Educators Programs in United States
Where We Travel
The USA offers diverse travel experiences across the country! From the cultural richness of New Orleans to the warmth and beauty of Hawaii and the natural wonders of Alaska… The USA has a little bit of everything. We take our student travelers to Hawaii, Alaska, New Orleans, and the Grand Canyon!
Indigenous populations inhabited the territory of the United States long before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. After his arrival, Native Americans were pushed out of their land as Europeans increasingly moved to the New World during the 1600s. The original thirteen colonies were established between 1607 and 1732 under British rule. They were controlled by Britain until 1776 when the colonies declared their independence and fought in the Revolutionary War until their victory in 1783.
Under the Treaty of Paris in 1783 the United States of America was officially granted sovereignty. In the following centuries, the United States expanded west and added 37 states to the Union. In 1861 a Civil War broke out between the northern Union and the southern Confederacy when the 11 slave-holding states of the Confederacy wished to secede from the Union.
The Union claimed victory in 1865 and the following years of reconstruction saw the extension of rights to African Americans. In 1917, the U.S. entered World War I and helped fund the Allied victory. After a decade of prosperity, the stock market crashed in 1929 and the country experienced an incredible economic downturn known as the Great Depression.
The United States entered World War II in 1941 and emerged as the opposition superpower to the Soviet Union. The following years marked the era known as the Cold War until the dissolving of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Hawaii is located about 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland and nearly 4,000 miles from Japan, making it a very isolated population center. It’s the only U.S. state outside of North America and is home to 1.4 million people, living on seven of the islands.
Overall, the state includes 137 islands extending across more than 1500 miles. Hawaii Island, also called the Big Island, is by far the largest in the archipelago, being similar in size to the state of Connecticut. It’s home to Volcanoes National Park, where the Kīlauea volcano has been active in 2023.
Six of the major islands are popular traveler destinations. They are Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Maui, and the island of Hawaiʻi.
The northwestern Hawaiian islands are uninhabited and are known as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. They’re a protected conservation center and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Conservation zones around the islands stretch across 200 nautical miles to provide protection for submerged reefs, sunken islands and marine life. Overall, Papahanaumokuakea covers more than 580,000 square miles, which is bigger than all of America’s national parks combined.
The state has two official languages – English and the native Hawaiian language Olelo Hawai’i. Hawaii had no written language before the arrival of Christian missionaries in the early 1800s. Stories were passed down orally through songs and poems.
The missionaries created a written Hawaiian language with 12 letters. It includes the five vowels, seven consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p and w) and the ‘okina symbol that’s written as a single quotation mark. It indicates a glottal stop.
The most common word you may hear in Hawaii is “Aloha.” It combines “Alo” for spirit or presence and “ha” for breath, so the word means much more than hello. Aloha is a way of sending positive energy – a breath of life.
Other Hawaiian words you may hear include:
- Mahalo – Thank you
- A hui hou – Until we meet again
- Howzit? – How are you?
- ’A’ ole pilikia – You’re welcome/ No problem
- ‘o ia! – There you have it! – used to cheer on performers
- Ohana – Family
- E Como Mai – Welcome
- ‘Aina – The land or that which feeds us
- Mauka – Mountain
- Makai – Ocean
- Honu – Green sea turtle
- Heiau – Shrine or place of worship
- Pupu – Appetizer
- ‘Ono grinds – Delicious food
Aside from English and Hawaiian, about 600,000 people in the state speak Hawaiian Pidgin – also called Hawaiʻi Creole English – as their native language. It’s also spoken as a second language by thousands more.
Did you know big wave surfing originated in Hawai’i? Kings and queens were the only ones allowed to surf back in the day, but now this cultural activity it is a world renowned, adrenaline pumping sport for many.
Weather in Hawaii
The weather is relatively mild from June – August. June has the most sunshine and the least amount of rain, though it does depend on where you are. On the Big Island, the Kona side on the west has plenty of beaches and mostly dry weather. Hilo on the east is on the rainy side of the island. Here are the average weather conditions during these months on the beaches.
|High Temps||74 F||75 F||75 F|
|Low Temps||67 F||68 F||69 F|
|Avg Rainfall||1.1 in.||1.61 in.||2.52 in.|
Religion in Hawaii
Like other U.S. states there is a mixture of religions practiced in Hawaii. Some native Hawaiians follow the traditional Hawaiian religion. It is a polytheistic animistic religion that believes in the presence of spirits in nature, such as the tides, the sky and volcanic activity. The religion has four gods:
- Kāne – The creator and god of light
- Kanaloa – God of the ocean and winds
- Kū – God of war
- Lono – God of agriculture
The ethnic breakdown in 2020 in Hawaii was:
10.9% Hispanic, 21.4% white, 1.9% black, 0.2% American Indian/Alaska Native and 45.6% Asian/Pacific Islander.
