With the school year getting ready to start, I wanted to share a great lesson that was done by a teacher I used to teach with. This teacher taught social studies to 6th graders and this was one of my favorite activities she did yearly with the students. If you are a teacher, or know a teacher, this may be activity to think about.
Every year, a note was sent home to parents about one month before the holiday break. Of course, this activity can be done at any time, but many people travel over the holidays so it worked out well. In this note, the teacher asked for children, if they wished, to bring a new stuffed animal to school by a certain date. This wasn’t a mandatory activity, so not every child was expected to bring something back. We were usually happy if we got three stuffed animals brought to us!
The teacher then explained exactly what the stuffed animal would be used for. The stuffed animal would be traveling. Attached to the stuffed animal was an explanation of what the animal was (a school activity that would allow for people throughout the world to fill out information about each place the animal showed up) a place for photos and a log for people to write comments. There was also a note attached to it that said to please mail the animal back to the address of our school by a specific date.
The animals were then sent out with children or teachers who were traveling over the holiday break. The stuffed animals were taken on planes, cars and even a cruise ship. They were then handed off from person to person in various areas. For example, one of our teachers traveled overseas every year during the holidays. One year she took a stuffed animal to Turkey with her and gave it to someone who was visiting from England. I will admit we were able, thanks to this well-traveled teacher, get our bears to many, many different countries.
The person from England filled out information about herself, where she was from and where and how she got the bear. The person from England then returned to England, took a picture of herself with the bear near her home in England and then passed the bear off to a friend who was traveling to another country. This bear traveled to several different countries before making its way back to our school in Iowa.
Let me share with you just how highly anticipated the return of the stuffed animals were in our school. These were children who were low-income, poverty level students, with a few middle-class kids mixed in. This bear activity was thrilling for them. The kids literally gasped with excitement as each bear was returned to us and each bear’s experiences were shared. The students then had a blast pinpointing on a world map where each bear traveled.
Not only did the kids learn about new countries, they learned about the people who lived in them. The neat thing about this travel activity is that homeschool students can do it, or a preschool class, or even a mom who stays home with her kids can try it. It is educational and very interesting!