Have you wondered how student travel could ever make a difference in the world of education? As a teacher, teaching and learning most often is limited to what the imagination can allow within the confines of the walls of a classroom. Some teachers expand their classrooms by holding classes outside, in the library or even with a walk through a park. Perhaps the extension of your classroom is in a creek bed with a microscope. Traveling to sites that you have taught about only extends that classroom even further. Imagine walking through the rotunda of the Nation’s Capitol building where presidents and dignitaries have lain in state.

Imagine the look on the student’s face as they climb the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial or visiting Ford’s Theatre after studying the assassination of one of our great presidents. Experience the joy when a group of students see the Statue of Liberty for the first time or look at the view from atop the Empire State Building. A survey done by Student Youth Travel Association (SYTA), resulted in the following statistics; 88 percent of the students who travel before the age of 18 receive a college degree, eight of 10 had a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and more than 40 percent had GPAs higher than 3.6. In that same survey it was determined that over half the respondents also had an income of $75,000 per year as adults. How can an educational trip make that much difference you ask? You never know what it will be that will spark the inner flame of a person that gives them the desire to direct their ambitions in a new direction. Will it be experiencing history up close and real? Will it be seeing marine biology at work? Or, will it be walking through the halls of a Smithsonian that ignites the flame of a future historian?

On a recent tour with a group of “at risk students” a young man traveled to Washington, D.C. for the first time. Keep in mind this young man was at risk of never finishing high school. On the trip home he made the declaration that once he returned to school, he was really going to buckle down at studying. He had decided he wanted to go to law school and practice in Washington D.C. What sparked the big change in attitude? Seeing, experiencing, and finding that spark that lit his flame to achieve greater things than he perceived possible in the little community he came from. Thanks to a teacher who was willing to do the extra work to allow her students an opportunity to broaden their horizons, this young man did, indeed, graduate with his class. Does educational travel matter? It did to this young man, and it can make a difference in the lives of your students as well.

But not all lessons learned from travel can be found in a text book. Some of those lessons are social in nature. Some lessons involve learning how to conduct oneself in unfamiliar territory such as a Broadway show or an elegant restaurant. They learn interaction with others in roommate settings. They experience how to manage money and how to be responsible. It isn’t always just about the destination, but about the experiences learned along the way.

Does student travel make a difference in your classroom? Why not give it a go and see what it does for your class.

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