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Education Beyond Classroom Walls - Travel

Since starting kindergarten in New Jersey, I always looked forward to traveling on educational trips like my older brother. He was 5 years older than me, so he always got to go on these great trips to Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, Gettysburg, and Washington DC – and I was always too young. When he would get home I would always quiz him on his adventures: what was there? Who’d they learn about?

“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” –Francis Bacon

Since starting kindergarten in New Jersey, I always looked forward to traveling on educational trips like my older brother. He was 5 years older than me, so he always got to go on these great trips to Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, Gettysburg, and Washington DC – and I was always too young. When he would get home I would always quiz him on his adventures: what was there? Who’d they learn about?

I finally made it to fifth grade and got my trip to Philadelphia and it was a transforming moment of my childhood. It was also full of fun travel memories like one bus breaking down, and being upset that we couldn't just take off and leave the one bus, or squish everyone on the remaining buses (already trying to decipher forecasting and layout issues!). I just wanted my time to explore…and it was finally my turn to see all the places my brother had told me about. I got my opportunity and it whet my appetite for more. When we returned to the school, I couldn't wait for the next year to plan for whatever NEW excursion 6th grade would bring.

But alas, we ended up moving out of state before the new year began. All I could think about was that I hadn't gotten the chance to go to DC! We had just finished US History – I just HAD to got to DC. I wanted to know how the non-state functioned, what made it a better place for a capitol over Philadelphia, New York or even Boston? Where did George Washington live if he didn't live in the White House? Would I get my chance to explore and obtain the out-of classroom experience I sought after?

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” –St. Augustine

I truly believe that traveling is an educational tool for teachers. You can show pictures, movies, and articles to students but so much more is absorbed when you see it yourself.  Ask me about the test or history lesson I had learned my fifth grade year and I have nothing to share.  If you want to talk to me about our trip to Philadelphia, I can tell you about the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, seeing the Constitution, Betsy Ross’s House, the Mint, Ben Franklin Museum, U.S.S. New Jersey, where Washington crossed the Delaware, etc.  I am a visual learner therefore it all clicked after seeing it.  I struggled all year but after we got back I was able to participate more with the class and felt confident that I understood our lessons.  To this day, I have a love for the city of brotherly love.  When I eat a soft pretzel, I can picture my fifth grade self, outside Independence Hall.  When I see a white feather, I think about the ink bottles and wooden desk as our forefathers drafted our government.

This summer, I passed the educational travel passion onto my own kindergartner.  We traveled up to Gettysburg. This past July marked the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s address in November.  My spouse is in the military, so we were able to show Julia, our daughter, the difference between his uniform and what the Union and Confederate soldiers wore.  I read once that if you give a child an object to find when in a museum it will keep them interested no matter the age.  We would have her count how many cannons she saw on the battlefield.  While watching the cyclorama, we had her try to count the horses.  When we ate at the Dobbin House we took a break to explore how it provided to the “underground railroad” and contributed as one of the hospitals.  Shriver’s story had us enter the life of two civilian little girls during the war.  We were able to relate to Sadie and Mollie Shriver and their daily life, especially since one of them was five years old!  From the simple games and dolls or how they helped mom cook.  We learned about how the people brought their crops to the center of the market square, which Julia thought is funny because it is a circle! How people would walk or used their horses to get around town, some of the locations are far away for walking.

“The things taught in colleges and schools are not an education, but the means of education” --Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

After a few days at Gettysburg, we traveled up to Hershey.  “Where they have kisses as lights!”  Julia.  We wanted to explore Hershey’s Chocolate World and Hersheypark.  We found out Julia was a Reese’s because a child’s height is measured by being a Miniatures, Kisses, Reese’s, Hershey, Twizzler, or Jolly Rancher based on grids throughout the park.  As much as she tried to stretch she was not a Twizzler.  We found this a fun way to read the map and explore the park.  Also, Hersheypark has a family finder program.  It is simple and one of the best programs I have seen.  All you have to do is go up to their hospitality desk ask for a wristband, write your cell phone number on the inside, and attach wristband to your child.  If you become separated, one of the team members will be able to call you.

A few weeks after the trip my cousin got a new puppy and named it Lincoln.  My daughter, said “like the person from Gettysburg!”  We smiled because even though she is young she was able to relate to the experiences.  She asked questions and we answered.  Soon, we hope she will learn more about his life but for now Lincoln the puppy is like the man from Gettysburg.  The most important thing was to get her involved and engaged in the trip. 

“I am not a teacher; only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead–ahead of myself as well as of you.” --George Bernard Shaw.

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