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Student Travel Impacts Student Achievement

Oct 10, 2007
Many middle schools have an annual trip to Washington, D.C. where seventh and eighth graders focus on U.S. history connections to the social studies curriculum. Fifteen years of student travel experience have convinced me that these travel opportunities provide substantial benefits to both the individual and the school as a whole.

While acting as a middle school trip sponsor, I have seen tremendous growth in students who have participated in a student travel program. They become excited about learning. They not only develop new skills, but they become more involved in their everyday classroom experiences. I'm convinced that educators can truly impact a young adolescent's education when they include student travel whether it's domestic or international in their curriculum.

Initially, students gain a greater understanding of the geography of the portion of the country they are visiting. Teaching geography is a traditional challenge, but geography comes alive when young people see it with their own eyes instead of looking at a map hanging from the classroom wall or a textbook photo. I recommend that student tour groups try to take full advantage of this by having students ride on motor coaches rather than flying. It may take longer to reach your destination, but every moment of the trip can be a learning experience.

A second benefit is the valuable knowledge you gain about the specific region being toured. Each area has local customs and historical areas that capture the past and are rich in educational value. I believe it's wise not to rush to a destination, but to take time to experience the unique qualities of communities while passing through, whether it's an authentic Eastern European meal in Chicago or visiting the cradle of liberty in Philadelphia.

Students can also be exposed to the arts and culture through educational travel. For example, I always scheduled a dinner theater production when our school visited Washington, D.C. The experience was often the initial exposure to a live production and a meal of this nature. Our teachers also made a big deal of the event by asking the students to dress up for the occasion.

When traveling to large cities, students are able to visit art museums and see, for example, the Impressionist paintings. One advantage to traveling with a student group is that the group can attend special activities such as mini-lectures by museum personnel to prepare them for what they are about to see. An opportunity of this nature at such an early age is invaluable to the overall development of the individual. The experiences we have in our formative years help prepare us for adulthood.

While students clearly gain from educational travel, so does the school. The students learn about the tradition of educational travel and look forward to the grade level experience for years prior to their actual trip. In addition, they continue to talk about it for years following the trip. A high school counselor once told me that the two most memorable middle school experiences seniors recalled were their eight grade trip to Washington, D.C. and the academic honors they achieved during their middle school careers. The school also builds positive relationships with the parents who serve as trip chaperones, and they share their enthusiasm. I always selected chaperones from my PTO, teachers in the district or neighboring districts, or school board members. Once they went on a successful trip, they became ambassadors for youth educational travel.

In my experience educational trips lead to greater academic achievement in the classroom. A traditional yearly trip certainly provides an incentive to those students wishing to participate. The travel experiences also turn on some students who cannot be reached in the traditional classroom setting. School Boards view student travel as an extension and enrichment of the curriculum. Therefore, the attendance and behavioral guidelines in effect during the academic year can also be used to select the participants and guide behavioral expectations throughout the trip.

"Travel brings the classroom curriculum alive, inspiring students to learn through first-hand, interactive experiences. It teaches understanding of other people, their history and customs. Travel also motivates students to achieve in their classrooms."
Michael Palmer, Student Youth Travel Association Executive Director
About the Author
Travel Adventures is staffed by educators who understand the needs of teachers. We've been creating unique and educational student travel experiences since 1987, serving over one half million students since our inception. We provide hassle-free travel arrangements while empowering teachers to create change by expanding the classroom to the world. Travel Adventures
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