6 tips for making educational travel attainable for all students

Setting up a structure for fundraising to support your students who want to travel is crucial regardless of their family income. Educational travel can be made attainable for all students if you create a plan and stick with it.

Carrie A. Olson, PhD, researcher and teacher at West Leadership Academy, Denver Public Schools, presented with Carylann Assante, CAE, executive director of SYTA and the SYTA Youth Foundation, in “How We Helped 800 Students Participate in Educational Travel: Proven Tools and Tips.” The experts shared tips on planning for educational travel to make it accessible for all students.

1. Look beyond base prices. When planning a trip for your students, start by figuring out how much money you will need and determine your deadlines. Travel companies may provide base prices, but this doesn’t include things like insurance, tip money, optional excursions, and more. Plan backwards with your money: This is how much money is needed, how much time is there until it’s due?

2. Create checkpoints. Creating checkpoints along the way leading up to the trip also helps keep everyone involved on track. Mentors—such as members of the community or a child’s favorite teacher—can help the students with their fundraising and check in with them if there are any issues.

3. Hold meetings for families. Holding regular monthly meetings, and providing that schedule to families at the beginning of the year, keeps everyone in the know. During the meetings at Olson’s school, teachers would introduce families to each other. Fostering these community connections encouraged families to fundraise together.

4. Provide “exit tickets.” They also created an information packet to review at the very first meeting, explaining all the details of educational travel. At the end of the packet, the families were asked the fill out an “exit ticket.” If anyone had to leave the meeting early, or wanted to be contacted privately, they could say so on this form.

5. Create fundraisers that are good for your school. Be creative, have a variety of fundraisers for families to get involved in, and research what sells well at your school. Examples of fundraisers include working school dances, selling concessions at school, home-cooked food to school staff, holiday grams, and wristbands for a pass to go without the school uniform for a day. Olson’s school hosted breakfasts and “happy hours” for potential donors, where students could ask for donations by explaining to people why they wanted to travel. The best piece of fundraising advice Olson received from a parent’s perspective was to hold a gathering for family and friends to ask how they can help fundraise for the student who wanted to participate in educational travel.

6. Consider focus groups. Before starting a fundraiser, you’ll need to find out details like any approved vendors you need to go through, contracts that need to be signed, and if other fundraisers are going on at the school so you can plan around them. It could also help to create a focus group to provide a place for families to contribute fundraising ideas outside of regularly scheduled meetings. Last, have one person in charge of each fundraiser, so that person can be responsible for checking in with families.

“If you (make the effort) with your very-beginning trips, and you think through a lot of this, the future trips are much, much easier,” Olson added. By working through the smallest details, educational travel can be made attainable for all your students.

About the Presenters

Carrie A. Olson, PhD, teaches grades 6-12 at West Leadership Academy in Denver Public Schools where she has taught since 1985. She teaches social studies in Spanish and English classes to recent immigrants and an AP seminar class. Her PhD is in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from the University of Denver. She received her BA from Wartburg College and her master’s in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in language, literacy, and culture from the University of Colorado at Denver. Dr. Olson is a National Board Certified Teacher since 1999. She is also a Museum Teacher Fellow for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She has traveled with over 800 students to Washington, DC since 1993 and to Europe since 2003, and is passionate about providing equity in educational travel for students.

A seasoned tourism and association executive with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Carylann Assante, CAE serves as the Executive Director of the Student & Youth Travel Association, the international association that promotes student and youth travel worldwide. Carylann is also the Executive Director of the SYTA Youth Foundation, the philanthropic arm that provides scholarships and education experiences for students and youth who are unable to travel due to financial and personal hardship.

Join the Community

Teach & Travel is a free professional learning community, and an educator’s resource for all things student travel, the educational benefits of student travel, and how to successfully initiate, organize, and conduct tours for their student groups.

This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by SYTA – The Student & Youth Travel Association.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by edWeb.net. View more edWeb.net events here.]


How to reach high achievement through listening skills

[Editor’s note: This post is the third in a new column for eSchool News. In her column on ‘Personal Development’, eSchool News Columnist Jennifer Abrams focuses on tangible takeaways, tools and teachings that all those working in schools can use to develop their leadership. Read more about the column and browse future content here.]

“When you listen to someone, it’s the most profound act of human respect.” -William Ury

I remember when I began my work as a professional developer and coach. It was the first time in my daily work where students were not my immediate focus. My interactions on a daily basis were with adults, and I realized that I wasn’t as prepared for this type of communication given my credentialing and my graduate studies.

I had a credential in how to teach students the subject of English, and what became increasingly clear was that I didn’t have a credential in how to work effectively with adults; and certainly didn’t have a background or an intentionally developed skillset on how to be an effective group member.

Listening as a Learned Skill

I worked on the skill of being an effective group member and continue to do so. Many of my consulting colleagues, within their work on coaching, collaborating and teaching focus on listening as a key skill to know inside and outside the classroom.

At the Thinking Collaborative professional developers assist educators daily and intentionally in building this skillset. They speak to a number of collaborative skills that make a group member effective. [More on other skills in future columns.] This column will focus on one of those skill sets, listening.

Much has been written about listening.  Listening is discussed and explained in books, in TED talks, on YouTube, and in countless articles in education, business and in health care. Why so many citations? Because we have a tendency to not do it well.

