Greenfield in Iceland
What happens when you take more than fifty 8-11 year olds to Iceland? Looking back on our Icelandic adventure in October, our Deputy Head gives the inside scoop on the school trip.
It’s better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.
Embarking on a school trip is daunting for a teacher. The lightbulb moment and tangible pang of excitement for the experience you think about providing is quickly consumed by thoughts of paperwork, risk assessments and the weight of responsibility for other people’s children. So, what is it that gives teachers that determination to go through with it all? Our recent trip to Iceland overflowed with moments that make providing educational visits one of the best parts of the job.
At the Airport
Arriving at Gatwick to the excited greetings of 52 children is as close as you can get to knowing what it must be like for a celebrity to travel. Lining up in our supervision groups for the first of what must have been a hundred times was the first step on our adventure through the airport. As the 60 of us headed for the check-in desk, I allowed myself a brief moment to watch the reaction of the other passengers probably hoping for a quiet trip. Many engaged with the children, several commented on how polite the children were, one or two huffed and another couple tried to skip the rather long queue we had made. It didn’t matter to us though – we were too excited!
Getting through security was always going to be one of the major challenges of a trip like this and this was the first chance the children had to impress us with their independence. And boy did they impress! We were through in a jiffy with only a pair of scissors in a pencil case confiscated! The next challenge for the teachers was to snake the children through the duty-free shop; not so much a challenge of supervision, but rather the ability to resist stocking up on Baileys for Christmas! It wasn’t long before we boarded the plane, got settled in and before we knew it we were in the air without a boarding pass or passport lost!
Above the Clouds
After a terrific flight (and more compliments on our behaviour and manners from the flight crew), we were through passport control and ready to collect our bags. You will not have seen a busier baggage reclaim area and again, it is testament to the children’s amazing behaviour that we were able to collect our bags without incident. A special mention must go to Daniel C whose bag arrived about ten minutes after everyone else’s. Not once did he panic. Well done, Daniel!
After a delicious fish and chip supper we were off to the Blue Lagoon. As with most of the attractions we saw in Iceland, the children had already learned about the Blue Lagoon and how the water is a by-product of a geothermal power plant. Again, the children were courteous and respectful of the other users of the lagoon, some of whom would have been ticking off a ‘bucket-list’ moment. The children showed such empathy with this and a bathe, face mask and a blue slushy later, it was time to get out and get changed. Whilst waiting for everyone to be ready, the manager approached me to say that three lifeguards had been to him to comment on how well behaved we were whilst bathing – a real compliment.
South Shore Tour
After a good night’s sleep at our hotel and a self-serve breakfast, we were ready to embark on the south shore tour. We saw glaciers, climbed to the top of and behind waterfalls, walked backward (to protect our eyes) through an impromptu sandstorm and spent some of our thousands of Krona in an Iceland souvenir shop. The amazing views were breath-taking, ability to add up a shopping bill in the thousands impressive, and approach to the physical challenges of climbing over slippery rocks and up wobbly staircases inspiring. There was a real sense of achievement after each stop and it was fantastic to see the children pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
Golden Circle Tour
Another good night’s sleep and another self-service breakfast, it was time for the Golden Circle tour. Our first stop was a geothermal power plant. Whilst we waited to enter the main exhibition we were able to listen to a GCSE group receiving a lecture from one of the teachers at the museum. Some questions went unanswered by the probably shy teenagers but those same questions were answered with gusto by our confident and articulate primary school pupils when it was our turn for a talk about geothermal energy – another reason to be proud! We then went on to visit a crater, a geyser, stand at the top of Europe’s largest waterfall and watch a moody geyser blow up every six minutes or so. Real ‘wow’ moments that not even our virtual reality headsets would have been able to do justice.
Travelling back to the UK
An early flight home meant a 4am wake-up call the next morning. The children were amazing – having packed the night before there was not one complaint or reluctant waker. After Icelandair had realised their mistake of asking us to use the self-service check-in, we were ready to head through security. Having reminded the children several times to check their bags for juice boxes from their packed lunches from the last few days before we went through security, it was here that we came a little unstuck – let’s just say that the Icelandic security guards did not go thirsty that day! The children didn’t fuss, took everything in their stride and boarded the plane to either resume their night’s sleep, finish the film they had started watching on the way out, or just relive some of their favourite moments from the trip with their friends.
A warm greeting awaited us at Gatwick upon our return, and it was so nice to see so many smiling parents and children.
How did the trip benefit the children?
There is no doubt that Iceland is one of the most amazing countries in the world. The sights are truly spectacular and yet, upon getting home and processing the trip in my mind, it isn’t the stunning views, innovative energy production or exploding geysirs that occupy my mind. It’s the personal growth, sense of independence, confidence, resilience, perseverance, bravery, courage and knowledge that each child gained from going abroad without their parents at 8, 9, 10 or 11 years old. It’s the number of compliments we got on the children’s behaviour and manners. And it’s the feeling of accomplishment that myself and the team of teachers feel having provided the most amazing opportunity for this lucky (and large) group of children.
I’ll leave you with my personal highlight of the trip, which was finding a note left on the door of one of the boys’ rooms, which I found when doing the 4am wake-up call, left for us by some of the other children staying on the same floor as us.