A Classics school trip offers the perfect opportunity for students to be immersed in the ancient worlds that they study. Here, our Classics specialist Hannah explains the value of taking students out of the classroom.
One of my most vivid memories of school was walking up the steep, winding paths of Delphi and having a surge of pity and admiration for the Greeks that had heaved the vast amounts of marble up the mountain and into the sanctuary.
When asking myself why anyone would take on such a Herculean task (forgive the obvious pun!) it struck me that this was all in the name of religion. Taking into consideration the wider geographical context of the sanctuary, it dawned on me how influential the religion of ancient Greece was to the people and the landscape. This, and many other moments from that trip, was a formulative experience for my education and career – and is the perfect example of the importance educational travel can hold.
The Value of Travel
As many schools and parents are experiencing a stretching of budgets, international trips must offer real benefits for both students and teachers. Cross-curricular combinations still hold real merit, but there is value in allowing students to be immersed in the sites, museums, and locations linking to just one subject. This could not be truer than for the study of the ancient world.
Teachers and students of Classical civilisations today are fortunate to have a range of topics from which to choose. From studying ‘Imperial Image’ to ‘Greek Theatre’, ‘Women in the Ancient World’ (where was this option when I was at school?), and the ‘Invention of the ‘Barbarian’; there is a module for most areas of ancient society. But this breadth does mean that students are inundated with dates, material sources, and prescribed literature – and for the teachers, the challenge becomes: ‘How can I bring all of this information to life?’
Exacerbated by the shortened time teachers have to cover material, it becomes a mighty task indeed. But simple though it may seem, one of the best ways to bring the ancient world to life is to go there yourself!
Classics Beyond the Textbooks
In Europe, we’re lucky to have sites, cities, and sanctuaries that occupy much the same space as in ancient times. Pompeii, Delphi, the Athenian Acropolis, the Roman Forum – the list goes on! Though historical fascination with the Classics has not always had a positive impact upon conservation, it has resulted in these sites surviving the urbanisation of Europe. This means that students of Classics in 2023 can still proceed up the sacred way at Delphi, walk into a Pompeian bathhouse, and appreciate the strategic benefits of the cyclopean walls of Tiryns. It is these experiences that literally bring the pages of students’ textbooks to life, and help to ground their learning in tangible memories.
For any student, analysis of the Classical world is much easier when they have their own opinions – but to have an opinion, you first need to care. Getting students to care about words alone is a big ask, but standing them in the very place that they have been studying helps to open the subject out and bring it into their reality. Seeing these sites in person allows students to develop opinions on their studies, which have become a requirement for most exam boards. Even if the opinion is ‘all of these kouroi just look the same to me!’ bringing this back to the classroom will give that student a ‘hook’ onto which they can hang their analysis.
Creating Core Memories
Travel is a wonderful tool to expose students to new cultures, helping them develop into well-rounded global citizens – and it’s also a fundamental educational tool. Travelling for your subject unlocks a whole new perspective. Students will connect to sites in new ways, gain an understanding of what life was like, and have experiences that stimulate their own opinions rooted in core memories. Speaking as a student for whom a Classics school trip ignited a drive that led to university study and a career, I cannot vouch enough for the impact educational travel can have on young minds.