Travel: Real Life Experience that Trumps the Classroom

COMM_ElenaSonninoThe following is a guest post from momAgendaCOMM blogger Elena Sonnino.

Have you ever wanted to plan a family trip during the school year but were fearful of what your children might miss in school?

Between homework and standardized testing, taking children out of school can be inconvenient, not to mention discouraged by many schools and teachers. As a former teacher, I feel confident that travel is educational and can offer children real life experiences that trumps classroom learning.

From real world math, to history, geography and science – travel and learning go hand in hand.

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Travel provides context. Exploring historical sites or major cities helps children connect the dots and provides background knowledge for future learning. A trip to China helps students of ancient civilizations comprehend the geography that required adaptations in farming on mountain terraces or the need for the Great Wall as a line of defense. Exploring historical sites like Colonial Williamsburg or Jamestown bring history to life, transporting visitors back in time to Colonial days.

Travel reinforces academic concepts. Students read about weathering and erosion during science class, but seeing the Grand Canyon in person from below the rim is like a real life science lab. Even a family trip to Walt Disney World can be educational. Children can help plan the itinerary, research ticket costs and use geography skills to navigate with a map.

Travel is a study in current events. Instead of watching the news, families that travel see life unfold in front of them. A trip to the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC offers more than just a tour, but a chance to be part of the governmental process and practice persuasive strategies and oral communication by meeting with a member of Congress. Moments big and small, from noticing the weather to people watching on a bus or train – inspire learning about life in that location.

Travel teaches perspective. One of my favorite educational aspects of travel happens naturally. We have a rule when traveling to a new country, each member of the family has to try a new food each day. Whether you are walking through a grocery store, experimenting with new foods at a restaurant, or just people watching – you learn about the differences that make countries or regions unique. Children are like sponges. Everything they see and hear – from scenes of poverty to watching children take the subway to school in New York City, helps them understand the importance of global citizenship, recognizing our differences but also our commonalities.

For me, the opportunities for authentic learning while traveling far exceed the day-to-day learning that takes place in many classrooms. I smiled whenever a family shared that they were planning a trip and bid them farewell with a composition book to keep a journal. Another suggestion that I gave families was to let the children take pictures while they travel. Afterwards, children can write captions for select photographs to create a photo album or create a video about their trip.

Elena Sonnino spent twelve years teaching elementary students to chase their dreams. She took her own advice to become a freelance travel and wellness writer and the Chief Dream Chaser at Live.Do.Grow where she writes about finding everyday wellness in life.
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