Wandering Moms tend to have in common a willingness to pull our kids out of school to travel around the globe with us. For us, travel is more than just a vacation. It is also an opportunity to expose our children to a world they can’t experience in a book or on a tv screen. Travel is an opportunity to make school lessons come to life! Think about the history, math, and science lessons our children learn in school from elementary all the way through high school. Now, imagine them being IN those lessons! Immersion aides learning far more than repetition does. When our children are immersed in the lesson, it’s not just something they recite and write down. It becomes something they have experienced for themselves. Here are 10 travel destinations that can teach or enhance your child’s school lessons:
1. Anne Frank Museum: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Lessons: History, Literature
The Holocaust is a staple in US school’s History curriculums and most, if all of our students, are required at some point to read The Diary of Anne Frank.
I recall this being a very moving story, one we could not even imagine being real. When many of us read it, we were about the same age as Anne when she and her family went into hiding.
In 2016, my daughter traveled the world with me for a year, so she missed out on the school assignment to read the Diary of Anne Frank. But since I knew we would be visiting Amsterdam, I thought it may be a good idea for her to read the book prior to our visit.
I’m so glad I did. When I took her to visit the house that the Franks were living in, the book and history came to life for her. She guided me through Anne’s room telling me where all of Anne’s furniture was when she lived there based on what she had read in the book. She got to see the roof where Anne would play, the kitchen and living room where her family would gather. Even the secret bookshelf door that camouflaged their hiding place. What was most endearing about this visit was her getting the chance to see Anne’s actual diary in her actual handwriting.
This lesson and this history is now solidified in her mind in a way it may not have been had she just been reading the book and completing quizzes and tests on it in school.
2. Chichén Itzá: Yucatan, Mexico
Lessons: History, Social Studies, Math
Chichén Itzá is one of the wonders of the world and after visiting, I completely understand why. The structure acts as a calendar and every fact you’ll learn while there is a mind-blowing mathematical wonder. It’s fascinating!
There’s also the super cool experiment of standing on one end of the large field and having someone stand on the other end which is about 500 ft away and saying something in your normal voice and the other person hearing it as if you were standing next to them! It’s so darn cool. It’s this way because of the way the walls were built with bricks increasing in size and the wall being built at a slight angle.
This just might be the coolest math lesson I have ever had, and I love math!
3. Harrison’s Cave: Bridgetown, Barbados
Lesson: Earth Science
In school, Science was my least favorite subject. It wasn’t hard, I just found it boring. I totally remember my eyes glazing over when we started the lessons on tectonic plates and the layers of the earth. I also remember being equally disinterested when my daughter started that lesson herself. The only time I recall this being super cool was when I visited Harrison’s Cave in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Harrison’s Cave is a limestone cavern with active stalagmites (those mounds coming up from the cave floor that make it look so cool). This means, those mounds are still growing!
When you visit Harrison’s Cave you’ll be transported throughout the cave in an Indiana Jones style mine train and a guide will explain all of the wonders of the sub-terrain. You’ll also see all of the lakes and streams beneath the earth. It’s pretty cool!
4. Robben Island: Cape Town, South Africa
Mandela is one of the most prolific historical figures of our time. A man who fought for equality and justice until the very end. A man who was imprisoned for 27 years, released, and voted to be President of South Africa in the country’s very first democratic election. Sadly, most western schools don’t teach about Mandela.
Visiting Cape Town, you’ll experience one of the most beautiful cities you’ve ever seen. But a short boat ride to Robben Island will juxtapose you into one of the ugliest mistakes the country ever made. Imprisoning a man who only wanted equality during Apartheid.
You’ll see the jail cell the Mandela was relegated to and be overwhelmed with the sacrifice and fortitude of this man and what he believed to be his purpose. You’ll also learn about Apartheid and life on Robben Island from a former inmate. We took 13 families to Robben Island during our ThanksGoing! trip to South Africa last year and it was such a moving experience.
5. Machu Picchu: Machu Picchu, Peru
Lessons: Agriculture, Engineering, History, Social Studies
The majestic views and historic ruins at Machu Picchu make for amazing instagram photos. But the understanding of how and why the Incans built a city that high in the mountains is truly a lesson. Hiding from the Spaniards who had invaded Peru, the Incans “took to the mountains” building secret passage ways and entire villages in the mountains. Not only that, the Incans revolutionized Agriculture in the way they maximized land cultivation.
