Trips that Teach: 8 Incredible Learning Destinations for Your Family
By Hilary Davidson
For a lot of people, a vacation is more than time to kick back and play hooky from the day-to-day responsibilities of life—it’s a chance to savor new experiences that they can’t necessarily get at home. These fun “learning vacations” include everything from digging up fossils and going on safari to eco-awareness programs and community service. What they have in common is a hands-on approach that helps kids (and, let’s face it, adults) learn through immersion in an environment. “In a classroom, a child is learning in a vacuum,” says Amy James, an education expert and author of the Knowledge Essentials series. “You can read about the rainforest all day, but it’s an entirely different experience to be there. You’re giving them information in context, which helps kids learn more quickly and remember things better.”
Lisa Wentworth of Wellesley, MA, chose to combine her learning vacation with volunteering. For a week last July, she and her 11-year-old son, William Cresap, joined a team of North American volunteers who helped build a community center in the Costa Rican village of Canitas. “I chose this type of vacation to introduce my son to another culture; a place where English isn’t the main language,” says Wentworth. “I wanted to open his eyes to the world and I wanted him to learn the value of community service.”
Learning vacations are growing in popularity for families. Global Volunteers, one US-based organization that coordinates excursions like the one Wentworth and her son joined, reports that in 2005, a full fifteen percent of their volunteers were under 18. “It’s a growing segment,” says Barbara DeGroot, the media relations manager for Global Volunteers. “Not only do we have parents and kids, but many grandparents are taking their grandchildren on these programs.”
Want your next vacation to be something extraordinary? Here are some places to start.