The following post was written by Victoria Shanghai Academy Deputy Principal Les Millard, who has partnered with Rustic Pathways for four years to provide his students with transformative travel experiences. Les plans all the CAS Week trips and other experiential learning opportunities for students at the school in Hong Kong. Victoria Shanghai Academy sends about 750 students on 28 trips to destinations in Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe—many with Rustic.
Les’ understanding of the importance of extending learning experiences beyond the classroom began when he was a student growing up in New Zealand. And he has applied those early lessons to his career as an educator.
Parents whose students attend international schools are asked (expected) to finance school trips as part of their child’s school experience. We as educators are obliged to ensure that they get a satisfactory return on investment (ROI) in the form of educational value. All too often this ROI is not readily evident to parents in the trip preparation, execution, and follow-up.
Changing demands in learning highlight the importance of experiential trips, but 21st-century skills are necessary to give them credibility as educational experiences.
Educational best practices demand that we prepare students to succeed in an evolving world by teaching students to develop a broader skill set that will allow them to take their places in the world more than ever before.
“These skills have always been important for students, though they are particularly important in our information-based economy,” according to Thoughtful Learning. “…To hold information-age jobs, though, students also need to think deeply about issues, solve problems creatively, work in teams, communicate clearly in many media, learn ever-changing technologies, and deal with a flood of information. The rapid changes in our world require students to be flexible, to take the initiative and lead when necessary, and to produce something new and useful.”
Connecting the learning from within the classroom to experiences outside its walls is critical in developing young minds and “more teachers are stepping out of the classroom to encourage real world learning and self-discovery,” according to the IB Blog.
This applies to all curriculum models. So how do we do this? It is not just content knowledge that we are instilling in students, but essential skills like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.
These skills help students learn and are vital to success in school and beyond. They’re interdisciplinary and not tied to any specific subject. Knowledge also is not necessarily tied to discrete subjects.
Given that skills and knowledge are developed despite individual disciplines, experiential learning is a natural extension of the classroom. Marine and Environmental Field Studies in Fiji is a Rustic Pathways program that exemplifies this.
While possible to incorporate a number of subjects into the program, it is not necessary to incorporate all of them because some will have stronger connections than others. The key is to not force these connections.
The following are a list of curriculum unit outcomes that we identified with the help of our Rustic Program Coordinator as part of the Marine and Environmental Field Studies Program.
Introduce the service element into the trip and it further contributes to the global learning dimension of the experience. The skills, knowledge, and understanding that come from service are sometimes not considered when quantifying these as important outcomes.
With focused attention on specific curriculum unit outcomes, the educational purpose can be explained and parents will have greater belief in the program’s credibility and the overall development of their sons and daughters—answering the question about ROI.
Please leave your questions for Les Millard in the comments below. Visit Rustic Pathways Group Travel online to find the perfect immersive travel experiences for your students to align with their classroom curriculum.
Jack has spent his professional career as a writer and editor. Before joining Rustic, he worked as a journalist in Kansas and Colorado, taught English in Swaziland, and transitioned to marketing roles in the Boston and New York startup worlds. Jack is excited to channel his love of storytelling and his appreciation for education as Rustic’s Content Production Manager. When not working, Jack is either watching baseball or planning his next adventure. Jack and his wife, Blythe, live in Brooklyn.