Anne M. is a senior high history and English teacher in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She has taken two school groups on tours to Italy and Greece. Her next EF adventure will be to Peru in 2017. In addition, she has taken three school groups to Washington, D.C. as part of a Holocaust and Human Rights program. An avid traveler, Anne finds an added dimension in taking history out of the textbooks and placing it in front of her students. She believes that the experiences young people have while travelling will translate into informed and concerned global citizens of the future.
Is there anything more exciting to an educator than watching their students as they see their school lessons leap from the textbooks and come to life right before their eyes? Is there any better way to teach young people about different cultures than allowing them to interact with them firsthand?
For me, the opportunity to take my students’ learning to the next level has been one of the most rewarding of my teaching career. Whether it has been Washington, D.C., Italy or Greece, a special bond has formed between me and my students on these trips. Through the magic of travel, you’ll introduce your students to living history and culture. You’ll get to sample the food, practice the language, be amazed by historical sites and marvel in the natural beauty of a different culture.
Want to get started? Here are a few tips on how I go about choosing which tour to take.
1) Take it one country at a time
As a lifelong traveler, I understand the urge to visit as many places as possible on your educational trip. But ask yourself; are you really “seeing” them? Or are you just checking them off your list? I’m a big believer of the “one country per trip” philosophy.
Most of our school trips are twelve days maximum; realistically, embracing even one country is a big task to do in that time period. By focusing on one country, students can get to experience various historical, geographical and cultural differences and have a more in-depth understanding of the forces and people who shaped that country to what it is today. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you should take more than one day to experience it! Plus, you’ll have a chance to ‘conquer’ and discover more countries on the next trip!
2) Share your passion!
What are you passionate about? It’s so much easier to sell students on a trip if you yourself can hardly wait to go! When I chose Italy for my first tour, my students were already chafing at the bit to go as we had already studied ancient Rome and the Renaissance. They also knew how much I loved Italy, had seen my pictures and heard my stories about traveling there in the past. Showing “my” Italy to those students was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had as a teacher and a traveler.
My love of ancient history and culture made choosing my second trip – to Greece – an easy one. Again, this excitement rubbed off on kids who knew next to nothing about Greece, and I’ve found that some of these kids actually had more of a life-changing experience than the more “prepared” ones. Remember that your attitude towards the trip also informs how your students will think about it. With this in mind, I used the term “bucket list” when I announced my upcoming trip to Peru. The students who have signed up are already researching the sites that they will be visiting, and I can’t wait for our next adventure together!
3) Free time vs. planned activities
Another factor that helps me choose my tour is considering the amount of free time on your tour, and what types of activities are offered. I like to give my students a bit of unchaperoned time, but I have learned that too much unsupervised time can sometimes lend itself to mischief, depending on who your students are! Depending on your group of kids, you may be comfortable giving them a free afternoon to allow them to roam and explore. I always ask my Tour Consultant about the pace of the tour and how much free time is available. I personally like to take advantage of all the optional activities offered and have never regretted the extra cost.
Sometimes, on your trip, the optional excursion is your ‘best bet’ for the day’s activity, especially if you’re in an isolated area, or a smaller town with less to explore. For instance, on my most recent tour to Greece, my group booked a day excursion with EF. It was a rainy day, and other groups launguished for five hours in a café with nothing to do, while we were whisked off to another island where the rain had already stopped, giving us the time to enjoy the day.
4) Weather counts
As much as the weather is out of our control, climate is a definite factor for me in choosing a tour. As my school is in Nova Scotia, we are ready for milder temperatures by the time that our March Break comes around. That being said, if you yearn for the mountains and seeing a bit of snow, a trip to the Alps in March might be right up your alley! Or if you’re looking for a warmer climate, why not head to Costa Rica or Belize?
5) Know your travelers, and set their expectations!
I try to choose trips that fit the students who will be traveling with me. I teach history and English literature, so students know that if I am running a trip, chances are there will be a high level of history and culture attached to it. I make sure that students know what to expect on my trips as far as itinerary, pace, activities and the expectations I will have of them on the trip.
That being said, there will always be one or two kids who might be “bored”, try to circumvent the rules and just be a general annoyance to the larger group. Once I have my group enrolled, I conduct mini-classes that cover everything from learning a language, culture, sights and sites, packing and general information. This brings the students together as a group and gives the chaperones a chance to get to know them.
However you choose the destination and tour for your school trip, I hope that you find the experience as wonderful as I have! Happy travels!
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