Food & Drink in Hawaii
A journey to Hawaii isn’t complete without trying some of the local foods. Here are few dishes you may enjoy while traveling:
- Hawaiian Lau Lau Pork – Made of pork and butterfish wrapped in lu’au leaves and ti leaves
- Poke – Ahi tuna with onions, sesame seeds, limu seaweed and soy sauce
- Poi – Taro root paste.
- Kalua Pua’a – Pork slow-roasted in an underground oven often served over rice
- Pipi Kalua – Dried flank steak that is charbroiled and often marinated in a sauce
- Loco Moco – Hamburger patty topped with gravy and a fried egg placed on top of rice
- Manapua – Steamed bun stuffed with a filling such as beans, pork, or sweet potato
- Hawaiian Haupia – A dessert made with coconut milk.
Hawaiian Social Norms & Expectations
Hawaiians love to hug. They hug for hellos and goodbyes and for thank you’s, so don’t be shocked if you get a hug. In addition to this, here are a few other social expectations:
- Take your shoes off before entering someone’s home.
- Feel free to grab a banana, mango or another piece of fruit if it’s placed in a public area for sharing. People in Hawaii like to share their harvests.
- Avoid taking rocks or sand from the beach or lava rocks from a volcano with you. It’s said to bring you bad luck.
- Avoid touching wild animals in the water and on land.
- Accept a lei if it’s offered and wear it as long as you’re in the presence of the giver. Only wear it on your neck. Don’t put it on your head or wrist.
- Respect the sacred sites that are scattered throughout the islands
- Avoid altering nature. You don’t want to pick flowers or leaves or rearrange rocks unless asked.
- Respect older people who are called the Kupuna.
- Be respectful during a hula dance.
In general, remember that Hawaii is a state where nature is treasured, so be careful while you’re taking in the views.
Other Fun Facts About Hawaii
- British explorer James Cook is recognized as the first European to navigate to the Hawaiian Islands. A year later he was killed at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii Island during a conflict with native Hawaiians. Despite his controversial role in the state, he did share scientific and geographical knowledge.
- In 1877, Hawaiian Princess Miriam Likelike granted the British the parcel of land where Cook died so a monument in his memory could be installed.
- Hawaii has its own time zone, Hawaii Standard Time, and does not observe daylight saving time. The state is two to three hours behind the Pacific Time Zone depending on the time of year.
- Hawaii’s state motto is Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono, which means, “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
- Dozens of movies have been partially filmed in Hawaii. This includes South Pacific (1958), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Avatar (2009), Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and the Jurassic Park movies (1993 – 2022).
- Kilauea means “spewing” so it’s an appropriate name for the shield volcano that’s been recently active in Volcanoes National Park.
- Hawaii has palaces that were once occupied by Hawaiian royalty during the Kingdom of Hawaii. One of them – Iolani Palace in Honolulu – was wired for electricity in 1886, which was five years before the White House.
- Ka Lae on Hawaii island is the southernmost point in all the 50 states.
- Mauna Kea is technically the world’s tallest mountain if you measure it from the ocean floor to its height above sea level. Mount Everest has the highest altitude.
- The Big Island is unusual because it has 10 climate zones, including humid tropical, arid, and even some snow on the Mauna Kea Volcano.
- Hawaii does not really have smog, but it does have vog from volcanic activity, which can make for beautiful sunsets and moon views.
- Each island in Hawaii has an official color and flower. For Big Island the color is red and the flower is the red ohia lehua blossom.
- Hawaii has no native land snakes. There are tiny nonvenomous Brahminy Blind Snakes in the state that hitched there from the Philippines. To prevent other invaders, there are strict laws against snake ownership. Rarely, Hawaii’s native yellow-bellied sea snake will be seen slithering through the water.
