An interview with the Field Studies Council
To find out more about how students can benefit from field studies school trips, we spoke to Mel Cousins at the Field Studies Council about how immersive outdoor education benefits children, and helps teachers inspire their class about the natural world.
What are your most popular courses with Schools?
FSC is probably best known for our A level and GCSE fieldwork – half of geography A level students visit one of our field centres and one in four of A level biology students.
We have also been working hard to offer exciting experiences for lower key stages too and last year welcomed over 20,000 primary school pupils.
I hear your tutors are experts in their fields, what kind of training and qualifications do they have?
We have carefully developed a team of gifted field teachers who have a real passion for the outdoors so they can bring it to life for students. All our tutors must have a relevant degree in something like geography or biology. Trainees at FSC spend longer in training than some spend in their entire employment at other organisations! Then throughout their career they must remain up to date with skills like first aid and relevant subject training.
FSC centres also hold the LOtC Quality Badge which means we have been assessed and deemed to provide high quality teaching, as well as managing risk effectively.
What are the most valuable skills that students will learn on a visit to the Field Studies Council?
Everything we do is centred on first hand experiences. Depending on the course attended students will develop a host of relevant practical skills from measuring river flow to spotting their friends on a ropes course. These skills will relate closely to curriculum requirements and often help with exams when students often find it easier to write about something they have actually done.
Experiences at FSC centres also help with skills like teamwork, confidence, assessing risk and independence. Even within the centre on residential courses where young people are expected to make their own packed lunches and tidy up after mealtimes – everything helps them to grow and learn as individuals.
Is it just field studies that you offer? And what areas of the national curriculum can you cover?
Although we have a lot of experience in field studies FSC also offers a wide variety of adventure and exploration courses – anything which will inspire young people about the natural world. We cover a whole range of national curriculum subjects including geography, biology, maths, history, English, arts and physical education.
We find increasingly that schools and colleges are looking for courses tailored to their needs – which we can work with teachers to create.
What is your most popular location and why do you think that is?
Each FSC centre is different and schools all have their own favourite so it’s hard to pick one! For geography Blencathra, located on the slope of a mountain in Cumbria, is hard to beat in terms of views with its dramatic panorama over the Lake District, but for studying sea life Dale Fort on a coastal peninsular in Pembrokeshire is perfect with just a few steps from the centre to the rocky shore.
Having a choice of 18 locations around the UK helps schools pick the one that is most suitable for them.
How do you think hands on field study experiences are more valuable than classroom based learning?
We hear all the time that visits to FSC have been memorable experiences for students and teachers. Being immersed in a subject on a trip really helps with understanding, and having one of our field teachers delivering courses enables school teachers to observe and assist students in a way not possible when they are teaching in the classroom.
Our courses are designed to complement work back in the classroom and also to inspire children and young people about the natural world, taking in its sights, sounds and smells and getting their hands dirty.
Here are some comments from students and teachers who visited last year:
"River transportation came up in the exam, I just sat there and pictured Juniper Hall and the river tillingbourne.. it made that question really easy"
"Students came away from the course with a real hands-on experience of ecology, and this is benefitting them in their final A level year as they are showing a much deeper understanding of this topic."
"The weekend was great. It helped me to really understand and 'bring to life' what I learnt in the classroom from textbooks."