How 3 Teachers in Stark County Created a Travel Team to Get More Students into the World
Megan Brady, OFLA Beginning Teacher Chair
Spanish Teacher, Northwest High School
What are we doing to motivate our students to learn languages when many of us are lacking the motivation to do much at all? A group of us decided that travel was the way to inspire more language and cultural learning. Although traveling with groups from across the country has its perks, we decided that banding together with the goal of filling a bus with local schools was something worth looking into. It has been wonderful to see it come to fruition! Many of our smaller schools in Stark County haven’t done much traveling recently, so we decided to come together as a group to help inspire kids (and their parents!) to do just that.
We started with a group of 3 schools: Minerva Local, East Canton Local, and Marlington Local, to try a trip to Costa Rica in 2021. We began in the winter of 2020 to ensure our families had plenty of time to prepare a payment plan and get excited about traveling. Our goal was to get at least 20 students among the 3 schools, as we hadn’t traveled much before this and weren’t sure how our communities would respond. Fast forward a couple of months to COVID hitting, and ultimately, our trip was postponed to the summer of 2022. Knowing this, we notified our groups and presented the opportunity again to students who may not have heard about it the previous year when it was originally presented. By the end of this second enrollment, between the 3 schools, we had a total of 71 travelers signed up! This by far exceeded our wildest dreams, and instead of having the majority of one bus, we now have 2 full buses (and at one time, an additional waitlist!) ready to travel to Costa Rica this June.
While we have had a few hiccups, and anticipate a few more students choosing to postpone due to the latest requirements, we also have another trip planned for June 2023. This additional trip is for those that wish to roll over and was opened to Northwest Local students and Dalton Local students – who have over 30 students enrolled! We held an enrollment meeting in mid-February and experienced a lot of success by banding our schools together to offer this trip. By coming together, certain participating districts can get travel as an approved “community” field trip by the school by working with other schools in the county and we have been able to get the blessing of the school boards while not officially being school-sponsored.
We now have a team of teachers who bring all different things to the table, including fundraising ideas, experience in travel, experience with our specific travel company, and ideas for getting our students together. Our students can bond with other students in the county through the common experience of trip anticipation and excitement-building, and the experience in the country of choice. We hold the majority of our meetings together and therefore have a team of experts leading the way instead of just one of us. Therefore, practically any questions we get from parents can be answered by one of us, with our wide array of experiences.
I strongly encourage you to find a way to bring your students this opportunity, give them the travel bug, and an authentic context and experience to use their language skills! If you have been considering it, but aren’t sure about how to take those next steps or to get your school to approve, maybe consider working with your local area schools to sponsor a trip together. It may help get your numbers up, get more students involved in traveling, and make a new friend/colleague along the way! In the meantime, if you would like to chat about how we made this happen, feel free to get in touch!