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.