A California Teacher’s Guide to Making Student Travel Inclusive at Your School

Linda Carpenter has been an associate professor of English, Speech & the Humanities for Coastline College for the past 38 years. She recently retired from Edison High School where she taught Honors English, American Literature, & Art of Film and served as the Academic Coach for 36 years. She also created three study abroad classes and has served as the group leader for 45 student tours. She began traveling with students in 1986 and has introduced more than 1500 adolescent and adult travelers to the wonders of the world. She has led sojourns to 35 countries and to every continent except Antarctica.

Every teacher, when they decide to lead an educational trip abroad, has to deal with how to make the trip accessible to everyone. In California, the law specifically states that schools may not charge students any fees for extra-curricular or academic programs tied in with the curriculum. Some districts have chosen to interpret this law in the strictest sense (Everybody plays-Nobody Pays) and prohibit all extra-curricular programs during the school calendar which have an additional cost. This would include field trips, theater outings, athletic events and yes, educational odysseys abroad. Some school organizations like bands, choirs, and Model United Nations groups have found ways to circumvent this ordinance by making certain that an alternate activity is offered to students who cannot afford to attend a given trip.

Create A Global Citizens Club

One way for teachers interested in starting a travel program at their school to navigate this complicated issue is to create a Global Citizens Club, open to every student in their school. Administrators are almost always willing to grant a charter to such an inclusive club as it gives the students and the school another opportunity to meet their WASC requirements for state accreditation. And creating a club is easy; it could even meet alongside your a language club. Or, for a Social Studies teacher planning a world War II trip to France and Germany, the meetings could include explorations, films, activities, games, ethnic foods, scavenger hunts and discussions of the destination where the visit is planned at some future date.

You might make your meetings weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The point of the meetings is to introduce the destinations to the students who attend and to build the desire to explore the world in all of them. I would tell the students who attended my travel club meetings that someday they would all have the opportunity to travel the world and I wanted to prepare them for what they would see and do. The meetings also provided an opportunity for curriculum enrichment and enhancing the common core.

Making The Trip Affordable

In most of our public schools, there will be a fair percentage of the students who struggle with the cost of a student trip abroad and many teachers are hesitant to even think about offering such an adventure. Beginning to organize and plan a trip two years in advance and offering fund-raising opportunities is just one way you can qualify more of your students to be a part of your trip. ACIS offers an automatic payment plan that makes it easy for the students to pay for their own trips over the two year period.

Some of the students who attended my meetings were not in my class but were determined that they would go with me after their senior year. When I saw that a student truly wanted to be part of a trip I had organized but could not afford the entire cost, I would look for ways to make it happen: using stipend money from ACIS as scholarships for my students. Students who did individual fundraising; i.e. – selling Yankee Candles and See’s Candy were far more successful than those who just wanted to participate in a handful of car washes, bake sales, rummage sales and restaurant evenings. I did have a few enterprising students who created Go Fund Me pages, or solicited money from organizations (The Elks, Lions, Rotary etc), in exchange for doing presentations for them upon their return.

Enlist the Students

Since setting up these meetings on a weekly schedule can be time-consuming I made my travel club officers responsible for two meetings a month. These same students would often become my student ambassadors and would write about their experiences on college essays which earned them admission and often scholarships to the university of their choosing.

Making travel accessible to all students in your school may indeed be a challenge, but that should not keep you from giving those who wish to travel the opportunity to change their lives. The creation of a travel club or Global Citizens Club will assist you in providing global education beyond the classroom. Often times Freshmen who attended my meetings just for the food, entertainment and learning experience and never dreamed they could afford such an adventure, actually ended up going with me on a trip at the end of their senior year. They usually found these adventures the pinnacle of their high school career. They not only honed their language skills, they also cultivated their problem-solving and decision-making abilities. They returned from their voyages with an entirely different perspective which made them not only better global citizens, but also better Americans.

Where there is a will there is a way, and if you truly want to afford your students this opportunity of a lifetime, there are many ways to make it happen.

To learn more about how Linda set up her travel program or ask her about anything student travel related, send her an email at LLCarpentr@aol.com

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7 Comments

  • Anna Amalia Costes

    February 03, 02 2017 02:25:59

    Thank you, Linda, for such a useful article! Having seen you “in action” on so many of your adventures abroad with your devoted students (and sometimes parents), I can attest to the power of creating the Global Citizen Club to inspire young people to learn about the wide world and eventually travel. All of your students arrived well prepared not only with background information about the places on the itineraries, but also with travel skills that allowed them to represent their families, school, Group Leader, and the USA in the best possible light. These travel experiences are gifts that last a lifetime and act to make the world a more humane place.

    • Linda Carpenter

      February 06, 02 2017 06:57:16

      Thank you, Anna, for changing the lives of so many of my students. In reflection, they remember you as their favorite tour manager ever as you brilliantly guided them through the wonders of Greece, Italy, the Greek Islands, The Adriatic Coast, Ephesus and Istanbul, making each locale come alive with history and culture. They are still talking about the” catastrophic” deals you got us in the Plaka and the amazing seats you procured for us to the Yanni concert in the Odeon of Herod Atticus. Thanks for the Memories!

  • Randy White

    February 03, 02 2017 04:39:38

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful information, Linda! I think the Global Citizens Club is a wonderful idea and it is the kind of club that would work with almost every school. I love your story about the 9th grader who came for the food and wound up being a global traveler! That makes this concept totally worthwhile! Cheers to you Linda Carpenter!!!

  • Pam Skaar Meier

    February 03, 02 2017 09:40:51

    I loved your ideas Linda! I am going to see about getting a travel club going too! Thanks for dedicating 36 years to making the world a better place through traveling with your students! Pam Skaar Meier

  • Debi Campbell

    February 04, 02 2017 11:53:24

    I had the honor of joining an ACIS trip to Cuba last Spring. Linda Carpenter was our fearless leader. The trip was affordable and a delightful adventure. Every detail was carefully planned and flawlessly executed. She attends to individual needs and communicates well. I cannot wait until our next travel adventure!

  • Ashley Maxwell

    September 26, 09 2017 08:49:23

    I really appreciate your comment about how school trips can be fun and can be paid for through fundraising. I like how you said that it’s a great adventure to be in a different country and immersed in a new culture. I am thinking about letting my daughter to a study abroad with a school group, and we are looking into travel agencies.

    • Marc Amigone

      October 02, 10 2017 11:03:04

      Thanks Ashley! We’d be happy to give you more information!

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