Educational travel gives children the opportunity to learn by firsthand experience. The children feel what the place is like and meet the locals. Reading about places in books and watching travel media is not the same as learning by being there. Safety of children traveling abroad should be our main concern. Traveling with parents or family is ideal for children. School or church groups offer travel education for children that can be inexpensive and well organized. Parents need to be informed, involved and have a way to stay in touch with their children.
There are also for-profit tour companies that have aggressive marketing techniques. These for-profit companies may send you a letter saying you have been chosen to be a delegate to visit a certain place. Some companies purchase a list of names and then send out lots of letters. Children may think they won a free trip. Then, parents might learn that the trip is expensive, and parents have concerns about sending their children to foreign countries with strangers.
Tyler Hill was a sixteen year-old athlete who lived in Minnesota. He died in Japan while on an educational travel tour with the for-profit tour company People to People Ambassador. Tyler’s family is trying to get legislation passed that would set safety standards for companies who offer educational travel tours to children. More information about Tyler and the efforts of his family to pass safety legislation is available at http://www.tylerhill.org/
My family has hosted exchange students from Japan, Spain, and Italy. Our church made arrangements for families from our parish to host the teenagers for a week or two. They learned so much and so did we. They went to school during the day and had their activities planned by their group leader. We took them to our gym and had meals with them at our home. Families in other countries have also hosted my family members. We learn so much about a region by staying in the homes of locals. This is an affordable way to spend several weeks in another country.
Educational travel benefits children because we learn best by doing and experiencing. When children walk around the historical home of a one of the presidents of the United States they learn about history, and this learning is more likely to last a lifetime. They are able to visualize the president as a real person with feelings and dreams.
Safety is a major concern when planning educational travel for your children. Traveling with family is a safe way to go. Children who travel with a school or church group need to be supervised by a responsible person. Parents need to investigate tour companies that market educational travel trips to children. Some companies promise more than they are able to deliver. The safest most cost-effective way for children to benefit from educational travel is with family, friends, or trusted professionals whose goals are education rather than profit.