By Beth Bailey, Director of Marketing and Communications
I have fond memories of a trip my family took while I was a middle school student. At my father’s urging we visited many of the historic sites marking aspects of the Civil War. I can still recall the tour bus taking us across hot and grassy battlefields or walking up Cemetery Hill where the “Gettysburg Address” was delivered. My parents were clever; they embedded learning into what we were doing in such sneaky ways their children hardly realized it!
Here’s how they involved kids in vacation learning:
Preparing for the Trip
The kids researched the destination.
We visited the library and read up on some of the places we would be visiting. For the week before we left, each of us shared facts with everyone else during dinner. We also drew pictures of various places or items of historical interest we would see along the way and hung them on the fridge.
We covered reading, research, and art before even packing a suitcase!
In Charge of the Day’s Travels
The kids took turns “running the show”
Once we were actually on the road, we all took turns being “in charge” for the day. It was our job to be “itinerary boss.” This meant we determined how long it would take us to get to each stop—from restrooms to picnic areas to historic destinations. By reading a map we reinforced geography skills as well as learning a little about estimating distances and how those compared to time.
Keeping it Basic
Tailoring in-the-moment questions to our ages/interests
As you can imagine, my parents were pros at asking us questions while we traveled: Who was called the “Angel of the Battlefields?” (Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross); What was used to communicate between the battlefields? (Telegraphs, signaling systems including flags, colored lights and torches); How were many troops transported? (Railroads). These facts still stick with me, even today.
By looking for ways to reinforce the basics of math and reading through fun facts or pre-trip preparation you can add a subtle layer of learning to all you do. Just ask my mom, she was an elementary school teacher for over twenty years!