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Six Reasons to Start a Travel Program at Your School
By Sara Segar 05-Jun-19
I have been traveling with students for about 10 years. I have a background in ecology and environmental science. Before I became a teacher, I was working on various endangered species projects around the U.S. I knew from that time in the field that the deepest learning happened when I got up close and personal with my environment; when I could explore with my hands, observe my surroundings, and ask meaningful and relevant questions about the world. When I became an educator, I knew that I wanted to work at an experiential learning school. I found Jennings Community School and was immediately struck by their travel program. I had never seen such a thing at a public high school. I went on to coordinate and chaperone dozens of trips at Jennings over the course of nine years. Every student had access to travel opportunities. It was a beautiful thing. Traveling with students isn’t easy, but the outcome explains why I have dedicated so much of my teaching career to providing travel opportunities for my students. I know the tremendous impact it can have, especially on teenagers. Learning happens throughout the experience, from trip planning to fundraising to relationship building, goal-setting, and sharing and reflecting on the experience. If you are a teacher, parent, or student, I encourage you to pull together a committee to start a travel program at your own school. Here are my top six reasons: 1. Increase cultural and global awareness Children, particularly teenagers, tend to be self-involved, which has a lot to do with the nature of their brains. It is difficult for students to understand others and the world around them when they are not directly impacted. The teenage brain needs to connect concepts with real-life experience. When students view the world from a different angle, their worldview is altered. 2. Gain content knowledge I am a project-based teacher. One of the first projects I assign to students is planning a hypothetical trip around the world. They learn how to budget and find deals, how to read a map and plan routes. They learn about the environment, topography, culture, arts, religion, politics, and more—all while exploring the places they hope to visit. 3. Develop a healthy-self concept Getting through the teenage years in one piece requires a strong, healthy self-concept that can be acquired by traveling. By getting away from the daily pressures of life, students can ask themselves who they really are. A student travels on a school trip and comes back a changed person with a renewed spirit. They have the unique opportunity to learn about themselves, discover their skills, dreams, talents, and hopes through a fresh lens. 4. Develop critical 21st-century skills Content is important to a degree, but at the rate society is evolving, what’s more important is having the skills to navigate these constant changes we all experience. Careers will look very different 20 years from now, as technology evolves at lightning speed. Traveling puts students in a position to work at those life skills. As part of the trip-planning process, they exercise organization, locate credible resources, set realistic goals, and manage their time. While on trips, they encounter situations in which they need to problem-solve, think critically, work as a team, and get creative. 5. Build lifelong friendships Everyone is a bit vulnerable when traveling. Students are away from their homes, friends, family, and comfort zones. During group travel experiences, everyone is in the same boat. My students cast aside their differences on trips and create bonds that last a lifetime because they are sharing a new a profound experience. 6. The ability to envision a future for the first time Having a student travel program at a school with underrepresented students is powerful because students living in poverty do not have easy access to travel experiences. Many of my students don’t look further than the moment. They don’t consider their future career. Many of them don’t even expect to finish high school. When traveling, they gain a new perspective on the future. For the first time, they see the opportunity for a good life. Traveling as a teenager with purpose, accompanied by trusted advisors and peers, is an invaluable learning experience. That opportunity shouldn’t be limited to those who can afford it. A school travel program gives students the resources, support, and guidance to make educational travel a reality. Sara Segar is an experiential learning educator who blogs at Experiential Learning Depot.
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