @musingsofmrb

As much as possible my wife and I try  and engage our children in as many different activities as we can; whether it be rock pooling on South Wales beaches in the rain, feeding the animals at a local farm or watching the fantastic Balloon display at Bristol Balloon Fiesta.

It’s important to us that they experience as many different things and different places as they can so that they grow up thirsty for new experiences and gain lots of knowledge of the world in the process. We know that we are in a privileged position to be able to do these things with our girls and that many children are not as lucky. Thinking back on the children that I have taught it is clear that life experiences play an incredibly important part in the education and development of a child.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Andrew Byrne and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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I have been lucky enough to work in England and overseas in both state and private schools and have taught children with a range of life experiences; some had their own drivers at the age of 2 and spent their weekends in helicopters whereas some lived half a mile from the sea and had never seen it.

It is obvious to me that, in most cases, the wider range of experiences that the children  had led to better performance in the classroom; in every subject the children could draw on something that they had done in their life that was relatable, whether it was kayaking on lakes or flying a kite. Conversely, in the schools that I have worked at, in disadvantaged areas (my current school falling into this bracket) the lack of life experiences hampered what the children could relate to. In English, for example, they couldn’t use their five senses to help write a story about the beach or the mountains as they hadn’t experienced the freshness of the air or the salty taste of the sea. In Maths, they struggled with estimating measure as they had never just sat with a bucket and sand, filling it up, emptying it and building sandcastles or played in water with different sizes of container, just for the fun of it.

As much as assessment is a current focus in the revamping of the national curriculum, it doesn’t allow for children’s experience; this years reading paper was a prime example (I have alluded to this in a previous blog Thoughts on SATs 2016) where the subject matter and the experiences that were required to access the texts, and questions, were way beyond the experiences of the majority of children, not just those in disadvantaged areas.

Of course, this is through no fault of the children, their circumstances and lack of opportunities to experience a range of things is out of their control. This is why, we as teachers must fill this gap to aid the learning and development of those in our care. We must create memories for the children that they will never forget, that they can draw on in the future and that will link to work or conversations that they may do or have at some point in their lives. Some of these experiences can be school based such as going on a bug hunt or having the Olympic torch brought in to school and they can also be forged on overnight residentials. Strangely the best ones can also be daft, crazy events that the children won’t ever forget and can recount in minute detail; even though it has been 2 years, my Year 6 leavers were recalling the time we were attacked by seagulls on a wet, cold, clay beach; the seagulls stole our sandwiches and we had to run under the pier leaving a wake of clothing strewn behind us on the sand!

It is experiences like this that help them to grow as people and aid them in their future work, they can draw on the sights, sounds and smells that they remember and these can be adapted for a number of situations within class, whether it be English, PSHE or any other area.

Whatever your plans for the coming school year, please ensure that creating positive and memorable experiences for the children is high on your agenda.

Experience counts.

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