While Lilia my oldest child has settled into college, my two boys Isaac and Joel are still in high school. Last night I attended Back To School Night and as I sat and listened to each teacher give their spiel about the class I really thought about how much value our road trips have added to my children’s education. Just about every class I visited I thought about some place we’d been in our travels that could illustrate a concept they were going to learn about and marveled at how much my kids had benefited from our Explore All 50 Project. If your family are already road trip travelers, then kudos to you for giving your kids an education in “3D”, if you haven’t traveled yet, I hope I can persuade you to consider embarking on an adventure that will open your eyes to learning in a way you never dreamed about.
As I sat in Isaac’s AP History class I knew everything we’d seen in our travels was going to help him understand and connect to the material in ways his fellow classmates would never be able to. As the teacher announced that this year the College Board was focusing more on Native Americans and the immigrant story instead of “old white men” my mind began to wander. Instantly I was transported to the Ute Indian Museum, Plimoth Plantation and meeting members of the Wampanoag tribe, experiencing the Taos Pueblo and so many other places where we learned about Native American Indians like the Sioux, Navajo, and Cherokee and their rich culture and traditions and their place in American history. I thought about the immigrant experience and how that had been one of our themes as we explored the midwest in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Trip #8). Learning how immigrant contributions have changed this country through ideas, traditions, and even recipes is something I know Isaac will have intimate knowledge about because he’s seen it first hand. According to Ms. Susan Miller, Isaac’s AP U.S.History teacher, “The best learning takes place through conversation.” I couldn’t agree more, and thankfully we’ve had plenty of conversations about all that we’ve seen and experienced right where history has happened.
Sitting in on Joel’s chemistry class the teacher started his introduction by speaking about the repetition of phenomenon in nature like spirals (think of a nautilus shell, a hurricane, and a whirlpool-even a pinecone). I love that his teacher, Mr. Arne Benn seeks to inspire wonder which is exactly what I try to do with my kids when we travel. We talked about the periodic table and gold and silver and my mind wandered to all the science stuff we’ve learned about on our trips-from uses for gold and other minerals that are mined in places like Montana and Alaska, to volcanos and their chemical reactions in Hawaii and Yellowstone, combustion engines in Michigan and even nuclear science in New Mexico. I just know Joel will draw on all of those memories allowing him to feel more confident and leap forward in his learning.
I can’t even begin to tell you how gratifying it feels as a parent to know you’ve given your child such an incredible gift-the gift of knowledge. The main reason I started this website The Explore All 50 Project was to inspire other parents to give their child this same gift. The best learning happens all around us as we experience it in real time with all our senses all while having fun. The next time you are planning a trip with your family, think about the return on your investment. Is a trip to Disney World or the like going to compare with everything you’ll see and do and experience out on the road? Of course everyone will have fun-that’s a given, but travel and time spent together can be so much more than fun-it can be life changing in the way your family sees the world and a thrilling way to broaden everyone’s knowledge that will pay off dividends for years to come. Get out on the road this summer, have a blast and best of all, and give your kids the edge that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.