- Hawaii also does not have squirrels and pet gerbils and hamsters are banned. Likewise, Hawaii is considered rabies-free.
Alaska has a huge amount of land, stretching across 663,300 square miles. That’s larger than Texas, California and Montana combined. On the east, the state borders Canada’s Yukon Territory and British Columbia. On the west, the state is only about 50 miles from Russia.
Alaska is surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Inland the state population includes about 733,000 people. Approximately 16% of that population is American Indian or Alaskan natives who are part of 224 federally recognized tribes. Overall, more than half of the state’s population lives in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau.
The state capital of Juneau is inaccessible by road. This is because a large icefield separates Juneau from British Columbia. Visitors need to get to the city by sea or air.
The state includes the largest national park – Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which has 13.2 million acres and is a popular travel destination.
Weather in Alaska
July is the warmest month in Anchorage, Alaska, and there’s generally no snow from June-August. There’s also many hours of daylight during this time of year. Here are the average weather conditions you could expect in Anchorage from June-August:
|High Temps||58 F||62 F||60 F|
|Low Temps||47 F||51 F||50 F|
|Avg Rainfall||0.75 in.||1.22 in.||1.57 in.|
Languages in Alaska
English is just one of the official languages in Alaska. The state also recognizes 20 native languages, including Ahtna, Unangam Tunuu/Aleut, Alutiiq/Sugpiaq and Dena’ina.
Here are examples of how the simple word “yes” can vary with the languages:
- Aleut: aang
- Proto-Eskimo: *aa/ii
- Sirenik: ii
- Alutiiq Yup’ik: ii-i
Here are a few other words and phrases in some of the native languages:
Central Alaskan Yup’ik
- Cama-i: Hello/Good to see you
- Piura: Goodbye
- Nda’ich’ q’u t’int’a?: How are you?
- Háw’aa: Thank you
- Kiña ilviñ?: What’s your name?
- Quyanaghhalek tagilusi: Welcome/Thank you for coming
Religion in Alaska
Many Alaska native religions follow animism, which is a belief that objects, natural phenomena, and creatures have a spiritual nature. They also generally believe that shamans can interact with these spirits.
The Inuit are among those who have followed such religious ideas. However, today a number of Inuits have adopted Christianity as their religion and pass along native beliefs as part of their cultural tradition.
15 Key Facts about Alaska
Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes, from majestic glaciers to untouched wilderness captivate those with adventurous hearts. Its diverse wildlife, rich cultures, and endless outdoor activities make it an exciting destination. Here’s some fascinating facts about Alaska:
- Alaska was reached by outsiders in 1741. Years later in 1784 Russia founded a colony on Kodiak Island.
- The United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars. Critics of the purchase called it “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox.” That criticism declined dramatically when gold was discovered, prompting the Klondike Gold Rush between 1896 and 1899.
- During the gold rush, some miners traded gold for potatoes since they’re rich in vitamin C.
- The name Alaska comes from the Aleut word Alyeska, meaning “The Great Land.”
- A 14-year-old orphan who was an Alaska native designed the state flag. Benny Benson’s design was chosen over 700 other submissions. It features a blue background, the North Star and eight stars in the shape of the big dipper.
- Dog mushing is the official state sport, and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the state’s largest sporting event.
- The Alaskan malamute is one of the oldest domesticated dog breeds in the world, tracing back 2,000 to 3,000 years.
- At least nine native groups have used unique names for Denali. Those names generally translate to “the tall one” or “mountain big.”
- The northern lights are year round, although they are harder to see when the daylight is long. The best time to see the northern lights in Alaska is between August and April.
- A geographic survey in 2011 found there were about 27,000 glaciers in Alaska.
- Almost one-third of Alaska’s land is in the Arctic Circle.
- The lowest temperature recorded in Alaska was -79.8 degrees at Prospect Creek in 1971.
- The Battle of Attu was the only land battle fought in North America during World War II. It broke out after the Japanese invaded Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The Americans reclaimed the islands in 1943. About 2800 people died in the conflict.
- The trans-Alaska pipeline stretches more than 800 miles, passing over three rugged mountain ranges.
- You can type “Alaska” on one row of a keyboard.
- The largest salmon ever caught in Alaska weighed a whopping 97 pounds.
