Mike Davis is a Guidance Counselor at Gallatin High School in Warsaw, Kentucky. This spring, he took his students on a tour that encompassed a range of iconic landmarks, from Niagara Falls to the Statue of Liberty to the 9/11 Memorial. It was a trip that exposed students to a wealth of cultural, natural, and contemporary highlights of the American landscape and its history.
Since the group comprised both music and business students, Davis planned an itinerary that would be of interest to both study groups. He planned visits to sites such as the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and Radio City Music Hall and took the group on a walking tour of the NYC financial district. I recently had a chance to interview Mike about what he and his students had found most memorable about the visit.
Q. What is your official title at the high school?
A. Guidance Counselor
Q. What is the theme of your tour, and how does it tie into the subject(s) you teach?
A. I teach a beginning piano class here at school and the trip evolved from that class. It was a dual tour, partly my piano class and partly the Future Business Leaders of America, which is a club in the school supervised by Angela Baker, who was also a chaperone on our trip. The trip was my idea. I brought Angela along because I thought business kids would enjoy going to NYC. The trip included a walking tour of NYC’s financial district. We took 33 students all together, with two teachers and three parents.
Q. I noticed some unique tour stops. For example, you visited the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, which must have been great for the music class. Why did you select these sites?
A. Yes, it’s the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The students were caught off-guard, as they were expecting it to be more musical. They figured they’d be hearing lots of musical hits. There are stations where you can stop and listen to music being featured in the museum. They saw a lot of famous outfits that had been worn on stage, Elvis’s car, and more. Most of the material was memorabilia. Then there’s also the place where you can see who has been inducted into the hall, which was really exciting for them.
Q. You visited NBC Studios. Did the group get a live look at the set in action? What was their response to this site?
A. It was great. We got to see the ‘Saturday Night Live’ set and the set for Brian Williams, Rock Center. Our tour was in the morning, and the sets were empty. We saw NBC Coast to Coast, and observed how different material was developed for the East and West Coasts. We also observed how NBC had changed since being acquired by Universal.
Q. What did the group see and experience in their visit to Radio City Music Hall?
A. That was an exceptionally good tour! They took us inside, outside, up and down. We got to meet one of the Rockettes. She spoke to the group and they got to take pictures with her. There was a lot of walking—I don’t think the students realized how big the facility was, but they really enjoyed themselves.
Q. The student travel group visited Times Square, did a Manhattan Tour and visited the site of the Twin Towers (911 Memorial). Why was it important to you to include these sites?
A. We had a whirlwind tour, and saw about as much as we possibly could see. It was important because I don’t think any of the kids had been to NYC, so we wanted them to get the full impact of all those places. We also visited Chinatown, and had dinner in Little Italy one evening.
Q. Visiting Niagara Falls must have been a spectacular treat for the group. Describe some reactions to seeing it for the first time.
A. It was! They felt and saw the power of the falls and learned about the amount of water that flows through it. We saw the American and Canadian sides. I surprised the kids with Niagara Falls, since Cleveland is only three hours away. We got there during the day and took pictures. Afterwards, we were able to get pretty close to NYC by that evening.
Q.What is the Sony Wonder Lab? What did your group do there?
A. The Wonder Lab was the suggestion of Ms. Baker. It’s a multi story building, with interactive exhibits (digital images and broadcast booths). It was popular and crowded, and they loved it.
Q. Your students saw two Broadway Plays: “Wicked” and “Phantom of the Opera”. Why was it important to you to get two plays in? What influenced your selection of plays?
A. We’re fairly close to Cincinnati, and they have Broadway shows here. It is just so much different to be able to say you actually saw a play on Broadway. I thought these were both very different musicals. “Phantom” is a traditional opera show, and “Wicked” is an upbeat modern musical. The kids loved both shows.
Q. Please comment on any post trip writing or speaking you required your students to perform.
A. We played a little game on the way home. I got on the bus microphone and asked them different questions about the trip. And they would answer these trip trivia questions. For example, I would ask, “How many seats were in the Radio City Music Hall?” and they would answer if they knew it. Everyone had a fantastic time. The tour company was very good, and great to work with. They didn’t deter me from any of the sites I wanted to visit. I had in my mind what I wanted to do, rather than a pre-packaged deal. We were coming from so far away, we needed to get as much in as possible, which we did. We hope to do it again in another year or two.
There are a myriad of options available for student travel groups, and they can be tailored to engage every group’s unique focus and interests. Every classroom is different, and with imagination and planning, teachers can work with travel groups to create itineraries that are custom designed to bring out student’s enthusiasm for learning. By incorporating touring into their curriculum, more and more teachers are helping student travel be what it’s supposed to be: both recreational and educational.