Comment: Exploration as education

Ger Graus, global director of education for KidZania, on how travel can help transform conventional learning for young people.

“Children can only aspire to what they know exists.”

This is the absolute truth when it comes to children’s aspirations. It is equally true when it comes to children’s understanding of the world around them and how they can help shape this world into a better place in the future.

In educational terms then, we need to think more broadly than our current ‘schooling-testing-inspecting’ regimes. Not every classroom has four walls.

Empowering our children to broaden their horizons and their co-curricular menus, means embracing thinking, experiences, curiosity, and exploration, leading to self- confidence, independence and a sense of purpose.

The word ‘exploration’ is key. Synonyms include analysis, examination, expedition, research, study, travel. So, in our quest to widen children’s horizons and enhance their experiences, let us focus on exploration as education, on experience-based learning.

Writing the narrative

We must think of education as travelling on a journey during which children experience writing their own narrative of the possible. Travel is key to any child’s learning and understanding of the world in which they live – any travel: metaphorical, virtual and real.

The benefits of what we call ‘educational travel’ (how, by the way, can travel not be ‘educational’?) are beyond conventional measure. Travel invites curiosity, fosters teamwork, grows self- awareness and confidence and invites us to be in charge of our own compass.

Travel allows us as educators to better explain and exemplify through experience what we teach in school. There is not a single subject area that would not benefit from travel! And not a single young person.

I believe it imperative for the education travel industry to work with schools and other groups even more closely on how they can better develop their offers to cater for children’s real-learning.

Dovetailing into and extending current learning, and becoming the conduit through which theory is turned into practice all help transform the four-walled-classroom into a world of experiences – they help join the dots. They turn a national curriculum into a real curriculum!

Access for all

The most important challenge we face however, is making travel accessible to all children – not just those whose socio-economic context affords them their passport.

Can we together consider this, be committed, creative and fair, and meaningfully bring our corporate and social responsibilities into play? Is social mobility not travel? Answers on a postcard from a nice place please.

At KidZania we do learning- by-doing, for all children, offering four to 14-year-olds fun, experiential learning opportunities to empower them to take charge of their own aspirations and learn from experience.

There is not a subject area you cannot find: we are curricular, co-curricular and cross- curricular.

We work closely with schools and listen to our children – the launch of our pet-welfare activity earlier this year happened because 79% of children told us that was what they wanted most.

Need to evolve

KidZania London can also say that a significant number of school visits are by children whose socio-cultural contexts are more challenging than most.

Guiding us, we have a think- tank which sits at the heart of everything educational – the UK’s top educationalists aiding such developments not just in the UK, but globally.

The educational travel industry does many things very well and for this it needs to be applauded. However, it also needs to keep evolving.

Most importantly, it needs to journey off the map to be there for all children,

Its mission and responsibility need to be clear: “The mind, once enlightened, cannot again become dark.”

Standing ovations would follow!