Last year, I sat in on a rather tense PTA meeting at my daughter’s school. The subject causing controversy? Eliminating class field trips. The district wasn’t considering cancelling to save money, but rather because parents were concerned that they may not be safe. I became increasingly agitated as I listened to the conversations detailing the certain perils and dangers lurking around every corner. Keep in mind, these trips typically involved the zoo, a play or the local science center!!
As I tried (and failed) to keep an open mind and a closed mouth, I finally had to jump into the fray and add my two cents. I reminded the parents that educators have the daunting task of preparing students for success beyond the classroom. Achieving this lofty goal sometimes requires students to actually LEAVE the classroom.
The same fundamental principle applies to student travel. It’s a big world (yes, sometimes crazy) but absolutely worth experiencing! Student travel is one of the best teaching tools available to educators and parents. When trying to decide if you are ready to let your chick leave the safety of the nest, consider the following:
Travel is a critical piece of understanding the world around us. We are a global society, connected by technology. However, nothing can replace the human experience of engaging with a culture that may differ from our own. In some cases, visiting a different city qualifies as cultural awareness!
My husband, a former student tour operator, often took young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged urban settings on trips. Many of these kids never ventured beyond the borders of their neighborhoods. Traveling gave them the sense that the world is bigger than where they live, that people are different, and yet also very much the same. When forming opinions about others and the world around you, it’s imperative to do so with first-hand knowledge.
A recent study by the Student Youth Travel Association demonstrated that 54% of teachers organize travel opportunities because it positively impacts academic performance! Duh! Travel connects curriculum to reality. Simple.
This same study also looked at the social impact of student travel. It showed a 60% increased willingness to know, learn and explore as well as a 56% increase in self-esteem, independence and confidence. Kids who travel have a strong sense of their place in the world, are more tolerant and respectful of others, are more collaborative and adapt more readily to new situations.
Practice to Performance
If your students are involved in the arts, consider the benefits of performing in front of an audience NOT just filled with proud moms, dads and grandparents. It is incredibly fulfilling to take the skills practiced every day in 3rd period and apply them to a real- life performance opportunity in an amazing venue! Imagine dancers opening for professional shows in Branson, or the show choir performing before an international audience at Walt Disney World®. We all know the countless hours invested in marching band- travel allows those finely-honed skills to be displayed in style at countless festivals, parades and performance spots both nationally and internationally.
Classrooms to Careers
Students (particularly high school) are constantly planning for future career possibilities. Travel provides a unique perspective on job opportunities that may exist outside the norm. For example, maybe you have a sports nut who loves football but won’t necessarily be turning pro. A visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame may offer a glimpse into the careers of those who work in the industry but not as athletes!
Perhaps your child loves music but isn’t destined to be the next “big thing.” That shouldn’t exclude him/her from a career in production, marketing, or any other aspect of the field. A behind the scenes tour in Nashville or Broadway can be illuminating and worthwhile when thinking to the future!
There are so many outstanding benefits to allowing your child to explore the world through travel. It is an essential piece of a comprehensive education, and key to developing a well-rounded individual. Let those kiddos out into the crazy, wide, wonderful world- I guarantee you’ll ALL be glad you did!