You may have been to the National Marine Aquarium for a day visit; to explore our exhibits and discover something new about our incredible ocean planet. But did you know, that you visit supports a learning outside the classroom (LOtC) experience for almost 30,000 school children a year!
But what is LOtC? And why is it important?
LOtC is the use of places other than the classroom for teaching. And this could be anywhere: simply the school playground, surrounding fields, local park, beach, rockpools, museum, art gallery, aquarium, the possibilities are endless. It is all about getting children out of their usual environment and providing them with new, challenging experiences to support their learning.
There is loads of work supporting the benefits to children LOtC. To name a few, it helps to engage reluctant learners and increases attainment, improves mental health and physical health, helps to improve communication skills, increases confidence and most importantly, it’s FUN!
So why the Aquarium?
We have been teaching the national curriculum here at the Aquarium since we first opened- over 20 years ago! The exhibits provide an inspiring and engaging hook to easily teach all subjects of the curriculum, as well as to help children experience and understand our incredible marine environment. Plus, following visits to the Aquarium, teachers have scored our sessions really highly:
Our Learning Team are incredibly passionate about delivering high quality education to all children. The sessions follow our four principles: Learning from Fun, Experience, People, Science.
As an Ocean Conservation charity, we strongly believe that connecting people to the ocean is one of the most powerful conservation tools available. As Sir David Attenborough once said: ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experience.’
This nicely sums up our conservation pathway- Experiencing the marine environment leads to learning more about it; learning more about it leads to wanting to act! It has been since that children who experience the natural environment at a young age, particularly under 12, are more likely to positively act to support it as an adult.
But it’s not just about protecting the environment! Looking at it from an academic angle, studies show that following a LOtC experience, 60% of students obtained higher assessment grades than traditional classroom learning. When looking at young people’s mental health, one piece of research showed that 89% of pupils felt happier and healthier for being outdoors.
As well as simply ‘coming to the Aquarium’, taking part in our Learning Programme has so much more to offer. Students can take part in hands-on interactive workshops, from dissecting and exploring the insides of squid, to performing science experiments about coral reefs. During the summer months, we can take advantage of our incredible surroundings- Plymouth Sound. Students can be near the water rockpooling, on the water with our Kids Afloat rowing boats or even in the water taking part in a snorkel safari.
All our activities come with pre and post session suggestions. This means that a school trip to the NMA can be part of a wider learning theme, with the topic extending across a few weeks.