The best education you will ever get is traveling. Nothing teaches you more than exploring the world and accumulating experiences.
— Mark Paterson
There is a lot to be learned from reading textbooks. But there's also more to an education than just attending classes. In fact, for teens especially, lessons learned outside the classroom often carry more weight.
“When students see things for themselves they can understand it in such a deeper and more useful way,” says Walnut Creek, Calif., Las Lomas high school teacher Jami Greer. “When my daughters visited The Globe Theater in London they realized how different the theater was in the 1600s. They experienced the cold weather, the less than luxurious seating. It became real. Traveling creates connections, allows students to compare and contrast, and have a sense of genuine empathy for a subject. It’s the fastest way to foster a passion for life-long learning.”
The current pandemic has forced many of us to take a new approach to education and while difficult, it has also opened up new opportunities. Many of our kids are no longer confined to classroom walls. Instead, for those who are able, attendance can be taken from the road. Lessons can be taught while traveling.
It’s time to plan your next trip ... and this one fits the curriculum! We’ve rounded up amazing places to visit, hitting all the main subjects:
There’s no better way to gain an understanding of our place in the universe than to look up and see its wonder. Believe it or not, only 10 percent of Americans have seen a truly dark sky. Two official Gold Tier Dark Sky Parks, Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania and Death Valley National Park in California, are the best in the United States for stargazing. Let your tweens download their best astronomy app and take a look at the constellations.
Many of the classic novels taught in school are based on people or places around the U.S. A visit to Salem, Mass. coincides with a lesson on "The Crucible." A trip to Monterey, Calif. can give you the Steinbeck experience. An excursion through New York City can bring "The Catcher in the Rye" to life. A stop at the San Francisco City Lights Bookstore takes the study of beat poetry to a whole new level.
Presidential libraries preserve the documents and artifacts of history and give us tools to learn about our nation and our democracy. There are 14 presidential libraries scattered throughout the United States. While some of these facilities are currently closed due to the pandemic, all can be visited virtually through the National Archives website.
The New Orleans National WWII Museum is a top-rated destination. It tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world — why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Take history off the pages of the textbooks without leaving the country as you visit this historical gem.
You might think of lessons in history, government, or art when you think of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., but the Mathematical Association of America has also made it a place mathematicians love. The group has developed a field guide to highlight the mathematical aspects of a dozen Washington, D.C. sites, most near the National Mall. Start your mathematical treasure hunt among the monuments, museums, and fields at the heart of the nation's capital by downloading the Mathematical Association of America field guide.
For a real experience in contrast, visit the Land of Fire & Ice in New Mexico, located on the Continental Divide in the west-central Zuni Mountains range of New Mexico. The Bandera Volcano was active about 10,000 years ago and formed one of North America's best examples of an erupted cinder cone. Most of the lava tube collapsed, but some sections remained intact as cave structures. The Ice Cave is located in a section of this collapsed lava tube. Scientific research has indicated that the ice has been forming in the cave for more than 3,400 years. You can take a self-guided tour of these unique and historic natural landmarks, encouraging your kids' curiosity of volcanoes, without having to clean up a baking soda mess in the kitchen.
Unless otherwise noted, all places were confirmed to be open to the public with COVID-19 safety protocols, as of the writing of this article in August 2020. Please verify with each location before visiting.