For teachers planning a school trip to France, the more obvious choices such as Paris clearly hold a lot of appeal in terms of their depth of history, culture and accessibility. But they're not the only destinations worth considering: the beautiful Opal Coast, which encompasses the region from Picardy to the border of Belgium, provides some wonderful options for a school trip to France with a focus on subjects like history, languages or science.
The Educational Value of Getting off the Beaten Track
There's a lot to be said for taking students to destinations that haven't been so touched by the trappings of modern tourism. Exploring the Opal Coast will allow a deeper level of intimacy with the people and culture, and expose students to the language and culture at a comfortable pace. The beauty, traditions and authenticity of the Opal Coast make it an absolute gem for groups of all ages.
Get Out in Nature
Alongside its cache of history and culture, the Opal Coast is an area of extraordinary natural beauty. For young learners on a school trip to France, the chance to get out into the coastal environment can offer a welcome breather and help establish a deep appreciation for the flora, fauna and spectacular views that define this lovely area.
To discover a different side to nature, a visit to the impressive French National Sea Life Centre, also known as Nausicaa, provides an introduction to a huge array of marine life. Nausicaa is the largest aquarium in Europe and provides an interactive and highly entertaining experience for children.
Delve into History
This coastal region has been of great historical importance over many centuries – not only to France but to the entire world. It was from these shores that Julius Caesar staged his invasion of Britain in 55 BC, and the area also played a pivotal role in the battles of both world wars. There are numerous relics that remain to bring the past to life for young students, including the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert, Hitler's V2 rocket base in La Coupole, and the Mimoyecques Fortress in Calais.
Discover the Authenticity
It's not just history students who can benefit from travel to this area on a school trip to France. The small traditional fishing towns that make up the coastline are the ideal situation for youngsters to encounter their first taste of French language, culture and cuisine. In this relaxed, less touristic setting, the experience is often more authentic and generally less intimidating. Students can practice their fledgling language skills with local market vendors, and the invariably positive, friendly responses help them grow in confidence to interact more. It's also the opportunity to expand their palates to include some regional delicacies at the source.
Although lesser known than the larger tourist cities and towns, the Opal Coast is no less valuable for students in terms of a genuine cultural experience. Its ability to facilitate the opportunities for curriculum-based active learning across multiple subjects gives it the potential for outstanding educational value.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in itineraries for a school trip to France and educational tours for school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveller, John is very passionate about providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom. By sharing his expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and bring their studies to life.