| 3D Education Activity Centres
- Roger Frost investigates a school field trip that mixes fun, physical
activity with learning about ICT for the school curriculum (Published 2000)
Seek and you will find places to do a great sweep of
activities from climbing to orienteering *and* put ICT to good uses too. If
mixing computers with healthy outdoor stuff seems unreal, 3Ds Little Canada
education & adventure centre is the kind of place making it happen.
There is something neat and cogent about integrating
technology with all sorts of activities. For example, when the class can try
their hand at archery, they keep their score data on a pocket diary spreadsheet
and later, take these back to the computers to turn into graphs. Look at it this
way: as pupils shoot arrows at targets, you can shoot ticks at the curriculum!
And theres something logical about going away to use ICT
things, like computer sensors, that deserve a lot more use. So in a session
called Pulse IT, pupils will abseil down a tall tower as a data logger records
their pulse. Afterwards, back at the computers, they download the graph to show
their pulse peaks throughout the descent. They put this in a report, labelling
the stages when they were at rest and when their heart was in their mouth.
Computer control is another area to handle here pupils
might use Lego Control lab to manage the movement of a Lego railcar and
fine-tune it to work just right. And at Barton Hall, a new centre in the same
genre, they can use the latest Lego Robolab systems that open up some ambitious
projects. Using the Lego Mindstorms intelligent brick, a tiny computer covered
with Lego studs, pupils make robots that steer themselves smartly by following a
line. They fit it with light sensors to help navigate, with touch sensors to
avoid obstacles and do a big chunk of curriculum, between breakfast and break.
You might choose between field studies or adventure studies
and then opt for as many ICT sessions that suit. One plan would be to use days
for activities and visits, and use late sessions for ICT. For instance, pupils
might use software to present a report on a visit or build a project file. They
might garnish their work using animation software or collect data using pocket
computers and digital cameras. In fact, it is interesting to see how good access
to ICT resources helps field study trips at GCSE and advanced level.
With teachers taking a more in loco parentis role and
doing less teaching even with the ICT, it is interesting that 3Ds staff are
now accredited by the Institute of IT Training. This innovative scheme
scrutinises ICT trainers on a multipoint checklist thats like any teachers
OFSTED nightmare. Its easy to see the sense of this: with much
done-for-you, you would want the reassurance that staff are qualified to
handle not just archery say, but the ICT too. Of course, if youre an ICT
teacher that likes to get their hands on, its worth discussing upfront how
much you want to be involved.
But more than learn about ICT, there a big other side to
the activities on-site. Opting for Jacobs Ladder will have your group working
as a team while in Blind Trail they grapple with the loss of a vital sense. In
The Matrix at 3Ds Little Canada, theres more team work as pupils solve a
puzzle made of rooms, hidden passages and trapdoors.
Little Canada manager George Ross explains that theres a
breadth of learning here: pupils deal with choices and responsibility as staff
encourage them to find a comfortable level for doing things, like hanging from a
tower on a rope. He sums up the key to why this kind of school trip has teachers
coming back each year, Kids need to have success. At the back of all, were
enhancing education with enjoyment in their own success.
Superchoice (now called 3D Education) field studies centre - a different sort of hands-on
It's quiet at the Little Canada activity camp on the Isle of Wight. It's surprising
because on this sunny morning, over 500 school children are very active somewhere on this
woody site. If you really want to hear children having lots of fun, you have to go find
In the pool you'll hear the echoes of a group practising canoe, within the trees others
are loudly discussing strategies on Jacob's ladder - a team-building obstacle course,
while another group are revving up and driving their quad-bikes round a track. But the
noise gets lost somewhere in 40 acres of woodland, water and log cabins, not too far from
the Fishbourne ferry.
This is my first taste of 'Superchoice' - a rather un-cool name (now 3D
Education) for a rather rich idea
in school trips for seven to eighteen year olds. It's been running for five years, and is
an enormously successful part of Scottish & Newcastle, famous for 'Centre Parcs'.
For teachers who will happily miss the hassle of running a trip this is perfect. They
can pick and mix from four ready-made sessions a day of field studies or computers. Or
they can choose from fencing, raft building, trampolining, orienteering - nearly forty,
sporty things in all. And it's run a huge team of 70 instructors - so teachers can lead,
or take a side seat as they choose. A day ends with something entertaining, which for me
was the bar.
