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Frequent travelers report frustration with travel delays, lousy food, and check-in lines. But there is no such complaining in Deb Meyer’s 2nd grade classroom at Elmhurst School in West Toledo. Her students do a lot of “traveling” as they study various countries, and they find their trips to be fun and exciting.

Meyer, a 13-year teaching veteran who's led kindergarten and second grade classrooms, has been at Elmhurst for seven years. "The primary grade students are so engaging and eager to learn," Meyer says. "They keep me on my toes as I continue to find ways to keep them
thinking and working at the edges of
their understanding.”

Meyer’s “travel program”  is based on an idea she got from Toledo Public Schools colleague Barb Morgan, who wanted a way to introduce her students to a new classmate from China. The children learn about various cultures from around the world by going there, taking a plane ride and enjoying all the country has to offer — without leaving
their classroom.

The children do their homework before the trip. They study traditions, foods, clothing, weather, and even common phrases in the native language, and hear guest speakers talk about life in the country they are studying. They pack travel bags and report to the classroom airport, where parents are waiting to check the students’ passports and boarding passes. They watch in-flight movies (like Big Bird Goes to China) and arrive in the country, ready to immerse themselves in the culture.

During their visit to China, for example, the children made Chinese lanterns and used watercolors to paint Chinese dragons, then spent time outdoors playing games Chinese children enjoy. Chinese food was on the menu, and the lesson at lunch was how to use chopsticks. Many children come dressed for the trips in native costumes, and Meyer is grateful to see so many parents involved in the planning and presentation of the travel day activities. Her classroom has included children from China, and she says her students are excited to have the parents of those students participating in the events.

Meyer and her students have visited Mexico, Ireland, China, Japan, and Scotland, and she reports that many parents and students comment on their memories of the trips long after their time in her classroom. She laughs as she recalls a student whose trip day was postponed because of a snow day. “She was so upset about the trip being delayed that her older siblings, who were former students, spent the day making a trip for her!”

“I know kids learn by being engaged and active in their learning,” Meyer explained. “This activity stretches their minds with the knowledge of the world, and how similar and different we all are. They learn it is okay and exciting to be different from each other. This helps build up children’s self-esteem and they discover uniqueness in their own thoughts and personalities. My hope is to create a lasting impression that learning is fun and exciting.”