Vacation Learning

We’re recently back from a 10-day, 2000 mile road trip. Officially, it was a vacation, including visiting with family, picking up my daughter from camp and staying with friends. We had a lovely, relaxing time – even if the weather wasn’t always fully cooperative!

As I think about all we did over the 10 days, there was a tremendous amount of learning along with the fun. And guess what — the learning was FUN!

  • Geography We drove from Minnesota to Michigan and back, taking different routes there and back. We had the 13-year old do some of the navigating. He kept the maps (yes, real paper, fold-out maps) in the back with him and kept an eye on where we were going and what we were passing. He also used our iPhones to help find routes and restaurants. One afternoon, we saw three Great Lakes within a couple of hours.
  • History Since I am a historian, I talked about what I knew about the history of the areas we drove through. (I just can’t help it.) Not that I knew specifics about the area, but I knew general concepts about the fur trade, the reservation system, etc. We visited a couple of local museums that certainly helped put the details in the right place.
  • Science SandcastleWe walked through sand dunes, forests and beaches,looking at trees, rocks and critters. The weather was a significant factor in our adventures, meaning the kids had to be observant and think ahead. We built sand castles, exploring the powers of sand, water and gravity.
  • Art I learned long ago to bring a camera on hikes and activities. It can often engage a reluctant teen. Fortunately, I didn’t have a reluctant teen, but the camera was put to good use throughout the trip. We also built cairns of rocks, made sand castles and drew pictures with sticks on the beach.
  • Language Arts With hours in the car, we listened to two different books. One book had themes that were similar to another book, so we spent time discussing the similarities and differences, and the motivations of the authors. I wish I had gotten the kids to blog about the trip, but alas, that didn’t happen.
  • Music Music happens anywhere my kids go, and this trip was no exception. I had asked my 13-year old to make some good playlists for the drive, and we discussed why he had picked certain songs. My daughter was returning from a musical theater camp, so we discussed things learned.
  • Phy Ed Lots of hiking, swimming, and games!

Certainly not all our learning fell into these neat subject categories! You can’t learn about the geography of the Great Lakes without learning about history and science. Sand castles are as much art as science, as well as phy ed.

Exhibit label at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Exhibit label at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

We took a special trip to learn about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. We saw objects, videos, photos. We were on the edge of the U.S., close enough to see Canada. We spent time in the car tracking the Arthur M. Anderson, the last ship to see the Edmund Fitzgerald. It just happened to pass the museum while we were out watching. It also happened to get into port in Superior shortly before we got there. (Freaky!) We tracked the ship’s path, learned about knots and UTC (shipping time.)

What else? Lots of free exploring and inter-generational experiences. The kids were creative. They got “bored” and had to find something to do. They were active, cooperative and collaborative.

While I won’t tell the kids, it seems to me that this vacation was as much about learning as it was about relaxing and having a great time. What a great way to learn!

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