Some of the biggest benefits that come from educational travel are the connections made on tour. Connections can come in many forms: meeting new people, seeing new places, trying new foods, etc. The following is an email exchange illustrating one such connection between one of our amazing Group Leaders, Melissa M, and the descendant of a soldier, Mike G, that her student researched, visited, and paid tribute to in France.
Teachers, parents, and educational administrators often posit the question, “Why is experiential and project based learning important? What value does it contribute to my child’s education? What impact does it have on her future?” These are significant and justified questions that merit equally substantial answers. The reason these inquiries are so often made with such intent and skepticism is because the answer is less obvious than, say, cramming biology definitions into short term memory for that next exam, or completing a worksheet based on recently learned formulas and equations. Indeed, the contribution to development that experiential learning accomplishes is rather abstract and intangible.
The past 50 years of leading the world in international education have positioned EF to be one of the best institutions to answer these very questions. Experiential learning is at the core of every educational travel program, apparent in the real-world engagement these tours foster. Students can actually interact with their studies in person, whether it be speaking in a foreign language, learning about new ecology, or finally seeing Mona Lisa’s smile. Decades of experience, thought leadership, and student engagement have taught that the value of educational travel, and therefore experiential learning, is both intrinsic and instrumental.
The scope of this article focuses on the instrumental impact of educational travel, specifically the connections that come from this type of global exploration. Recently, Vimy 100 celebrations and commemorations touched all our hearts (and our tear ducts) as we visited our fallen ancestors in their eternal resting places, listened to our Prime Minister honour them, and reflected on our own individual experiences. As a part of the Vimy 100 commemoration, students paired up with fallen soldiers from the First World War, researched them, visited their graves, and often left commemorative trinkets near their headstones. A month after Group Leader Melissa and her students returned from France for Vimy 100, Melissa received this email:Melissa immediately recognized the merit in furthering this connection between Thomas Watt’s descendant and her classroom and wanted to encourage more communication between the two:
Mike went on to share great detail about his ‘Uncle Tommy’, including some old photographs of Tommy from the war, and even his Attestation Papers, which were fudged a little so that Thomas could seem old enough to join the army (seen below). The content of Mike’s emails is incredibly interesting, and Melissa and her class loved the fact that they were able to continue to learn about Thomas Watt from original sources (not easy to incorporate in a lesson plan even if you wanted to), but the significant impact from this trip came in the connection it made between a fallen First World War soldier, a classroom from Ontario, and a seemingly random history enthusiast.
Were it not for this program that Melissa built with EF, her students would not have researched First World War soldiers, would not have visited France, and certainly would not have made this incredible impact on or connection with Mike. It’s in these types of connections, both literal and metaphorical, that young minds begin to appreciate the similarities and differences in the world. They learn that decisions and actions have consequences and reactions, both good and bad. When a person understands he/she is a part of a much larger and increasingly interconnected world, that person begins to make decisions that benefit more than the ego.
Inspired to help foster these types of connections with you students? Learn how to make it happen!