You’re thinking about including travel in your curriculum this year. Good for you. It’s a big step, but very worthwhile in your students’ educational journey. As you start exploring this idea, consider the five “c’s” of student travel.
This is what you are already doing – thinking it over to see how it will work.
- Are my students mature enough to travel away from home for an overnight trip?
- Are my students’ families motivated to raise enough funds for the trip?
- Will administration support the trip? To make a case, show studies that youth who travel have better grades, higher graduation rates from high school and college, and greater income than students who do not travel.
- Why should my students take this trip? What should my students learn that is part of the curriculum? What will my students learn that is over and above the curriculum? (Character-building, organization, tolerance, independence, self-control, appreciation for their own situation, to mention only a few.)
Now, you need to put together a firm plan. A student travel planner can help design an itinerary for your group with the following factors.
- Balance education with fun. Can educational events be fun? You bet, but incorporating some downtime for the group allows for relaxation and group harmony.
- Understand your school’s policies. Recognize your district’s guidelines and expectations for handling finances and including elements of the core curriculum. The earlier the better to ensure approvals and smooth planning.
- Involve your students. Everyone will have a better trip, learn more, and be engaged if students have input. Successful student travel always includes student involvement and ownership.
- Make the trip an experience, not just a “sit-down and listen” kind of trip. Today’s students need to touch, feel, and participate. Hands-on and first-hand experiences are not necessarily part of classroom learning.
- Be realistic in your expectations for the group. Acknowledge the financial demographic in your school. Tons of inexpensive things to do exist. Determining a budget that is practical for your group will make the dream trip for your group a reality.
Finances are only a part of deciding what is appropriate for your group. For performance groups, how does your ensemble’s ability fit in the activity you’ve planned? For example, if your students have never participated in a competitive festival or are composed of novice music students, maybe a big league competition wouldn’t be suitable. Instead, include an activity where students feel positive about the experience. Set them up for success.
- Plan your fundraising. Just because your students are from lower income homes, travel is not out of the question. Multi-layered fundraising includes donations from local businesses, several fundraising events, family contributions, and other creative ideas. Involving families to help fundraise will increase your success rate, i.e. spaghetti dinners where families join in, gift basket auctions with contributed items, restaurant nights where eating out benefits your program, etc. Parents and students not only raise money, they have fun doing it and become engaged. Your travel planner will be able to set up a flexible payment plan to coordinate with fundraisers.
How many times have we, as travel planners, heard “I have to change my date because testing, prom, other trips (fill in the blank here) was already scheduled.”
- When you have a date, put it on your school’s master calendar.
- If you are booking your own bus, get travel dates on the calendar.
- Give parents travel dates early. Families need a chance to block the dates before sporting events, a trip to Grandma’s, or a family birthday party gets first dibs.
Once you’ve decided that a trip is an achievable option, your job is to be your trip’s cheerleader. Promote it in your classroom, on parent newsletters, at Back-to-School night, on your classroom website, on the answering machine – wherever. Make a learning schedule so students are ready to focus on the experience. For a performance group, create a chart for learning their music. Your own enthusiasm speaks volumes to your students and their families. Once you take that first trip, large or small, your students will understand the value of an out-of-classroom experience. The next excursion will be easier to promote.
Let your students see you enjoying the trip. Your enthusiasm in executing the trip has a direct result on its outcome. After the trip, let your students reflect on and enjoy their memories. Share suggestions together for future trips. Have them write a mass thank you note or video to administration or to contributors.
For some students, this trip may have been the first time they ever got out of town. Trips level the playing field for disadvantaged students, according to Carylann Assante, executive director for Student & Youth Travel Association. “Field trips give diverse and financially-in-need students equal opportunity to experience things outside classroom that their families may not be able to afford.”
According to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, “There’s a reason people say I need to get away and recharge my batteries – there’s truth to it.” That’s true if you’re fifteen or fifty – we all need a fresh perspective and an opportunity to learn something new.