Guest Post: The Educational Tourist

LOGO_RGB_TEDTOUROne of my earliest travel memories was a field trip to NASA in the 4th grade. Growing up in Houston, back in the day when schools had money for field trips, NASA was a great choice. Besides the obvious instruction on space exploration before hand we were also taught how to act and were told to dress nicely. I wish I could find the photo of me in my Sunday dress with sandals and knee high white socks. LOL!

To be honest, I don’t remember facts and figures from that trip. What I remember is even more valuable because I remember the feeling. The feeling of excitement to be headed on an adventure! The feeling of amazement when I stood next to space ships to see their incredible size. I remember the feeling of shock – I am really here – me!!

Sadly, field trips aren’t in school budgets as much, or at all, like they used to be which is all the more reason for parents to plan their own. Whether you are a homeschooler filling a curriculum requirement or a parent who wants to make a family trip educational and ‘count’ at school a field trip is a great idea, especially if you will be missing school time to do it.

Parents might feel more comfortable planning a ‘vacation’ or ‘get-away’ rather than a ‘field trip’ because ‘field trip’ sounds official – school like.

Don’t let the term scare you – YOU can plan a field trip just like you plan vacations and you should! There is NO better way to learn.


  1. Look at the curriculum. Curriculum is a fancy word for ‘what the kids are learning’. Google your state and the word curriculum.

Do NOT be intimidated. Each state has a very legal, long winded, unnecessarily difficult to read list of what the kids are learning. Just take a deep breath. Find the grade your child is in and carefully read the standards, writing down the ones that you might use for your trip.

Let’s say you are headed to Houston to visit Grandma for Thanksgiving week and want to visit NASA. You want to make the trip educational and maybe cut down on the makeup work for the 2 days you are missing.

Let’s use Texas as an example. The curriculum is called “TEKS” and for your NASA trip, you would start with the science portion. Choose the grade for one child, in this case we’ll use 2nd grade as the example.  Look under 2nd grade and see that #8 says Earth and space –  so write that down. Notice that D is the only thing that has anything to do with planets so write that down, too.  Repeat this with each grade you need for your own children. You can find the curriculum for virtually any state by searching “(Insert state here) standards of learning for grade (insert grade here)”

For example:

If you have a second grader, they are likely studying:

  • Earth and space. The student knows that there are recognizable patterns in the natural world and among objects in the sky. The student is expected to: observe, describe, and record patterns of objects in the sky, including the appearance of the Moon.

2) Talk to the teacher before hand. Tell her that your family will be going on an educational trip and your child will miss a few days of school. Tell her the standards your child will most likely be covering on your trip and ask her how you can demonstrate this gained knowledge to use as a grade or in lieu of make up work in one or several subjects. Ask her for a due date for the work upon your return. Make sure that your child takes responsibility for this work, it is her education, after all! Involve your child in the conversation with the teacher and in the planning process for the trip and experiences.

3) Don’t stop at just one subject in the curriculum. Peruse them all looking for things you’ll cover on your educational trip.

These TEKS would be covered in a NASA visit, too:

Language Arts

  • Reading of informational/procedural texts. (All those signs you read at a museum.
  • Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. (Write about your experience in a journal.)
  • Research Gathering Sources. (Talk to people, look at exhibits, listen on tours.)
  • Research/Organizing and Presenting Ideas. (Present journal and information to class.)


  • Apply mathematics to problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. ( looking at the clock to determine the next show time starts, discussing planet distance and temperature)
  • Personal financial literacy. (Purchasing tickets, shopping in the gift shop)

As you can see, it is easy to build a case that ANY travel experience is educational.

4) Turn in work to the teacher according to what you agreed to earlier.

Report? Illustration? Photos? Oral Presentation? Immediately upon returning ask the teacher for a due date if you don’t have one already. Treat your child’s assignment as you would any other.

It works for all ages.

As the kids get older the standards of learning get more complicated ‘sounding’ but not to worry – you can manage this!

Here is an example for a 5th grader in Texas. There are more words and more details, but not nothing scary or ‘too much.’

Earth and space. The student knows that there are recognizable patterns in the natural world and among the Sun, Earth, and Moon system. The student is expected to: demonstrate that Earth rotates on its axis once approximately every 24 hours causing the day/night cycle and the apparent movement of the Sun across the sky; and identify and compare the physical characteristics of the Sun, Earth, and Moon.

As expected, the standards become more challenging as a student ages and progresses through school.

So, plan your family trip! Make it fun and make it educational. Everyone will benefit from the experience! Make memories that will last a lifetime.

I’d love to hear all about your field trip plans! Keep me posted!

Natalie,  The Educational Tourist

11218814_1673176766227474_6842261845877717339_nNatalie Tanner, The Educational Tourist, has hundreds of thousands of miles under her belt – business trips with her geologist husband to places like Scottsdale, Jackson Hole, New York and Denver – and family adventures to far flung destinations like Rome, Paris, Tangier, and Istanbul. When she isn’t traveling, The Educational Tourist stays busy planning the next adventure while being Mom to two kids, three dogs, Sushi the fish, and a hamster. Follow the adventures at and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


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