Galveston Island’s beaches, attractions and history make learning fun

08/21/2012  | 
Field Trip Destination

Galveston Island’s popular beaches, world-class attractions and fascinating historical sites aren’t just great for vacationing – they also create a diverse and exciting place to learn. On Galveston Island, educational opportunities abound from the natural wonders of the Gulf of Mexico to the rich history of a port city once known as the New York of the South. Wherever your educational interests lie, there is something for everyone on Galveston Island.

Explore Wildlife at Moody Gardens

If plant and animal life fall into your educational plans, Galveston’s Moody Gardens is just the place to visit. At the 240-acre Moody Gardens, visitors can experience several exciting attractions focused on education, conservation and preservation, including one of the largest aquariums in Texas and a tropical rainforest replica home to free roaming rainforest animals. Moody Gardens is also home to a Discovery Museum that features traveling exhibits related to history and science, a kid’s water park and historic paddlewheel boat tours plus 3D, 4D and Ridefilm theaters that feature educational films year-round.

Education programs at Moody Gardens — from field trips to teacher workshops — are designed to generate excitement about wildlife and wild places. Moody Gardens attractions are open for exploration with field trips, camps, scout programs, overnight experiences and educator workshops that provide hands-on fun.

In the Aquarium Pyramid, learners can dive into the depths of ocean life with an instructional presentation followed by a guided tour. In the aquarium, you’ll find 1.5 million gallons of water housing more than 10,000 marine animals representing the North Pacific, South Pacific, South Atlantic and Caribbean oceans. Visitors will see a wide variety of tropical fish, sharks, penguins, seals and other marine life plus interactive “touch tanks,” tide pools and unique viewing opportunities, including an underwater classroom. As a special treat, the aquarium offers Penguin Encounters that allow guests to meet a real penguin up close.

In the newly redesigned Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens you’ll find exotic plants and animals from the rainforests of African, Asia and the Americas, including free-roaming monkeys, sloths, and tropical birds as well as exhibits housing unique animals, snakes and more. In the Mayan Exhibit, visitors can learn about how plants of the rainforests are used for food, medicine, and other practical uses. For details, visit www.moodygardens.com/teaching_learning.

Discover Galveston’s History

If your educational plans call for history lessons, Galveston has plenty. With a wide variety of museums and historical sites on the island, students can see history come to life. Galveston is home to one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country and offers tours of some of the island’s most fascinating historic buildings. With a fieldtrip to the 1892 Bishop’s Palace or 1895 Moody Mansion, students will learn about the historical significance of these homes and receive a lesson about architecture and historic preservation. The Lone Star Flight Museum takes Galveston’s history to the sky. At the museum, students can explore one of the finest and most rare collections of restored war aircraft in the world while learning about the men who flew these planes in both World War II and the Vietnam War. Uniquely, many of these “war birds” still fly today and can often be seen taking off from the museum. Taking history from air to land, the Galveston Railroad Museum is another great field trip stop. Towering at the head of downtown Galveston’s historic Strand Street, the Railroad Museum includes one of the largest restored railroad collections in the southwest with more than 20,000 railroad items. Here, students can learn about the history of locomotives and how they helped build the nation.

In Galveston, there is no shortage of history at sea. The Texas Seaport Museum on the island’s Pier 21 is home to the 1877 Tall Ship ELISSA where students can step on and tour a historic tall ship. The museum tells the story of a rich legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration in Galveston, and even includes an immigration database for family research. Finally, what would history at sea be without pirates? At the new downtown museum, Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, students can explore the history of pirates in Galveston and along the Gulf Coast.

Make the Gulf of Mexico Your Classroom

Located along the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston is filled with opportunities for outdoor adventure and nature exploration. Did you know Galveston is located on a natural bird migration path and welcomes more than 300 species of birds to the island each year? On a nature tour with a guide from Texas A&M University at Galveston, students can learn about these birds and so much more. Texas A&M University at Galveston offers a wide variety of field trip opportunities with the resources and expertise to create a “hands-on” learning adventure for your group. Field trip packages are customized to fit the needs of your group and may include: salt marsh tours, research vessel trips, shark dissection, fish dissection, wetlands center excursions, oyster workshops, and crabbing. Galveston is also home to the NOAA Sea Turtle Facility, which is open for group and student tours. At the facility, visitors will learn about sea turtles found in the Gulf and how the lab plays an important role in the conservation and recovery of this species through ongoing research, head-starting experiments and support of international conservation efforts. Finally, Galveston is home to a very unique facility in the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center. A field trip to this museum allows students to experience the offshore industry first-hand on an actual retired jack-up drilling rig.

For more information, visit www.galveston.com. For group tours contact Sheri Teller at [email protected] or 409-797-5150.
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