Summer Travel: Education on the Road

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Chicago children on train platform going to summer camp, 1905This month EDSITEment spotlights an activity that many students take part in every summer: vacationing. Students are encouraged to use their summer travel experiences to learn about new places and document their understanding of what they encounter. Whether their destination is Colonial Williamsburg, or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, students can approach their new surroundings as explorers, transforming their vacation into an unforgettable experience they can share with others.

When taking a vacation, students can ask themselves:

  • What’s special about this place?
  • Who comes here to vacation?
  • Do people live here, year-round?
  • What was this place like 100 years ago?
  • What will it be like 100 years from now?

These questions can set students on a path to understanding the historical and/or cultural significance of their vacation site.

The activities below will aid students in recording their travel experience and documenting various aspects of their destination while expanding their knowledge of explorers and travelers of the past.

Suggested activities for students

Grades 3–5

  • Go to National Geographic’s XPeditions Atlas to make a map of where you traveled.
  • Choose a country or continent from the list that appears after the words “Select Location(s).” You can choose to make your map “detailed” or “basic.” If you traveled within one state in the USA, you can create a large map of that state by itself by selecting your state from the state menu for "United States of America."
  • Beneath the map, you can click “Enlarge” to get a larger version of your map.
  • Go to “File” and “Print.” Once you have a paper copy of your map, draw your vacation route, noting where you may have stopped along the way.

Learn about the travels of Marco Polo and the new and interesting things he saw, through “Marco Polo and His Travels,” from the Silk Road Foundation from the EDSITEment-reviewed website, Ask Asia, then follow his route using the interactive map and questions.

Compare your trip with Marco Polo’s journey. Complete the provided PDF chart.

Grades 68: Keep a travel journal while on your vacation. In your travel journal, describe

  • Where you went
  • How you got there
  • Your travel companions
  • Where you stayed
  • What you did while there
  • Your impressions of the people you saw
  • Things you encountered

You may have been bored driving in a cramped car all day or spending endless hours waiting in airports to board planes. If you think traveling today is hard, and sometimes not so fun, read about Harriet Palmer’s journey to the Oregon Territory in the 1850s. Although long, Harriet’s trip had plenty of excitement and adventure. You can complete the chart provided recording information about your trip, and think about how your journey compared with hers.

Would you recommend the trip you took to your friends or cousins? If so, you may want to use the provided brochure template to make a tourist guide of your vacation destination. Use the brochure to highlight your favorite activities and show others why this is a good place to take a vacation.

Pretend you’re the producer of a reality TV program, scouting out a location in the western United States for next season’s show. While looking for a site, you come across a pamphlet from the nineteenth century that promotes settlement in the Oregon Territory. What sort of information do you think this pamphlet would contain? Create the pamphlet using the brochure template provided. Be sure to include all the benefits of going west as well as the supplies needed for the journey.

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Grades 9–12

When summer vacation is over and you return to school, you know one of your first writing assignments will be to describe your summer. Even if you stayed home, you may have discovered new things about where you live and experienced events that made you think differently about the place where you grew up.

Read Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” for ideas on how to use your senses to write about the feelings a place invokes in you. Think about your vacation site or home town, and record your thoughts through the following:

  • Make a list of the sounds, smells, and sights that distinguish this place.
  • Make a list of verbs that relate to this location.
  • Use this information to compose a poem about the site and try to incorporate some of the literary techniques used by Sandburg in “Chicago.” (i.e., personification)

Also through EDSITEment, students can travel virtually to many places both in the U.S. and around the world. They can:

Featured lessons

Featured websites

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Chicago children on train platform going to summer camp, 1905. Image courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.