Student Volunteering in a Virtual World

The pandemic has brought changes to so many areas of life and we have all been busy finding new and innovative ways of doing things. Our Explorers education programme for schools and uniformed groups has been adapted to offer interactive online sessions and brave volunteers have stepped up to embrace technology and have a go at leading online sessions to children in schools, at home and even a mix of both at the same time!

School trip at Tees Barrage

However just before Christmas we had a new conundrum - how to host a placement for a trainee teacher when we now can’t meet in person. Christian kindly agreed to share his experience...

As part of my second year of studying to become a Primary School Teacher at Leeds Trinity University, we have a module covering Learning Outside the Classroom. This aims to cover different provisions that might be offered to pupils, including ways that they can learn via engaging in the world around them. 

Unfortunately, due to covid restrictions, many in-person placements were curtailed, however I was fortunate enough to be able to get in touch with Claire Cavendish, one of the learning & skills co-ordinators at Canal & River Trust. Living in Leeds, and not far from  both the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, I am very passionate about the waterways so was really pleased to be able speak to Claire who was kind enough to set aside time in her calendar over a number of days.

I was very interested to learn what the Trust’s educational team do in normal times and what the planned contingencies were now that many schools were closed to visitors and educational trips were put on the back burner. I have to say I was blown away by what is offered by the team - the website is great with loads of activities, fact files and help for teachers in how to incorporate the waterways into different cross-curricular lessons. There really is a wealth of information online and being able to tap into this is incredibly valuable for teachers, especially during these difficult lockdown times when engaging pupils in home learning can be challenge. 

I was really impressed with the adaptability shown by the approach to delivering online sessions and how the existing content could be changed so that an effective session can be conducted remotely. Claire’s existing skills in the teaching world are an obvious asset as she is able to use her knowledge to create and tailor content appropriately and I was able to learn myself, about different ways of teaching and overcoming potential barriers in class.

Due to Claire’s help and enthusiasm I was able to deliver a presentation back to my study group and tutor for which I got a first so I am really grateful for being able to learn so much through this experience.

Christian, Age 42

For more information on work experience placements within the Learning & Skills team, please email [email protected].