Learning notes from Basel – 3

Sublime. That is the word that Ruskin applied to the Alps. On the last day of our project visit, we hit the students with the full works: Swiss trains, post buses, cable cars, lake paddle steamers and a hike through the mountains at around 6000 feet above Luzern, with a traditional Swiss camp fire half-way round.

It is true – the sublime really does cut through. The  over-indulged London-suburban Attitude dissolved as we headed deeper into the mountains, to be replaced by distinctly-uncool but heartfelt words like ‘amazing’ and ‘beautiful’. They were stunned by the views as the cable-car rose up the mountainside, loved their Heidi-walk through the pastures with cowbells clanging all around and amazingly enough even noticed the deep purity of the air.

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Most of them, from safe home counties homes, had never made a bonfire in the wild before, nor sharpened sticks with Swiss army knives to cook and eat sausages. Don’t tell the H&S people, but the Swiss see all this as part of any kid’s normal education, and they do it all the time. As I’ve mentioned before, Geography lessons in the U.K. have a tick-box for ‘Awe and Wonder’ – but I don’t think they really leave enough space for this…

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I won’t belly-ache on about learning again; that day is simply just about the best of my teaching year, and this time, the impact on the students was more visible than ever.  I get a huge kick out of just watching my pupils discovering for themselves all that I find stupendous about that part of Europe. I don’t need to teach: the experience does that all on its own. And the government interference in education that easily prevents things like this can go hang.

We’re back home now, dropped back into suburban British homes, but I know the experience will stay with them, notwithstanding the five hours’ flight delay due a broken-down aircraft. We virtually had to prise the Swiss and English apart at the airport this morning.

As one of the students said to me a day or two ago, “Why do we have so many stupid rules in England? It stops us doing great stuff.”

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