10 Great Educational Trips to Take During the School Year
School is back in session in a lot of places, but that doesn’t mean that travel is completely off-limits for your family.
The school year is a great time to think about short, educational, day or weekend trips that can give your kids a break, tie school topics to their everyday lives and keep your family close while everyone’s busy with their school, work and social lives.
Missing a couple of days of school for an educational trip can have some benefits if it’s done right. Check out some ways to make sure you’re helping and not hindering and then take a look at our list of great educational trips that are right in your neck of the woods.
Science and Space
If your kid is beginning to learn about space and the universe in science, or he has a real fascination for space exploration and being an astronaut, there are plenty of places to visit that don’t require leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. Families near Florida can take a day or two to see the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando for tours, iMAX shows, meet a veteran astronaut or see a launch. If you’re in Texas, stop by the Johnson Space Center in Houston for a glimpse into the fascinating history of the US space program. And, if you’ve got a student who’s really serious about space exploration, consider a visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. For a real astronaut experience in Huntsville, students of all ages and abilities can sign up for Space Camp.
Biology and History
If you’re on the West Coast and you have a budding biologist on your hands, take a long weekend and get to Sea World. There are interaction and encounter experiences with animals like dolphins, whales and penguins. You can even sign your teen student up for the trainer for a day program. If you’re in California and your child’s history class is covering the gold rush, there are lots of greats sites to take them to for the day. You can see old mines, forts, settlements and mills, or visit places like Jamestown where you can learn how to pan for gold yourself.
Native American History and Ecology
Most of the time, people think you have to travel to Europe to find historical sites more than two hundred years old, but that’s not true. There are plenty of places near anyone’s backyard in the US where you can witness the history of Native Americans that goes back much farther than the history of our settlers. If you’re in the Midwest, one of the best places to see this is the Effigy National Monument in Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin. It’s a beautiful National Park and the mounds located there are the best preserved group of effigy mounds that remain in existence from that culture. While you’re in the area, take a jaunt over to Madison, WI and visit the Madison Children’s Museum. Built with the environment in mind, kids can have a children’s museum experience with an added environmental stewardship education.
Native American History and Science
The Southwest is also full of impressive Native American history. For example, a quick trip outside Phoenix will lead you to the Montezuma Castle in Arizona. This pre-historic dwelling is unlike any more recent historical sites we have in our country. This site is more than 700 years old and is an amazing example of what people could do before they had technology to help. And, you’re close enough to Phoenix to take some time to visit the Children’s Museum. The younger kids can take their cliff dwelling experience to the Building Big exhibit and try their hand at creating their own dwelling.
History and Paleontology
Impressive cliff dwellings aren’t just confined to Arizona. There’s an unbelievable collection in Manitou Springs, CO where you can even walk through some of the ancient homes. The archeological preserve is great for older students who are learning about early US history and could benefit from seeing it in person. And, if you have a young paleontologist in your midst, the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction has dinosaur digs to give students the firsthand experience of looking for fossils. Nearby Fruita, CO also has Dinosaur Journey with robotic life-sized version of dinosaurs.
There have been plenty of wars fought on American soil and chances are you have at least one kid studying at least one of those wars in school. The East Coast is rich with Revolutionary War history. You could head to Philadelphia to tour Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center, and see the Liberty Bell, among many other early American sites. If you’ve got smaller children with you, you can also spend some time at the Please Touch Children’s Museum. The exhibits and experiences there are designed to capture the attention of children of all ages so nobody gets bored.
In Texas, it’s easy to get a better understanding of the Mexican-American War by spending some time at the Alamo in San Antonio. You can take a tour, or go through on your own. Your student has a chance to immerse herself in the history and there are plenty of artifacts to make it all come to life. If you have time, the Children’s Museum of Houston is said to be one of the best. Younger kids have a chance to experience real world grown-up life by learning how to manage money and shop with a pretend $40 debit card in the Kidtropolis exhibit.
Civics and American History
There is no better place for the student who is studying civics to visit than our nation’s capital in Washington D.C. You can tour the Capitol Building, take an educational trolley tour of D.C. and visit the Lincoln Memorial. In fact, if they’re talking about Abraham Lincoln in school, you can stop by Ford’s Theatre and the Lincoln Museum. There’s even a spy museum if you’ve got a future CIA agent on your hands.
Native American and American History
Studying wars fought on American soil can lead you to the Midwest, and back to Native American history as well. If you’re in the country’s midsection, take a short trip to South Dakota to see the Crazy Horse Memorial. It’s a work in progress that will leave your kids in awe. It’s also a great way to drive home the reality of what was a complicated time in the settling of our nation. And, if you’re in South Dakota, there’s always Mount Rushmore. It’s just one of those sites every American should see.
Civil War History
No other war fought in our country had quite the same effect on the entire nation as the Civil War. If this is something your kids are studying in school, depending on your proximity to them, there are plenty of Civil War sites to see to make the conflict seem more real. You can visit battle sites, forts and plantations. Take walking tours of areas that were hit by raids. Visit the homes of major players on both sides of the battle lines. The experience is richest in the Southern states, but even in the Midwest and the East, you’ll find places that were a big part of this chapter of American History.