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13 Ways to Use Your Travel Experiences in Your Classroom

Many teachers are avid world explorers. We can use our travel experiences in the classroom to create wonderful opportunities for learning. Through my own trips I've transported my students to Mayan temples deep in the jungle and to Roman ruins on the Mediterranean coast. I know teachers that have brought their classes to the frozen Arctic, volcanic mountain tops, and mosquito-ridden swamps. We’ve celebrated Semana Santa in Mexico and Ramadan in Egypt.

There are many ways to use your own love of travel to enrich your lessons. Next time you head out during a school break, think about using some of the following ideas once you get back to school.

1. Write a travel narrative

Children often enjoy learning about what their teachers did during vacation. Share a written description of a place you have traveled to and then have students write their own describing some place they have been. It doesn’t need to be an exotic location. Everyone has traveled someplace new, even in their own city or town.

2. Comparing holidays

Have you ever visited a place during a holiday that is also celebrated in your own country? Different cultures often celebrate the same holiday in different ways. Show pictures or videos you took and share descriptions of it. Perhaps don’t reveal what the celebration is and challenge your students to identify the holiday. This is is a great way to showcase cross-cultural similarities and differences and challenge your students’ assumptions. Ask them why they think these cultural differences exist and have them research their origins. Education World has many great lesson plans centered on the December holidays so you can discuss your travel experiences in the classroom.

3. Authentic language learning

If you teach a foreign language and travel to a place where that language is spoken, record brief interviews with native speakers. My high school Spanish teacher would play recordings of conversations she had with taxi drivers, waiters, and people on the street from her travels. It was a great way to listen to different accents, regional slang, and get a sneak peek at what our teacher was up to over the holidays. This is also a great way to meet people while you travel!

4. Put those souvenirs to use

The souvenirs that you bring home are a great way to pique your students’ curiosity and inspire further investigation. Elaine Rittershaus, a technology teacher in Massachusetts, never fails to bring her travels back to the classroom. “I bought a bronzed chess set [in Athens] of all the original Olympic athletes and my kids loved that during one of the Olympics. I brought elves and gnomes from Sweden and Finland for folklore studies. And music CDs from the Sami people in the Arctic circle to compare with Native American drumming and songs. I brought back Belgian chocolates from Brussels, we made the connection with King Leopold, colonization, exploitation and Africa.”

5. Explore your roots

Students often take pride in sharing their backgrounds and culture. Whether they are immigrants themselves or descended from immigrants, so often they like sharing their heritage with each other. Let them share their own travel experiences in the classroom. Have them conduct research and gather material both in the form of internet/library research and family interviews to write descriptions and create presentations of the country their family is from.

6. Geologic exploration

Going to the beach? Bring back samples of sand from different places so students can analyze the grains to make predictions on what type of the environment the samples are from. You can even ask students to collect their own samples if they travel too. The Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence has a great lesson plan to use with this activity.

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