Although I never actually had a teacher who asked us to write about what we had done the previous summer, the idea is part of our culture. Vacations and travel aren’t just about relaxing. We often learn things about the places we visit, the people we meet or with whom we are traveling and even ourselves. So is it any wonder that with a little intentionality, you can enhance the children’s or teen Bible class you teach when you travel?
You may be wondering how a trip to visit Grandma on the farm, New York City or Yellowstone has anything to do with the second grade Bible class you teach on Sunday mornings or the teen small group you lead during the week. That’s because you have been looking at these trips through your personal lens and not from the viewpoint of an educator. Because, volunteer or not, you are a religious educator – even if you’ve never taken an education class in your life. So it’s time we teach you how master teachers think on vacation!
First, teachers always check out exhibits designed for children. From zoos to historic homes and national parks, most now have exhibits designed to encourage children and teens to learn more about the topic. Really look at the exhibits. How do they engage children? Why are children drawn to them (half the fun is watching random children and teens interact with the various displays)? Can you take the exhibits and adapt them somehow for your classroom?
Next look at what you actually came to see. But look at it through your Bible class teacher’s lens. Is there something you see or can learn that your Bible students would benefit from learning, too? Orchards, zoos, farms and aquariums have lots of direct ties. Many museums have items or entire collections devoted to Bible times and cultures. Or maybe you are in an historic church with religious art that you can use photos of to teach your students something important. Over the years I have taken lots of great photos of things to share online or with my students.Take photos and jot down key information so you don’t forget it. (I use either the note app on my phone, the feature to add info to each photo on iPhones or in a pinch, I also take a photo of the description of the item either right before or after the photo of the actual item of interest.)
Then make sure to visit every gift shop. Most of the time, there isn’t really much, but every now and then you find treasures that can be used in decorating your room, to show as examples or to use in activities. You may even want to start a personal lending library of quality children’s books.
Don’t forget to pay attention as you are walking from place to place. Often the best nature photos are ones you capture while sitting and waiting for someone or strolling along a garden path. Looking down while you walk along the shoreline will often results in shells, sea glass or rocks you can use (assuming the location allows it of course).
And when you do have some leisure time? Mix in a few quality non-fiction books or articles with your favorite fiction. We have several free ministry best practices ebooks on our website that won’t even take up space in your luggage! (Under the resources tab on our website www.teachonereachone.org)
The next time you go on a staycation, day trip or vacation, think like a master teacher. Who knows what amazing things you may find to enhance your Bible class?!