Airports. Supermarkets. Hospitals and Animal Shelters. What do all of these places have in common? They all offer an opportunity for “out of classroom” educational experiences. As an educator and one who works in social media, I believe that education is not restricted to the classroom. Here are some places that you may not realize can be chocked full of learning moments.
Imagine how much one learns about culture, patience and adventure by walking through an airport as people are rushing about to get to a plane? I remember the days, before TSA, when you could meet your loved ones’ at the gate. The joy of reuniting with relatives and friends filled airport gates around the world with happiness! These days you have to patiently await your family somewhere near baggage claim. Yet, you are exposed to the various people from far away lands or those who simply flew across the state. If you are lucky you will hear languages, other than your own. (Or see them in the case of sign language.) Regardless, if you love watching human behavior, nothing beats an airport!
And, for the record some of the best teachable moments also
happen when you travel. Family travel enriches a child’s mind beyond measure. Learning about the Declaration of Independence? Go see it! Experience it as forefather’s had done over two centuries ago. What are the natural wonders of the world – Go visit!
Supermarkets can teach a child about math and health. Have a child who thinks that money grows on trees? Try giving them a list of food and “just the right ” amount of money and see if they can get to the register “on budget”. This is an especially valuable lesson for tweens who are going through the “I gotta have it” stage of life. Simply give them a reality check by having them try to buy all the ingredients to make a cake “from scratch”. Then watch their eyes pop at the register when they realize (more than likely) that they fall short of cash. While flour and sugar may be the cheapest ingredients on the list, chocolate and real vanilla flavoring are not! Oh and if they are adding sprinkles or fruit – well, that could break the proverbial bank!
Then flip the situation around and have them gather all the ingredients to make a healthy salad. Let them compare which is cheaper – cake vs. salad. I bet a really interesting discussion about shopping the outside aisles of a grocery store vs. the inside aisles will ensue.
Hospitals teach a multitude of lessons. Of course there is the abundant medical terminology. Yet, one can go even deeper and learn about patience (again), family dynamics and sadly – grief. Plus there is the discussion about the value of having health insurance.
What makes hospitals and interesting place for education is that it is rarely a happy place. We sometimes have to accept and teach that we have to be open to life’s toughest lessons as well as the best it has to offer.
Lastly, animal shelters teach people about caring and advocacy. It is no secret that some of the most impactful lessons are when we advocate for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Case in point… long ago I recall having my Sunday school class vote as to which charity they wanted to donate monies they had collected. Almost unanimously the sixth graders voted for the local animal shelter vs. any healthcare organization (such as The American Cancer Society). Some adults were appalled feeling that my students were displaying a lack of compassion for humans by wanting to support animals, instead. However, it seemed clear to me why the children made this choice. Almost everyone of the students had a cat or dog in their home and they related to them and their needs much more than someone who had cancer or another disease. They were advocating for something familiar – a pet.
And…While a trip to the shelter can be very intense, it also can help a child feel that they are making a difference by doing acts of kindness. While it may not be feasible to adopt all the animals, a family can help by supplying the shelter with old towels, blankets or pet food. When our children were school aged we fostered 17 dogs. Two were “foster fails” – we adopted them. Years later my children, now adults, are doing the same, including twice having “foster fails”.
Last thoughts… I am a firm believer in formal education. Yet, we can’t overlook that there are limited hours in the day and teacher’s cannot and should not be expected to teach our kids the majority of lessons about LIFE. That is the job of loving parent’s , family members, mentors, neighbors, and caregivers. We are ALL teachers. The world is a giant classroom.
Thanks for reading!