Trips are awesome, and that’s a (mostly) fact! Taking a trip to anywhere gets you out of the house and experiencing something new. When you make a trip something that is educational, everyone in the family benefits!
Plus, you can make any family trip a learning experience to remember. Just follow these simple steps!
- Pick a place: It can be near or far. It really doesn’t matter. As long as your family is interested in going there, it’s perfect! You can go to museums, gardens, resorts, theme parks, restaurants, neighborhoods, volunteering opportunities, national monuments, or just your own backyard.
- Figure out the goal/theme: This depends on the place and/or method of travel. An art museum can be art, geometry (shapes of frames, shapes in art), properties (noticing differences between pieces, elements of the art), and more. Visiting a garden can be plants, animals, birds, rocks, clouds, etc. Some places have a more defined theme than others. For example, Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA would naturally be a Pilgrim/Colonial themed family trip.
Almost every adventure will involve map reading of some sort. You will need to get there, and then get around at your destination. Knowing where things are can become a child’s job!
You could also link in the transportation aspect by having your child read a train schedule, figure out how long it will take to get there (if we have 100 miles to go, and we are traveling 60 mph…), or plan out a timeline for the day.
3. Making Connections: This might be the most challenging part of any adventure, but it is also the easiest. Everything that you do with your child will eventually link back up to education, especially if you are selecting destinations that lend themselves to learning. So, knowing what learning goals are in the fourth grade curriculum is important. But it is more important to honor your child’s interests and motivations. If the Civil War isn’t covered for a few more years, but your kiddo has a burning passion to learn about it, go right ahead. They (and their teachers) will thank you later!
4. Debrief: Talk about your trips frequently. Discuss what went well on a particular trip and what might need to be improved for next time. This is a hugely important life skill: reflecting on learning. If we just keep doing things without thinking back over what has happened, we will never get out of our own bad habits or fix things to be better.
5. Repeat: Pick a new place to visit or a new angle to view a favorite location. I love to go to art museums over and over. I always find something new to look at or a different way to think about a familiar piece. The layers of knowledge will build up over time to create a rich tapestry! New locations should be decided upon as a family, and you should discuss what each person’s goal is.
Almost anything, any trip, and any place can become a learning experience. Even traditional family vacations, like amusement parks or cruises, can turn educational. At a theme park, you can calculate how many rides you might be able to ride on based on average wait times and locations in the park. Or figure out the optimum time to eat a big meal around when you want to ride that gut-busting roller coaster. On cruises or at resorts, the pools provide opportunities for water play, digging in the sand, exploring in a safe environment, and becoming more self-sufficient.
So what are you waiting for? Go on a family field trip!