I’ve always felt that traveling the world is the best classroom there is. Learning about different places, cultures, and people are imperative to being a responsible and thoughtful global citizen. When students have the opportunity to travel in a scholastic environment, they not only have the good fortune to see a new region of the world, they also have the opportunity to learn more in depth about that place as a result of the support and guidance they receive from experienced student travel professionals and committed educators who make the most out of the travel experience.
One thing, however, that many school tours miss out on is engaging directly with the community in which they are staying.
According to National Public Radio (NPR) volunteer tourism has grown steadily over the decades to become a $3 billion dollar a year industry. However, the majority of volunteer tourism programs are geared toward adults travelling internationally. This often leaves out the chance for students to make connections and create meaningful impact here in the United States.
Students often learn best through experience. Marrying experiential learning with travel gives rise to an unending array of adventures and learning opportunities.
A few of the benefits of experiential learning while on a school trip include deepening understanding of the subject matter and its history and increasing compassion for the world around us and those who live in it.
On a trip to Washington, D.C., for example, students who spend an hour cleaning up trash around the memorials along the Washington Mall will come to appreciate just how sacred the spaces of these memorials are to the families impacted by them and how they imbue reverence throughout the local community and beyond. While cleaning up these sacred locations, students become aware of the importance of being a good steward for these spaces and beyond. A fallen gum wrapper no longer is an afterthought, but becomes a statement about the environment and how necessary it is to take care of it with compassion and determination.
Another example might be serving meals at a local food shelter in New York. While it is fun and expected to take in the glitz and glamour of a Broadway show or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is also a population of New Yorkers who struggle on a daily basis. Providing a meal or some form of support for struggling citizens creates empathy in students, stimulates entrepreneurship, and fills a need in the local community. This kind of service gives back to the community students are visiting in an impactful and meaningful way.
From exploring housing and homeless issues for a humanities course by serving local homeless populations in one of the major cities to learning about tidal currents and how they affect marine biodiversity and local beach environments by cleaning up a beach along Massachusetts Bay near Boston or coastal Florida, these service projects help students gain an understanding of how they can make an impact in their own communities and beyond.
Lessons for a Lifetime
The lessons learned on a service project, however, should not end when the project is completed. It is important for teachers and travel guides to provide context and opportunity for feedback from the students. Guided reflection and group discussion can often foster environments for further learning and proactive action plans for how to incorporate lessons learned from the trip within the classroom and their own communities. When properly navigated, theoretical classroom studies become identifiable real-world issues and ultimately real-world solutions.
Integrity Tours works one-on-one with teachers to create service projects that are impactful, insightful, and fit into the stated goals of the trip. Whether that’s a STEM-related student tour in Florida’s space and aeronautics industries or an American history tour of Boston, service projects are created to meet the needs of each tour group. Teaching our youth to be positive global citizens has a long-lasting impact on their lives and the lives of those around them. By creating experiential learning opportunities on school tours, we are championing our students to be lifelong learners and problem solvers. That, in turn, makes the world a better place – one student at a time.