Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
My husband and I made an educational travel goal of visiting every US national park as a family before our children turn 18. We have been to so so many great ones - Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains, Pictured Rocks National Park, The Badlands, and Rocky Mountains National Park - but we still have a long way to go!
This goal was inspired by my high school's educational travel adventures program. I have been heavily involved in educational travel since I began teaching 13 years ago. I have taken groups of high school students to California, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, Texas, New York City, Costa Rica, and more.
I have seen how travel can impact a person. Learning, relationship-building, character development and more emerge in a way that is entirely unique to travel. Check out my blog post on the benefits of educational travel for more details.
I always pair travel experiences with self-directed project-based learning. Each learner asks a driving question about their destination and explores that question while traveling. They organize authentic learning experiences, interview local experts, include the community, and so on.
I offer a variety of project-based learning ideas to pair with travel experiences in this blog post based entirely on my own personal experiences and what I have seen from my students and own children.
Take a look at my FREE digital project-based learning portfolio where students can showcase all of their project-based learning experiences and outcomes, including those that are travel-based.
10 Free Educational Travel Resources
1. Educational Trip Planner
My educational travel planning checklist is a guide to planning a trip. I use this checklist when I plan educational trips for my students and my own family. I work at a school that is student-led and project-based, so sometimes our students play a large role in planning the trips. They use this guide to do so. It includes purpose, budget, itinerary, fundraising plans, etc.
I have also used this resource for project-based learning, where my students use this checklist to plan a hypothetical trip.
2. Self-Directed Project-Based Learning Topic Brainstorming Activity
When I travel with students or my own children with a specific educational purpose, I ask that my students enhance the travel experience with project-based learning. This self-directed project-based learning project topic brainstorming activity helps students use the trip purpose, their interests, and goals to develop an educational travel PBL idea and plan.
3. PBL Cheat Sheet
This self-directed project-based learning activity design cheat sheet 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 real people with real expertise. 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 project-based learning activity community expert planner is a guide to help students plan community expert meetups.
5. Educational Travel Reflection
These resource, educational travel learning reflection questions, is one of my favorites. As an experiential educator, I find enormous value in learning by reflection, especially when reflecting on an experience as profound as traveling.
6. Travel Brochure Mini-Project
This educational travel brochure mini-project 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 and to learn about other places.
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 Great Smoky Mountains 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.
10. Project-Based Learning Check-In Form
This free project-based learning digital check-in form is great for students to communicate project progress to teachers from home or from abroad. This feels especially important right now when distance learning families are hitting the road for vacations and/or remote learning, like my family is doing right now. Consider assigning students self-directed project-based learning to do while traveling, and use this check-in form to communicate their progress with you.
If you're looking for more travel-based learning resources, I encourage you to check out the following:
Check out these other helpful blog posts from my educational travel series
Good luck to you, and as always, feel free to reach out for questions or comments. Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram for more on experiential education, and check out my TpT store for experiential learning resources.
Did you know there is an experiential learning Facebook group? Check that out - Experiential Learning Community for K12 Teachers - and join in the discussion about experiential learning.
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.