Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
My husband recently informed me that he would like to visit all of the National Parks in the United States as a family before our children turn 18. It is an awesome goal, and I'm fully on board. We are, as I write this, in Zion National Park. I am literally typing away as my two exhausted children are passed-out beside me. We will head to Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon later this week. Follow along on our journey at experientiallearningdepot on Instagram.
I have been heavily involved in my school's travel program since I began teaching there 12 years ago. I have taken groups of high school students to California, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, Texas, New York City, Costa Rica, and more. I prioritize travel with my own family as well because I've seen how travel can impact a person, including a child. Learning, relationship building, character development and more emerge in a way that is entirely unique to travel. There is so much learning that happens naturally while traveling, especially when it comes to skill-building. Opportunities for gaining content knowledge, however, may take a little more effort.
For this reason, especially when traveling with students, I pair the experience with student-led project-based learning. Each learner asks a driving question about their destination and explores that question on the trip. For example, my child asked me why Zion has cacti. As a science and PBL educator my mind immediately went to how this simple question could be turned into a larger project about climate. I would want to research why Zion has the climate that it does, how animals and plants have adapted to survive the climate, and how the climate has shaped the local economy and human culture.
The answers to these questions wouldn't be found by simply visiting Zion. I would have to go out of my way to explore these questions. That is what student-directed project-based learning is all about. Try enhancing the travel experience by combining it with PBL. Start with the following FREE resources. You can also look back at the dozens of educational travel posts right here on this blog by clicking on the "Student Travel" link to your right.
1. Trip Planner
This resource is a guide to planning an educational trip. I work at a school that is student-led and project-based, so our students (with our guidance) often plan the trips. They use this guide to do so. It includes purpose, budget, itinerary, fundraising plans, etc.
2. Trip Project Proposal
A project proposal is a template for designing a project. Students ask a driving question or choose a topic of focus, determine research questions or categories, plan the use of community experts and authentic experiences, choose an innovative way to demonstrate learning, and more.
3. PBL Cheat Sheet
This is a helpful tool for beginner project-based learners. It gives a few ideas for innovative final products and authentic presentations. This is helpful for any project-based learning experience, travel projects included.
4. Community Expert Planner
An important part of project-based learning is connecting with authentic resources. This is especially pertinent when it comes to traveling experiences. It makes learning more meaningful; more personal. A community expert might be an interpreter at a National Park, a museum curator, business owners, or even locals of whatever destination you happen to be visiting. This resource is a guide to help students choose community members from their travel destination that could be a resource for their project.
5. Trip Reflection
This travel resource is one of my favorites. As an experiential educator, I find enormous value in reflecting on learning experiences, especially an experience as profound as traveling.
6. Travel Brochure Mini-Project
this learning activity can be completed at home or at school. It does not require travel. Students create a brochure for one travel destination of interest. The intention is to get students excited about traveling.
7. Ecology Scavenger Hunt
This is another activity that does not require travel, but would be a great supplement to any nature trip, such as this family trip to Zion National Park.
8. Endangered Species Project
Yet another project that doesn't require traveling, but would be an awesome addition to an outdoor travel experience where students can connect with conservationists, naturalists, politicians, landowners, and more to learn about local endangered species and protection efforts. They might even collaborate with local experts. My family and I came across California condors on our hike through Zion National Park today. California condors have a long and complicated history and have been on the endangered species list for decades. If I were doing a project on this endangered species in Zion I could talk to the naturalists, hunters, landowners, park visitors, bird enthusiasts, and more to gather information from various interests.
We don't have condors in Minnesota, so traveling to where they are and studying them in their natural habitat makes the learning experience more meaningul.
9. Graphic Organizer for Student-Led Fundraisers
Get young travelers invested in the experience by asking them to play a role in fundraising. Traveling isn't cheap, which is one of the reasons my travel resources are free! Let students take some ownership by organizing their own fundraisers. They can use this graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas and organize details.
Find many more PBL resources at Experiential Learning Depot as well as my PBL Toolkit with the necessary templates for unlimited student-directed PBL projects in school, in the home, out in the community, on field trips, traveling around the world and much more.
Good luck to you, and as always, feel free to reach out for questions or comments. Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.