Educational opportunities are everywhere and I am ruthless when it comes to finding ways to turn any trip into a place for learning. It’s not that I hate my kids and never want them to have any downtime, it’s just that I firmly believe that real world learning opportunities have the best chance of sticking. It’s the throwing marshmallows philosophy of education.
Katrina Guteleben said “Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” Traveling takes us to a new environment and just by being somewhere new, the synapses start firing whether you give them permission to do so or not. That unintended moment of brain activity that is touched off by new surroundings makes kids interested. That is when they are best primed to learn.
Those golden educational opportunities don’t happen as often at home in our familiar environment. In other words, I throw a lot of marshmallows at home that just go bouncing right off their heads. Away from home, the target broadens and they are ready to consume, so it’s time for the rapid fire marshmallow cannon. Do you think maybe I have taken this analogy a bit too far? Yep, me too, let’s get to the point.
While cruising aboard the Carnival Magic, there were some great opportunities for learning that helped make the trip an educational and fun experience. Some of them took a little preplanning and others were easy just to work into our conversation or daily activities.
~Following the route from the comfort of our room~
Before you cruise, print a double-sided black outline map. Eduplace is a great resource for blackline map masters. On one side print a map that represents the area of your cruise so that you can plot your course as you travel. Check your TV each night for an updated position and add it to your map.
On the other side, print a world map and bring along some crayons. Every crew member aboard the ship wears a nametag that lists their country of origin. Set your kids off on a challenge to meet as many crew members from different countries as possible and mark them on the map. Crew members will be thrilled to help the kids find the spot on the map if they are unfamiliar with the country. You’ll have the added benefit of encouraging your kids to make new friends, as well as the geographical information they will gain. Not to mention, don’t under estimate the entertainment in watching your kids race across the dining room because they spotted someone from Laos.
~Learning "how stuff works" on the ship's bridge~
A little pre-trip studying can go a long way to extend the learning while you are traveling. Check out this How Stuff Works tutorial that discusses the parts of a cruise ship, the history of the cruise ship, and how cruise ships stay afloat. Excitement about the upcoming trip can easily be parlayed into a little lesson on water displacement that can be reviewed once on board.
A ship has a whole different language and once on board you can start language immersion. Port and Starboard. Forward and Aft. These are concepts that are much easier to understand in person than on paper. Take full advantage of the new environment to learn as many new terms as possible.
From simple to complex, there are plenty of math concepts you can discuss while on board a ship. My five year old was fascinated by the even and odd signs in the hallways of the staterooms, and although we had discussed this concept on paper before, he really got it while on the ship. My older kids were interested in the number of employees and passengers on board the ship which led to great lessons in rounding and estimating. My husband (who’s math skills far surpass mine) had a few math ideas of his own. Converting knots to mph was somewhat strange dinner conversation, but it kept the kids busy for a few minutes and they had no idea that they were learning. They were just excited to be in a new environment and were eager to be immersed in the experience. Marshamallows launch!