Rick Steves Bringing Europe into Our Classrooms

Dr. Roger Anderson, Assistant Professor of International Languages & Cultures, Central State University

For those unfamiliar, Rick Steves is the U.S. European travel expert whose brand (empire?) encompasses travel shows on radio and television, annual guidebooks, and even touring packages abroad. Few Americans have visited Europe as much as Rick, nor know its numerous cultures as he does.

Always supportive of education, Rick wanted to present educators with a gift of some sort.

It took shape in the amazing website “Rick Steves Classroom Europe” (https://classroom.ricksteves.com/). It is a large video library of short clips from his television show, traveling all over Europe. It is free to all users and unlocks more features for users who create a free account, discussed shortly.

Its organization makes finding videos easy as can be.

Users can search for videos by country, theme, historical period, and specials produced for his television show. There also is an option to hide mature content, which may benefit K-12 educators. 

In clips, Rick is shown explaining the history or significance of a place or consulting with a local expert. All his clips were filmed on location with clear shots and multiple cutaways.

Most countries featured are European, with a handful of clips on Central America and the Middle East/ North Africa. Clips on Western European countries are extensive: 46 in France, 27 in Spain, 79 in Italy, 32 in England, etc. Clips range in length, with most being between 3-6 minutes long, with some longer clips scattered within countries.

Using the Themes search is fantastic for units that span European countries, such as lessons on the European Renaissance, Fascism, or Modern Art.

Best of all, users who create a free account are able to compile their own playlists. Users are allowed multiple playlists with limitless clips. For example, as an instructor of French, I created a playlist for my students of Francophone locations beyond France. I also have a personal playlist of all clips from Spain (mon coup de cœur à présent/ mi afición del dia). These playlists can be shared with students who have made a free account as well!

Users select their own content to add to playlists. Here I have selected clips from Francophone locations. Clips can always be removed when they are watched or no longer wanted within the playlist. Students could do the same, creating playlists of clips that interest them and be worked into a multimedia project that brings together culture, history, and a European language.

Language educators should make use of this fantastic resource. While not all students can travel to Europe, Rick Steves has provided a tool to bring Europe to Ohio. It seems incredible that such a repository is not hidden behind a paywall. With it, educators can facilitate students’ intercultural competence and appreciation of European history and culture. Hats off to Rick Steves for his service to education!

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