Travel-School is all about field trips. We love being on the move – seeing and learning new things is right in our family wheel-house. When planning our school year, we start with a healthy, working list of trips we want to take with the kids. At year’s end, our September wish-list never matches our May check-list of places we actually went. It is impossible to predict where our learning will take us.
Studying art history at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville.
I think all educators agree on the value of experiential learning. Teaching in context promotes deep understanding and long term memory. Through hands-on experiences, kids make connections in several subjects simultaneously. When we travel, we are able to enrich our curriculum, connect the dots of our coursework and spend time together. It is FUN, too. We feel lucky to be learning about so many varied things along with our kids.
Making the greater community our classroom helps our kids balance course study with life lessons and works to transform inert knowledge into useful knowledge. Traveling to places as we learn about them is often logistically challenging and costly in both time and money. Any of these factors (schedule, cost, distance) can and do keep us from going someplace on the family wish-list. But we know field studies are a fundamental educational win-win; every teacher’s coup d’État. So we do what we can.
Walking donkeys and cradling one-hour old baby goats with friends at the Busey’s Farm. This was an uncharted field trip – lucky timing to be able to hold those goats!
We study in hotel restaurants, apartment rentals, at home, on boats, in airports… We get our work done wherever we are. Our kids have learned to be flexible and adapt quickly to their surroundings. Some days are spent completely indoors and book heavy; though inherently, travel-school means we keep an open-mind and allow space for unplanned learning to happen.
The INTREPID gives a super-nerdy NYC/US history tour – well worth the trip and cost of admission.
Some of our field trips happen on accident. While netting plastic in Biscayne Bay, we found flat, balsa-wood cards engraved with peculiar art in various locations. We learned these cards were part of a Biscayne Bay Drift study organized by University of Miami graduate students. We participated in the study, which helped their data collection. In return, we received a private tour of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. It was fascinating. We did not plan this connection, but when the opportunity presented itself, we pounced!
At the University of Miami, we watched a hurricane simulator study in action, toured a slug nervous-system research farm and met graduate students who were actively growing and replacing corals in our oceans.
Visiting universities is a great value, as it provides a window for our 6th and 8th graders to peer through; a glimpse of what college-life can be and what it is they are working towards. We take university tours any time we can get them.
Slugs for science.
Sometimes it is hard to get the balance right. I have mild regrets of hours spent on math or literature when we probably should have been touring more in a foreign city. I recall school days in Portugal when we did our studies all day inside without leaving the hotel. Bor-ing! These were ordinary, fine school days, and we moved forward in our planned curriculums. But did we allow headroom to learn something that could not be learned in a book? Probably not. I justify days like these by saying, “We are not on vacation.” We take our subjects seriously, and the kids never seem to mind their studies, regardless of our locale.
Some days have to be “normal” school days even if we are lucky enough to be someplace extraordinary; It’s all about balance.
Below is a list of places we have gone so far in our 2017-2018 school year. Some field trips were monumental, others were happy surprises… yet all are combining (with our coursework) to build a unique and well-rounded school year.
Locations of Study during 2017-2018 school year (in progress)
University of Rhode Island, 2017 fall Honors Colloquium: Jane Goodall, speaker
Black Heritage Trail, Boston, MA
Boston Common & Public Gardens, Boston, MA
Museum of African American History, Boston, MA
INTREPID: Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York City
2017 Food Film Festival, NY, NY
New York Public Library and Bryant Park
Times Square, New York City
“About Jane”, Documentary and Q&A with speaker, Newport
Adams Crypt, United First Parish Church, Quincy, MA
Adams National Historic Park, Quincy, MA
Cummer Museum of Art, Jacksonville, FL
Vero Beach | Melbourne | Jupiter | St. Augustine | Jacksonville | Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Wynwood Walls – Urban Graffiti Art Exhibition, Miami
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Coconut Grove, Miami, FL
Frost Museum of Science, Miami, FL
Barnes Sound | Lignum Vitae State Park
Key West History Tour
Hemingway House and Museum
Florida Keys | Cape Sable, Gulf of Mexico | Naples, FL
Cayo Costa State Park, North Captiva
Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, Ft. Meyers
Lake Okeechobee Locks
Playhouse Theatre, Coral Gables, FL
Marlins Park Tour (Miami Marlins Arena)
Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, University of Miami
University of Miami: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Key Biscayne | Jupiter Island | Melbourne | St. Augustine
Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral (NASA)
Cubicle SpeedCube Competition, Daytona, FL
Busey Farm, Jacksonville, FL
Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville
Pruitt Softball Complex, Jacksonville University
Lifespan CPR and First Aid Certification Course, Newport Hospital, Newport, RI
Trinity Church (c 1698) tour, Newport, RI
Volvo Ocean Race Village/Team Vestas boat tour, Newport, RI
Touring the VOLVO Team VESTAS boat in Newport with best friend, Ben. We had sooo many questions.
Inside the cold, underground crypt of our 2nd US President John Adams, with wife Abigail Adams, and 6th President John Quincy Adams and his wife, Louisa.
Inspired by the extraordinary art at Wynwood Walls in urban Miami.
Below are links to some of our favorite high-level learning field-trips from this school year: