A Swing Choir from Wyoming Takes Student Performance Trips to New York City and Hawaii & Wows Audiences

by Howard Clemens

Linnea Dickson is the Vocal Music Instructor for Lovell High School and Middle School in Wyoming. “In our town there is limited cultural opportunity or variety. There are hardly any minorities in Lovell, just a few Hispanic children,’ she commented. So for the past 25 years, Dickson has been taking her Swing Choir and Choir groups to New York City and Hawaii. She varies the trip between these two far-flung locations because some middle school children attend two trips by the time they are in high school. This variation of destinations allows flexibility with the performance venues selected and the students are enriched by exposure to new places.

Every two years students from Lovell visit Hawaii. Student groups visit New York City about once every four years.

In New York City, students have performed at Carnegie Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the 911 Memorial and the United Nations building. “Student swing choir groups have even performed on church steps in New York City,” says Dickson. “We always have people stop and video tape and photograph their performance. And the children think it’s really cool that someone out in the world is watching them perform,” she added.

In New York City, student travel groups have a tight schedule that keeps them on the move. Still, they make time to attend as many as three Broadway plays. Visiting Broadway is an extraordinary event for any student of the performing arts. “This gives them a great chance to aspire to a performance career,” says Dickson. “We have seen Broadway musicals like: Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, The Lion King, and Mary Poppins,” she said. “We try to select a wide variety of Broadway shows. It really makes it fun for kids to have this opportunity.”

Student groups keep busy in New York City. “We are on the run morning until night,” says Dickson. “We see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the 911 Memorial, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Intrepid, Trinity Church, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and much more,” she added.”

The town of Lovell, Wyoming has only 2,300 people, and very little diversity. On the trip to New York City, students visit Chinatown, Little Italy, and even have lunch in a New York Jewish Deli. These are all new experiences for them and Dickson believes this exposure to a diverse city life is necessary for their education and personal growth.

Over the past 25 years, trips have grown in size from just 16 kids and two chaperones to 30 kids and 35 adults. “We make it open for family to travel along with children, and they often do. People come in from Calgary, California and Texas,” observed Dickson. “It’s a fun opportunity and it would cost them so much more to go on their own then to travel with the student group. Everything is included and paid for in advance for this trip: meals, airfare, bus and hotel,” she concluded.

Students actually only miss a day of school, since the Lovell school trip is always scheduled over the Easter holiday. This means less time out of school for travel and more time for out-in-the-world learning.

Having the children see a variety of cultures and hear different languages puts them in a different atmosphere. “It’s important for these kids to have the opportunity to get out and see something of the world and find out there’s a heck of a lot more than the state of Wyoming. We love it here, but it’s good to go visit other places,” says Dickson.

To find out more about scheduling performance trips to New York City, Washington D.C. and Orlando Florida as well as other destinations, visit: http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Students Travel to New York City and Washington D.C. from the Bahamas

For the past dozen years, Angela Culmer, an elementary school teacher at Queen’s College in the Bahamas, has taken her 5th and 6th grade classes to Washington D.C., Atlanta and recently, New York City, to take part in an educational tour.

Culmer structures the custom tours with Educational Travel Consultants, a company based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. “We incorporate science, history, social studies, language and literature on these tours,” says Culmer. Teachers give the children questionnaires, instruct them to take notes and give them challenges like taking photographs and naming historic sites. “The kids love it. They soak it up,” says Culmer.

For an educator, custom designed student tours are an excellent way to synchronize a curriculum to a student trip. “I just let Educational Travel Consultants know what I want to do with my student group, and they find it for me,” commented Culmer.

While visiting Washington D.C. in 2014, students went to the National Air and Space Museum. “We spent a great deal of time at this museum. The students love the interactive exhibits, the different planes from World War II and they really loved the flight simulator,” said Culmer. Another destination in New York City they visited was the 911 Memorial (the 911 Museum was not yet open at the time of their trip). “The children have an understanding of what happened on September 11, 2001, even though they are only 10 years old. The visit to the 911 Memorial was a “reality check for them,” commented Culmer.

The other major sites visited in New York City included Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, and a trip to Broadway to see “Momma Mia.” Culmer included these performance venues in the student trip because in the Bahamas, students “don’t get to see this level of professional performance like they do in the City of New York.”

Washington D.C is another popular place for student travelers to absorb some American history and culture. In addition to the usual visit to the White House and Capitol, Culmer schedules time at the Embassy of the Bahamas. “Students have on overview of why the Bahamas has an embassy in Washington D.C. and its purpose,” says Culmer. “If a Bahaman attends school in the United States, they must register at the Embassy, in case anything ever happens, they have somewhere to go,” she added.

Other sites visited in the Washington D.C. area included Mount Vernon and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Culmer said the living history actors at Mount Vernon spoke directly to her students and stayed in character. The student travel group also visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore. “There are many different aquariums in the Bahamas. But there’s still a great deal to see in Baltimore, because the environment is different, there is much to learn,” said Culmer.

The student trips have been a great success throughout the years. Queen’s College music department will be sponsoring a trip to Atlanta in January of 2015 to participate in the Battle of the Bands. As far as recruiting teachers, chaperones and students to attend these trips, “They absolutely love traveling to the United States. In fact, there are usually teachers vying to go,” said Culmer.

Historical sites, cultural venues, dining, shopping and entertainment are on the itinerary for a trip to the U.S. However, Culmer believes there are even more valuable lessons to be learned from such travel. “One of the primary learning experiences of this type of trip is that children learn to travel on their own (without their family members),” observes Culmer. “Students learn to be independent and handle their own money, too,” she added. With student travel to the U.S., all of these life lessons combine to offer them a wonderful opportunity to grow intellectually and socially.

For more information on student group travel visit Educational Travel Consultants online.