People worry about sports, but the staff training here may be unparalleled. Every year
1500 applicants, and many graduates are whittled down, whisked off to ten days of personal
skills, first aid, games and so on. If any of 150 survivors manage a sport, they will have
its National Governing Body qualification at instructor level
And they have strict protocols: canoes must operate in a buoyed area, staff have
radios, a twin-engine boat is on hand, the wind must be below force three and so on. The
belt and braces might kill creativity, but kids will live with that.
Entering reception, there are files on display: staff records, equipment and accident
records, even 'mid-week evaluations' - which, in search of the low-down, I piled into. But
in a hundred forms a teacher's lock didn't work, another preferred showers to baths and
another is sharing with ants. Despite this invitation to criticise there is much
contentment, and high praise for the staff.
Osmington Bay in Weymouth is another Superchoice camp. Set in yet more holiday country,
it's so well placed for Portland Bill or Corfe Castle. But there's so much to do on site,
like their Active-IT programme which cleverly meshes hands-on computers with sport and
team building exercises.
On this morning, Roehampton Church School - a London primary not only abseiled, they
recorded their pulse rates on a data logger, as they descended the sheer drop from the
Now in the afternoon they were learning to use the computers, one each, by drawing the
climbing tower. Next session they will look at their pulse readings, anyone posing as
unmoved by the experience will soon be exposed!
But this is day two. Tomorrow they might snap pictures on a digital camera and edit
them using an image processor. If they do archery, they'll record scores on a tiny Pocket
Book computer, and analyse them on a big computer. Or after a go on quad bikes, they'll
use a computer model of the track, and tune virtual bikes for performance.
It's soon clear why IT co-ordinator, Patricia Peek has come back for a second year.
Class sets of multimedia, Lego and computer controlled traffic lights are a rare thing in
school, so she says this is an excellent way to enhance their IT and well as build their
Her colleague Mary Freeman was also impressed, "The abseiling was good for those
who'd be really scared of doing something like that independently. And they like the food
and being in charge of what they eat, love sharing a room and having a door key".
Their accommodation was in chalets sleeping 2-4 children each with en-suite. The
teacher's chalet is nearby, with tea making and a maid to do the bed making.
While the instructors run the sessions, teachers find it hard not to climb a tower,
shoot an arrow at a target, or shoot a tick at an attainment target. As Mary Freeman adds
and seems to be recommending, "It's a really full day - so highly structured it's
As these groups were mouse-ing their computers, others were field studying at nearby
Durdle Door, a piece of coast rich in curriculum curiosities. The centre's field studies
co-ordinator, Heather Marston knows the area well and champions its unique geology and
contrasting environments. Before a visit she speaks to teacher about their imperatives and
plans the programme with them. Whether its coastal erosion, marine zonation, or rocks and
soils that's wanted, she supplies background notes, activity sheets and follow-up
activities from her portfolio. And whether it's A level groups doing beach surveys or nine
year olds doing rock pools, she adapts it to suit.
A former science and geography teacher, Heather Marston will tell you about Chesil
Bank, a harsh lime bay and a very high energy beach. She explains how a quadrat analysis
shows specific adaptions, like plants living close to the ground or having lots of
cuticles. She'll show too how their study units handle the National Curriculum. Her
knowledge is impressive, and almost frighteningly so. What's reassuring, is that pupils
are going to be well focused.
They have soil augers, moisture meters and clipboards as you'd expect. Unusually, their
48 computers, pile of Pocket Book portables and IT expertise is put to use in the field.
So pupils might use the portables to record pebble shapes and sizes and then work on the
data, or write up their work back at base. And if this seems like no fun, or there are
broader objectives to the trip, schools can opt for 'Field Studies Plus', meaning plus
sports and activities.
Your Superchoice school trip, for pupils aged from seven upwards, can last from a long
weekend to a week. Five nights on full board, costs about £150 in the July high season,
with a slight differences between these two centres and another at Prestayn in North
Wales. Your travel arrangements can be arranged in the same phone call - just remember
that we school-types book way ahead.
Little Canada, with a million pounds just spent on it, is the smarter of these two
camps. It also has better cover against the weather, like indoor climbing, although
there's a solid plan to do this and more at Osmington Bay. The IT facilities at both
impress, and a dreamy delivery of Lego computer control equipment will soon be on its way.
