Trips and Tours Make for Unforgettable experiences

When Seniors reminisce about their time in St. George’s, past trips and tours are often found to be highlights of their time here. Whether it be a trip to Guatemala for service, Montreal for Ultimate, or New York for Model United Nations, many boys have found themselves on a trip with the school at some point in their time. However, one crucial aspect of tours that is often overlooked by the boys is the Tour Application process.

The application process was once rather straightforward: teachers just had to gather forms from the boys and go. But now ther

e is several levels of approval from different people required, not to mention the risk management sessions, extra forms, and post-tour wrap-up meetings that all come with a tour. Of course, there are obvious reasons for all the parts of the process – one of the most obvious being that the world is simply more dangerous than it once was.

However, that alone is not the only reason for the extreme change in the process. I spoke to Principal Gary Kern to learn more about the process, and what has caused the changes.

First, he laid out the whole process:  First, the trip leader would identify an event that falls in line with school rules, then they would typically talk with the head of whatever the trip pertains to (e.g.: The trip leader of an athletic trip would speak to the Head of Athletics, Mr. Blackman). They would then go to the Offsite Learning Database – a new database created to streamline the application process. It can capture all paperwork in one area, and also make sure that all different levels of approval are met). Then work with parents for permission, payment, passports, and more. Once they come back, they have a wrap-up meeting to go over what went well and what didn’t.

The lengthy process would make one assume that it deters teachers from applying for a tour, but this is not the case. At St. Georges, many people believe that the teachers are more committed to their students that at other schools, possibly because of the strong relationships that students make with teachers. The strong connections and relationships are often what makes teachers apply for tours – lengthy process or not.

However, the tour process is not applicable to tours within the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island said, Mr. Kern. Those trips happen very often – almost every week at the height of athletics. For these tours, parents have already given permission for their sons to go, and the frequency of the trips means that there is not much of an application to be made.

One of the most compelling questions that came with the topic of applying for tours is why the process had changed so much? Mr. Kern believes that it was because the world has changed so much. In this day and age, there is much more documentation and sometimes visas required for trips, which was a driving force for change in the process. Furthermore, previous times when kids have been harmed often affect the process, often in Outdoor Education trips. Injuries frequently require the school to take a hard look at the trips and see if something went wrong – such as if something went overlooked in the application.

Another reason for the process to be changed is accidents outside the school, such as the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir in 2003. “I think that would be a perfect example of ensuring that all of the things that are possible to be controlled are controlled. Everything to the training of our tour guides, to knowing the weather and the location of the trip, and to (making sure that) students are prepared. All of those pieces have to be very well thought out and detailed before we allow kids to go on these trips.”

As mentioned earlier, trips are often key moments in a boy’s time at St. Georges. As a result, a trip being canceled could lead to feelings of devastation for boys that were looking forward to the trip. For example, there was a proposed trip of a safari to Africa that was not approved to go forward. This most certainly would have been a life-changing experience for many boys that would have gone. So, when asked what causes trips to be denied or canceled, is often safety. “We want to make sure that where we send our students is safe, and that there will be a match between the educational goals of the school.”

For many boys, tours are such amazing experiences that they believe that should be mandatory for boys. Noah King, seasoned, a Gr.12 athlete that has been on six tours, share’s the same sentiment. He believes that tours are great opportunities for boys to learn about themselves and other students on the trip. When asked about encouraging trips more aggressively to boys, Mr. Kern said “One of the areas of the school is global stewardship, and as we continue to define what it means to be a global citizen, trips will be something that we can encourage boys to go on. Trips related to service/contribution/leadership will be great for every single boy. Would be wonderful if every boy had the opportunity to go on a trip or took advantage of the current opportunities.”

Although tours cannot happen without boys going on them, they also require chaperones, who often are key parts of making trips successful for the boys. Many teachers shared the same sentiment: Chaperoning trips with Saints boys is always a positive experience. Many boys share the same sentiment, and also go on to explain how without the chaperones, the trips would not be nearly as memorable.

Trips are always important memories for the boys to look back on. Needless to say, teachers that choose to go through with the tour application process and also chaperone trips deserve more thanks than can be given, especially from the boys who had such amazing experiences. Several trips are available for boys each year, and every boy should consider one.