History, they say, is written by the victors. This is why it is vital for teachers to guide students in how to read between the lines. Students should learn to appreciate the nuances and varied opinions of the past and form their own opinions of what happened.
This exercise in critical thought is greatly helped when history is brought into the present. When students come into close contact with the original sources, historical remains and contextual origins of events from the past, they are better able to analyse them and form intelligent, balanced opinions. This is the value of a history school trip.
Feel the sacrifice on WWI battlefields
While the battles of World War One are not yet lost in the far distant past, there is nonetheless a gulf in time and experience separating modern students from the toil in the trenches. A school trip is an ideal way for students to come face to face with the provenance and artefacts of these battles. While it is by no means akin to being in the trenches of wartime, it does open students' imaginations in a way that will allow them to better consider not only the sacrifice made on the battlefields, but also the historical causes and justifications for the war and decisions made.
Visualise the glory of Rome
The Roman Empire has a permanent stamp on modern culture. It pervades films, images and modern imagery to this day. What is perhaps more complex is piercing the veil of myth and oversimplification to assess the merits of the original historical sources. A school trip to the Eternal City is a magnificent way for students to begin to question and measure the words of the ancient historians who have woven out narrative of the empire and its downfall. Not only that, a visit will allow students to stand in the Coliseum and see first hand artefacts from soldiers, artisans, labourers and slaves, and thus develop an image of Rome based on primary sources not just historians words, which often mixed imagination and fact with aplomb.
Sense the loss in Krakow
Some past lessons are hard to learn but impossible to forget. The trauma undergone by the Jewish population in Poland during the advent of Nazi occupation is hard to comprehend, especially for a student on a school trip. Yet a visit to Krakow and the remains of surrounding concentration camps is vital to bring this dark past into the present for students, which in turn is essential in helping them understand the extent of loss and the tragedy of Nazi ideology. This will make their analysis of the causes and consequences of World War Two no longer a dry issue of academia, but a potent study of the human condition.