Foods to Try in Alaska
The food can be bare-bones while in remote areas of Alaska. However, the state is known for its coffee, seafood, and berries, including cloudberries and lingonberries. Among the dishes you may be able to try are:
- Reindeer sausage
- Salmon – sockeye, silver, Chinook, chum, or humpback
- Fish and chips
- King crab legs
- Caribou steak
- Bison burgers
- Sourdough bread
- Roadside jerky
- Wild berry chocolates
- Berry cobbler
- Akutaq – Eskimo ice cream
Environmental Challenges: The Effects of Climate Change in Alaska
Alaska has faced substantial environmental issues, including the loss of sea ice and permafrost, wildfires and coastal flooding. You can see the effects of climate change when visiting the Harding Icefield. It’s considered one of the top ten places in the world to hike.
The Exit Glacier in the icefield area got its name for serving as the place where a team completed the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in the 1960s. Ten people attempted the crossing during that expedition, but only four made it across. It took them eight days to complete the journey.
Today the Exit Glacier shows the dramatic effects of climate change. The roadway leading to the glacier’s parking lot is lined with signs that show how far the glacier extended in the past. The first sign has a date in the 1800s. You have to drive for miles to reach the next marker from the early 1900s and miles more to get to signs with dates later in the century.
More About the USA
Scuba Dive California’s Channel Islands
Ever been SCUBA diving? Did you know off the Coast of California, the kelp forests are home to over 700 marine species? It is one of the most amazing places to spot different animals both above and below the surface.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is a backpackers dream. It crosses through 14 states and have more than 10 peaks over a mile high! Haven’t you ever wondered HOW people can hike that far?
Paddling Though the Heart of the Grand Canyon
To paddle the Grand Canyon is the equivalent of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania or spending three weeks in the wilderness of rural Laos—a challenge for mind, body, and heart.
When in the United States, you will feast on a variety of foods! Due to the diverse population of the United States, you can find food from all regions of the world in many U.S. cities. The South is most well known for its fried chicken and sweet tea, but from delicious Mexican food in California to spicy Creole dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo in New Orleans, food is often a reflection of the countries from which Americans have immigrated.
All American Apple Pie
“What’s more American than apple pie?” You can expect a giant scope of vanilla ice cream right next a steaming slice. Take a shot at making this cinnamon apple delight at home with your family.
Louisiana’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret
For the last 40 years Alzina Toups has been cooking some fo the world’s greatest Cajun cuisine in her humble restaurant.
The Evolution of American Barbecue
An article by Smithsonian covering how barbecue traditions grew from Caribbean roots to the four main styles we see today: Memphis, Tenn.; North Carolina; Kansas City; and Texas.
The American Barbecue Showdown
A Netflix series of the best in the country bottling for the title of American Barbecue Champion.
Arts and Culture
The Wizard of Oz
One of the most famous and classic US American movies of all time- The Wizard of Oz. If you haven’t seen it, you must! If you have, what a great time to watch it again!
Jazz in New Orleans
The birthplace of Jazz, Louisiana is rich in history of music and dance. Discover history, musicians and the best places to hear jazz music here.
Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
A classic covering water history and issues in Western USA – from settlers lured to the arid West to the controversy surrounding water projects and dams.
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America
The Mississippi flood of 1927 was one of the greatest natural disasters America has ever seen, transforming politics and society forever.
12 Interesting USA Facts
- Although English is the most commonly spoken language in the United States and is the language used in the federal government, the country has no official language.
- California grows more food than any other state.
- Today, over 60 percent of Americans are considered to be overweight.
- Peanut butter was invented by the brilliant African-American scientist George Washington Carver.
- In the United States, 21 percent of all children live in poverty, a poverty rate higher than that of virtually all other developed nations.
- Denali (formerly named Mt. McKinley) in Alaska is the highest point in North America, while Death Valley, California is the lowest point.
- The lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States was –80°F (–62°C) in Prospect Creek, Alaska on January 23, 1971.
- One out of every eight United States residents lives in California.
- Louisiana produces 98 percent of the world’s crawfish.
- Oregon and New Jersey are the only states without self-serve gas stations. In these states an attendant is required to pump your gas.
- The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in southern Louisiana is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world and spans 23.83 miles of water.
- The Mississippi River is the fourth largest river in the world at over 3,700 miles long. It flows from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico.