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BEN programme looks to expand

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Learning is fun: Northlands Primary Schoool Student, Ky-Zjae Santucci, 9, is all smiles at the Bermuda Education Network site visit at Masterworks Museum of Art in the Botanical Gardens, in Paget. Five schools, send pupils and their teachers take part in two-hour expeditions across the island, where learning and outdoor activities desidned to bolster the Cambridge curriculum in science, language and social studies are encouraged (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Pupils from two primary schools took part in out-of-class expeditions for the first time this week thanks to a charity.

Students from the P5 classes at Somerset Primary and Heron Bay Primary took part in the Horizons programme run by the Bermuda Education Network.

Becky Ausenda, executive director at the education network, said the charity was thrilled to be able to provide the experiences to more children.

Ms Ausenda added that the organisation “ideally” hoped to expand the programme to all 18 public primary schools.

She explained: “All children can benefit from this type of experiential learning programme.

“The only thing holding us back are resources.”

Ms Ausenda said that despite Bermuda’s small size some children had not had access to activities around on the island.

She added: “It’s that novelty factor of actually getting out and experiencing something.

“That just creates a different type of learning from being in the classroom.”

Francine McMahon, principal at Heron Bay Primary, said the Horizons experience would improve pupil learning.

Ms McMahon added: “The teamwork involved in the programme will build our students social and emotional skills.

“These experiences and the programme are aligned with our school motto, ‘We Learn Through Experience’.”

O’Brien Osborne, principal at Somerset Primary, said he was excited about what the partnership would mean for students and teachers.

He added: “The programme by design addresses the various modalities of learning — hence an attracting feature is the opportunity to take teaching and learning beyond the classroom.”

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said the education network was “playing a role in transforming education in Bermuda”.

She added: “BEN’s theory of change, and focus on language and reading challenges, social emotional learning, parent engagement and teacher professional development are closely aligned with many of the strategies in Bermuda’s strategic plan for education, Plan 2022.

“BEN’s work is expanding the educational experiences of our students and focusing on strengthening key areas which impact student learning.”

Five schools are now participating in the programme. The others are Port Royal Primary, Southampton, Northlands Primary in Pembroke and Purvis Primary, Warwick.

Pupils from the schools along with their teachers take part in two-hour expeditions at locations across the island, including sailing lessons and field trips.

The expeditions combine learning and outdoor activities designed to work alongside the Cambridge curriculum in science and language, as well as the Bermuda curriculum in social studies.

Pupils will take part in a total of 15 expeditions between October and May.

The first expedition, Artful Thinking — Call of the Sea, is being held over three days this week at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art at Bermuda Botanical Gardens, in Paget.

Ms Ausenda highlighted a plan to discuss slavery in an expedition as an example of the possible impact of the excursions.

She explained: “I think there’s a difference between going to a museum and just reading posters that describe the experience, and going to the keep in the National Museum and looking at the real artefacts.

“I think for children to actually see these things, then they can imagine it.

“These types of activities bring the curriculum alive in a way that maybe isn’t possible in the classroom.”

Ms Ausenda said that teachers had been “extremely positive” about the programme.

She added: “Teachers are really keen on that kind of inquiry-based learning.

“We’ve never really had to push in order to get their buy-in. They really like this programme.”

The expeditions are provided free of charge by BEN.

The charity has received funding this year from Bank of Bermuda Foundation, Argo Foundation, Kattegat Ltd, BF&M, Hannover Life Reinsurance, The Peter Cundill Foundation, Axis Capital and an anonymous donor.

Off-site visit: Northlands Primary school students are shown during their visit to the Masterworks Art Gallery at the Botanical Gardens in Paget, organised by the Bermuda Educational Network (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Pick me: Northlands Primary school students at the Masterworks Art Gallery at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Off-site visit: Northlands Primary school students are shown during their visit to the Masterworks Art Gallery at the Botanical Gardens in Paget, organised by the Bermuda Educational Network (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)