The start of a new year found me away from my desk and out of district. Actually, right out of the hemisphere, spotting penguins in the Snares Islands in the sub Antarctic south of New Zealand. It was my second trip to Antarctic climes. Last year my wife and I were able to camp overnight on the Antarctic peninsula. Our preference for the far south may come from living in a place where winter reigns supreme much of the year, but I think it has more to do with my wife's fascination with penguins, and her life long desire to see them in their natural settings. (for a cool penguin classroom tool see penguinscience.com) Traveling to the Antarctic requires considerable planning. The region is accessible only at certain times of the year, getting there is a challenge, and fitting the trip into a work schedule is never easy.
And yet it is all so worth it! The benefits of travel far outweigh the reasons not to go. Travel frees the mind and provides first hand experiences far beyond anything one can see on tv, the internet or in books. There really is no substitute for being there. If a chance comes up to go to a place you've always wanted to go - take it! Fortunately I work with colleagues who think the same way. Our Director of Instruction took a gap year and moved his whole family to live in France, and the district's superintendent and board of trustees support requests for time for international travel, believing such trips promote well rounded and better energized personnel. Human resource research supports the idea that employees who travel and move outside of their comfort zones are more likely to have the flexibility and improvisation skills to deal with the demands of the 21st century workplace.
Travel benefits students as well. Brightspark (Simplifying Student Travel) illustrates this point, with their 10 reasons why teachers should definitely consider traveling with students. SD 60 students have journeyed to Japan, Europe and South America. This spring, our secondary gifted program students are headed to China. Without exception, these journeys provide experiences above and beyond the benefits of traditional instruction. Students share their stories with family, friends and classmates, thus becoming living learning resources. Travel is real life learning that broadens a student's perspective on on other countries and cultures. St. Augustine wrote "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." Here's hoping 2012 brings people opportunities to turn as many pages as possible!