When I (Cathy) was a grade school teacher, there were times when parents took their children out of school for a family trip. Often, a parent would ask if they could borrow a math or language text book to bring along so the child could “keep up”. I begged them not to. “Please,” I would say, “have them keep a journal. Draw what they see. Describe the people they meet. Take pictures and keep a record of them. Videotape a special event. Make a scrap book. Record the weather. Calculate the distance you travel every day. Follow the map. Plan an excursion.” In other words, I would ask the parent to use the trip as a resource. I would also suggest the child prepare to share some of their experiences with the class when they retuned, so we could all learn from the trip.
I was alarmed to think they would imprison their child in a hotel room or trailer to keep up with what we were doing in the classroom sometimes hundreds of miles away. There was so much to see and learn from the incredible world around them!
Now, the affordances available for a child to investigate, record and share a trip are so much more interesting! A colleague of mine asked a grade one student of hers, who was going to the Olympics, to Skype the class every Tuesday morning from wherever she was and share her experiences. Her class loved it. They felt like they were there with her. After the Skype meeting the class would research the people and places she talked about. That one student’s trip became a class project.
This past summer, I travelled through Greece with my husband. I was delighted to see so many children capturing the sites we visited on an tablets and smartphones. I wondered if they would share any of it with classmates. I would still encourage a parent to not use a text book on a trip. The real world is just too interesting and there are so many creative ways to explore it. It’s all learning.