Machu Picchu is the tallest mountain in South America and was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. You can catch a bus to the famous ruins and hire a guide to show you how they lived and where they grew their food.
If you and your kiddos are brave enough, you can hike the entire mountain, all the way to the very top!
6. The Colosseum: Rome, Italy
Lessons: History, Social Studies, Political Science
Rome is known to be the earliest democracy. The United States government is modeled after it. If they are in traditional school, there is no way our kids are going to escape learning about the Romans in some form, no matter what grade they are in. Commentary on the colosseum, the games, the philosophers, the wars, and the political structure will be sprinkled throughout their readings and lectures almost the entire time they are in school. So why not bring it to life!
7. The Barrier Reef: Belize
Lessons: Earth Science, Animal Science
Anyone remember the acronym King Phillip Came Over For Grape Soda? It was supposed to help us remember Kingdom, Phyllum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species – the way animals are all classified, remember that?
I remember enjoying the lessons around understanding different types of animals, what they had in common, and their innate abilities. The most interesting of them all were the animals that lived in and around the sea. There were just so many types and they basically had their own ecosystem – their own world. But I learned it through the pages of a book. Could you imagine getting the chance to see some of these animals up close?
Visiting the barrier reef in Belize will immerse you and your children into a separate ecosystem, a separate world. There they will get the chance to see all kinds of species of animals that they just don’t get to see every day. After a visit to this beautiful underwater world, there likely won’t be any thoughts or need for King Phillip and his acronym.
8. Pyramids of Giza: Cairo, Egypt
Lessons: History, Culture, Engineering
The Pyramids are some of the most impressive human achievements in history. The pyramids aren’t just a cool place to grab a cheeky photo kissing the sphinx. They serve as the backdrop for an immersion lesson on engineering – how the pyramids were built is still quite astonishing and mysterious, history – life at that time was very different than the way we live now, and culture – the belief systems held in Ancient Egypt.
These are history lessons your children will encounter more than a few times throughout their matriculation through school. Imagine the teacher showing photos and videos of the pyramids to teach the class and your child is actually in those photos and videos! Now how cool would that be?!
9. The Northern Lights: Iceland
Lesson: Earth Space Science
I remember being in grade school reading one a fiction book about two kids hanging out in the summer and one of them was talking about how badly she wanted to see the Aurora Bueralis. I had no idea what that was at the time, but it sounded so cool that I never forgot it. As an adult, i know that she was referring to what we call the “Northern Lights” which tourists flock to see every year in Iceland.
One day out of the blue, my daughter asked me if I would take her to see the Northern Lights. We haven’t made it there yet but you bet we’ll be going ot check them out.
The Northern Lights is definitely a memorable experience, one unlike any other phenomena on Earth. According to the scientific explanation, Aurora is the dazzling end result of a series of events that begin at the Sun. The lights are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles coming from the Sun as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn all experience auroras as well.
I gotta say, this is one science lesson that’s WAY cooler in person.
10. Medellin, Colombia or Paris, France
Many of us had to suffer through learning Spanish or French in high school. When I was in school, those along with Latin were the only options and who the heck wanted to learn Latin? (Actually one of my friends took Latin just so she could rock out the SATs).
It’s a travesty that we wait so late to introduce foreign languages in US schools. There are so many studies that show the academic benefits of speaking multiple languages at an early age. I believe many schools are starting to come around and offer lessons on foreign language much earlier.
But what better way to learn and or practice another language than to speak it with natives!
Being in Medellin for four whole months absolutely helped expand mine and my daughter’s use of the Spanish language. My daughter understands more than she speaks and I now speak it much more fluently after having to interact in Spanish on a daily basis for four months.
Even if you can’t get away for months at a time, spending a few days in a foreign country practicing speaking and hearing the language can take your kid a very long way and give them more confidence.
There you have it mommas, so many travel destinations to teach or enhance school lessons. Learning should be an immersive experience and while our educators do their very best to teach our little ones and some awesome teachers creatively bring lessons to life, the optimal way to learn it, is to immerse yourself in the lesson.
What travel destinations have you been to that helped teach or enhance a school lesson for your child(ren)?