Come the holidays, Little Canada becomes an American-style Summer Camp. It's here that
parents can lose their kids for a week of wall-to-wall activity. It costs about £250, and
only a little more to have them picked from Portsmouth harbour.
I know that saying that the staff are accommodating, that the food is good, and time is
so tight there's no time for mischief will raise expectations. But I did like it, and hint
that if anyone prefers a shower or can't stand ants - to mention it before booking!
Superchoice Adventure Tel: 01273 676467. Little Canada Summer Camp: Tel: 01983 882523
The last pip of the day and the great last pip of summer make the sweetest sounds. For
some it is a signal to take a break and have fun, for others it's a space to learn about
IT and have their fun anyway.
Easy to get a fix on is the idea of after-school and holiday time computer lessons. If
you're well used to parents rushing their children off to gym, swimming, riding and Kumon
maths, you may soon hear about 'Futurekids' computer training. Just a few months old in
the UK, 'Futurekids' has 1200 branches in over 90 countries, with a dozen more branches
opening in high street locations. Adding to the late afternoon traffic, they seek to
develop the IT skills that parents begin to see as crucial.
Working with kids aged 3 to 15, 'Futurekids' give them computer projects. The programme
includes making a magazine using desktop publishers and the Internet or assembling a
weather program using maps and satellite images. You can opt for a weekly after school
slot or a holiday morning or afternoon computer camp. Whatever, this new competitor to
ballet has kids dabbling with multimedia, inventing Lego robots, controlling things or
using spreadsheets to do market research for a radio station.
All this could be seen as a competitor to school IT too. Small classes, new equipment,
choice software and an easy atmosphere are some of the things to envy. The course folders
with their detailed aims, methods and resources show the structure that sends OFSTED
packing. I guess there's a lot you can do when you're this big a firm. Some schools are
already using Futurekids to enrich their IT coverage, while in North London others are
using them for teacher IT training.
Future Kids Ltd, 21 Gloucester Road, London SW7 4PL Tel: 071 584 8111 Web:
www.futurekids.co.uk. Branches around London with others in Bradford, Tamworth and
Kingswood or Camp Beamont
A different kind of IT camp is offered by 'Kingswood' which schools have visited for
some 18 years. With three activity centres, one on the Isle of Wight at the former
Bembridge School, some will know them better as Camp Beaumont. Here parents can leave the
sprogs of any age for a week. That way everyone has a good break.
On this particular summery week, 300 mostly primary school pupils were buzzing on neat
mix of IT and physical activity. That the Norfolk coast location near Cromer is a turn of
century seaside time bubble is lost on them. They're just buzzing.
What they're doing is getting a taste of caving, climbing, archery, quad bikes, canoe
capsizing, fencing and safe even to the point of missing a thrill. They're keeping a diary
using IT, making a newsletter as well as recording their archery scores and pulse rates on
palmtops. They add their personal details to the camp database, and then work on it using
graphing tools. The pupils start off with pre-made diary pages in Hyperstudio or Claris
Works which just need the pupils to do the thinking bit. All through this work, you can
find elements of team work, bonding and confidence building. The teachers, who oversee the
fun, say they get to see their class in a different way. In their off duty bits, they too
can get a bit of IT training or review CD-Roms if they wish.
Prices vary through the seasons and range from around £50 for a w/e to £150 for a
week - plus travel. There are lots of options to pick and mix into a seven session day.
These include controlling Roamer robots, Lego machines and making multimedia using digital
cameras. It's good to see how they've integrated the IT - for example they will soon have
pupils making 'techno' tunes on a computer screen, cutting a real CD and bopping to it at
an evening disco. They use a package called 'Rebirth'.
A field studies option brings in IT too - pocket book computers record weather, sand
height and long shore drift. This is transferred to desktops to prepare graphs, or write
to the caravan park next door to tell them about the drift - though you'd think they must
know by now.
Maybe there's another lesson to learn over the summer. All these events feature
permanently set-up equipment, realistic projects and the time to do them. Add to this some
repetition - doing things over so you don't forget - and there's a clue to making us all
IT super teachers.
Kingswood IT Centres, West Runton, Norfolk, NR27 9NF. Tel: 01263 837776. Web:
www.kingswood.co.uk Also Camp Beaumont summer camps: www.camp-beaumont.co.uk