Getting students out of the classroom and into the field, when done right, can leave an enduring educational impact. This is why global programs exist! And while the intrepid teachers who travel with school programs are rightly focused on the student outcome, there are many ways that engaging experiential learning travel can have positive and profound effects on teachers as well. When a teacher is supported, prepared, and engaged during student trips, she can reap rich rewards as well, and can even see the impact translate back into her classroom on campus.
Taos, New Mexico, is one of our handpicked destinations that embodies our approach to experiential learning. We have core tenants that typically influence why we go to a place- the first is the people who live there. We do not go anywhere that we have not cultivated a rich network of local visionary collaborators. Meeting and engaging with local people is one of the keys that make the difference between a tourist visit to a truly meaningful experience. We also choose places with unique environments and habitats that offer diversity of life, rich culture, and opportunities for what we call “intellectual adrenaline”- the chance to challenge yourself and engage with your physical surroundings.
So what then, can a teacher reap from a student trip to Taos?
Expand your comfort zone! One of the most unexpected, and often underappreciated parts of a teacher’s participation in an experiential learning program is expanding her own comfort zone. Our itineraries are carefully designed with an array of activities intended to engage and promote growth for students. While this is expected to happen for student travelers, it creates a wonderful dynamic when it happens with teachers as well! Whether it is a stretch for a teacher to complete the 4 mile hike to the stunning Williams Lake at 11,000 ft in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, or if a teacher is pushing his boundaries by biting into a local green hatch chile, there will almost always be an opportunity for teachers to expand their comfort zone on these experiences. When teachers can share with the group that they, too, are being challenged a unique opportunity arises. On an experiential learning trip, students and teachers are on a different footing than in the classroom. When students can actually support and help teachers through a challenge, it contributes to the personal connections forged on the trip, and will definitely translate to better communication back on campus!
-Connect to your own community. Our expeditions focus on making connections- in Taos, we have the opportunity to visit the Picuris Pueblo, where we are graciously hosted by tribal members who share their history, culture, and stories with us. Often, a person has to step outside of his own daily life to have a clearer idea of what is possible back at home. Making community connections on expedition can help a teacher to turn the lens back to his home community, and challenge himself and students to further engage- whether through service work or just seeking connections and sharing stories in a more open and intentional way.
-Expedition mentality for your classroom: Opportunity or obstacle!
Upcoming rapid on the Rio Grande river as you are white water rafting? Learning about how to build an off-the-grid house in a desert with temperatures ranging from 90 degrees to 10 degrees? These “extreme” situations highlight the best of Expedition Mentality- our approach to meeting challenges head-on and growing in a safe, supportive way. Having conquered such tasks, or learned strategies for meeting challenges, can help teachers take this mentality back to the classroom- because 10 months of class time is most definitely an expedition! Learn how to bring your students together as a group to work through challenges, to support each other, and to grow and learn more than they may have ever thought possible.
No matter who you travel with, or what your destination, thoughtful teachers can bring back many positive gains from a student travel experience that benefit not only the students they take on expedition, but also their other pupils and campus community as well.