Preparing For Your Trip

Whether it’s an individual or a coordinated group effort, fundraising is a great way to make educational travel more affordable for you and your students. It can also instill a greater sense of ownership and gratitude for the trip and the destinations that will be visited. A simple online search of sites such as Fundraiser Help will help generate ideas along with services and products to aid in fundraising. Of course, most of these are related to some type of sale of goods or services (candy bars, gift cards, subscriptions, etc). We don’t want to regenerate that type of list here. We’d prefer to give you some ideas that are more home-grown and involve your students and community in some of the themes and places they will experience on their school trip. Take a look at the list below for some inspiration.


Update Your Family Archives

We live in a world of fast-changing technology, and places like the National Archives and Library of Congress are trying to keep up by copying old photos and film into digital format. Just as the nation is trying to keep their treasures preserved and up to date, families across the country are wondering how to keep their pictures and possessions up to date as well.

The technology for these updates are typical features in many of the all-in-one printers/scanners and DVD recorders that many of your students already have in their homes. With this hands on learning task, and depending on the available technology, students or an entire class can offer scanning and recording services for their extended family and community. These services would primarily be scanning old photos or letters into digital form (to be burned onto a CD) and copying VCR home movies onto a DVD (requires VCR / DVD recorder combo). Other options, if the technology is available, would be to record old cassette tapes onto CD’s or old silent film reels onto DVD.

We really like this exercise because it meets a need in the community and shows the value of safeguarding family treasures to be shared with future generations. It also honors local history as students are exploring our national history. A great extension of this exercise would be to scan photos from grandparents or great grandparents who served in Vietnam or WWII and make a copy of pictures from their military service to be left at one of those memorials (The US Park Service collects such personal items from the memorials and archives them). You as a teacher might want to combine this with a larger class assignment on local and family history. Perhaps most importantly, it allows the community to invest in the students’ school trip, not only financially, but with their personal histories.

Community Honors Banquet

Your class can organize and host a dinner banquet which honors the service of different members of the community. This can lead directly to your class honoring their own community at relevant sites when they visit Washington DC. The most stand-out people to honor would be military veterans but it would also be proper to honor family members of active duty personnel. There will be many sites, particularly in Washington DC, to honor veterans of particular wars or servicemen in specific branches of military service.

Beyond military service, there are also sites that honor the sacrifices and struggles of police officers, civil rights activists, victims of genocide, victims of communism, Japanese Americans held in internment camps, members of the free press, medical corps, peace corps, educators, environmental advocates and victims of September 11th. There are many segments of the local community that can be honored on the national stage.

A very good formula for this event would be to match up students with selected members of the community. For Example: a veteran of WWII, Korean, Vietnam. The spouse or family of someone killed in action. The family of someone on active duty, a police officer, civil rights advocate, local journalist, local doctor, esteemed teacher, etc. The students themselves would be the featured speakers, reading bios of those honored or perhaps reading letters written during their service, with a slideshow of relevant images in the background. This not only engages the students more in the stories of their community, but it relieves some of the attention from those being honored – it is often those who have sacrificed the most who are hesitant to talk about their service publicly. Each honored guest would then contribute some personal item that the corresponding students will take with them on their trip to leave at the appropriate site or memorial on their behalf (for example: the copy of a photo, a letter, memorabilia from their profession, or a personal memento).

The real beauty of such an event would be sending the students with personal and emotional contributions from directly within the community, not just asking for financial contributions. It is connecting local and personal history to the larger spectrum of our national history. A good time for such an event would be around Veteran’s Day for a spring or summer trip, and around Memorial Day for a fall trip. As this event is designed to involve various members of the community, it is likely that the people will be eager to contribute their resources at minimal costs for things such as space facilities, food catering, door prizes, and promotions.

Genealogy Search

Students can be trained or train themselves through online research and databases to look up genealogy information. They can look up their own family histories, and could offer to do the same for other families in the community. There are some free searches, but the most comprehensive searches have subscription fees, such as at $13/month. If you’re a subscribing member, students could offer research services for people in the community at a nominal cost to recover the subscription fee and raise funds for their history trip. With complete names and birth dates of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, students could build an extensive “family tree” for interested individuals to trace their ethnic roots and heritage in the United States and abroad. This would be a perfect exercise to do for a group going to Ellis Island in New York and also corroborates the efforts of the National Archives in DC.

People of the Past Program

Your students can put on a program or performance of re-enacting certain people of the past. They can dress up like historical figures and give a talk in first person about their lives and the time period they lived in. It will be easier to draw connections with famous figures who have memorials and statues in the destinations they’ll visit. It could also be fitting to re-enact a little known or even fictitious character from a certain time period.

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