It is a pivotal part of the skill building that we hope students learn. In fact, I have often stated that the Common Core State Standards on Speaking and Listening, such as 11-12 B and C “Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed;” and, “Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives,” actually aren’t lived out in staff meetings that I participate in or witness in the schools in which I work.

3 Types of Listening 

Given that the work on active listening could take pages and pages to review, I will mention only the briefest yet, what I feel is one of the most powerful piece of advice on listening that I have received: In order to be more ‘other focused,’ pay attention to your listening ‘set asides.’

Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman (www.miravia.com) speak to the idea of ‘setting aside’ certain stances we often take in communication.  Instead of truly being present and hearing the person intently we don’t set aside our needs and these needs get in the way of our communication. Our set asides include

  • Autobiographical listening: The minute we hear something that connects with our life, we share. We say, “Me too. I remember when…” or “That has happened to me!  In fact, just the other day…” When we share these ‘me too’ moments we might believe we are connecting and offering solace, but actually it might just be us taking the focus away from what the person was saying and putting the spotlight on us.
  • ‘Dishing the dirt’ listening: The other person comments on something and you add in a few more tidbits of information. “Did you know she was…” or “That isn’t the first time I have heard that. Joanne says…” There is a time to share background information that will serve the conversation. There is also just ‘dishing’ and that isn’t always a useful piece of information to share.
  • Solution-oriented listening: “You know what you need to do about that?” is something we immediately offer as a response if we are in the space of solution oriented listening. “You need to do this…” or “Have you tried…?”  Solutions can be very helpful in some situations but most of the time solutions aren’t empowering, nor do they show the person you are talking to that you feel they’ve ‘got this’ and can handle their own challenges. I am all for solutions and most of the time ask myself if a suggestion might be a better way to offer an idea. The key is to ask yourself, “What are my reasons for saying this? And “Does this serve my colleague to hear this?”

There are so many other listening skills to develop as well, including:

  • how to paraphrase
  • how to craft a clarifying question
  • how to pay attention to your non-verbals
  • how to add your perspective.

All of these listening skills are valid and critical to effective collaboration.

Building up our listening ability can assist us in achieving at high levels in our schools. (See Hattie’s research on collective efficacy).


8 top YouTube channels to boost classroom lessons

Video can be a powerful tool for classroom learning, and it’s safe to say that teachers have never had more videos at their fingertips than they do today.

But with so many videos on YouTube, how do you find the good stuff? You know, those perfect, one-of-a-kind, just-right-for-your-lesson videos–the ones that make you think, “Oh, my students have to see this!”

The best YouTube videos for the classroom are the ones that teach or, better yet, show something you can’t otherwise do in your classroom. Videos that are more than flashy attempts to spice up a chapter from a textbook. Videos that go beyond zany talking heads doling out CliffsNotes for the digital age. Classroom-worthy videos on YouTube shouldn’t be replacements for your lessons; they should be additions to the awesome lessons you already teach.

Whether they’re an intriguing hook or the spark for a thought-provoking reflection, the best videos for school bring the world and all of its wonder into our classrooms. See below for a few of our favorite YouTube channels with useful videos for your lessons.

For now, our list skews more toward middle and high school, but we know others are out there. Do you know of one that we should add? Tell us in the comments!

The Art Assignment

An engaging look at contemporary art, as well as art history through a contemporary lens. While not specifically for K-12 students, plenty of the videos here can nonetheless work in school. The best of them are shot on location and bring art from around the world into your classroom.

Standout Playlists:
Art Trip — Video field trips to various art locales, from London to Tijuana to Columbus, Indiana.
Assignment Episodes — Sixty (and counting) episodes highlight various artists and works of art, each involving a related “assignment” for viewers.

The Brain Scoop

As “Chief Curiosity Correspondent” at Chicago’s Field Museum, YouTube star Emily Graslie offers dispatches on a variety of natural science topics. Topics cover a range of (mostly natural) science content, and some videos have a certain gross-out factor. But Graslie gives the videos a decidedly friendly and personable tone that may resonate with some younger kids.

Standout Playlists:
In the Lab — A behind-the-scenes look at what goes down in the Field Museum’s lab as the crew preps various exhibits.
Amazon Adventures — Ride along on a trip to the Peruvian Amazon to view life in the wild.


Updated regularly, Numberphile is made by people who truly love math, which is one of the best reasons to share these videos with students. Much of the math can be higher level — likely too esoteric for most kids. However, the friendly hosts also tackle engaging, off-the-beaten-path math topics that can make for some great conversation starters.

Standout Playlists:
Pi — Includes the famous “Mile of Pi” video, wherein pi is printed to a million digits (seriously) and laid flat on an airport runway.
Dice — Everything you’ve ever wondered about dice and probability, and then some.


Celebrity YouTuber Hank Green and friends cover a bevy of fun science topics tailored to the curiosities of their massive YouTube audience. Overall, the channel’s a bit talking-head heavy and covers lots of standard subjects (chemistry, astronomy, etc.). However, plenty of other playlists dive into a variety of pop-science topics. Also: For younger kids, consider checking out the sister channel, SciShow Kids.

Standout Playlists:
Quick Questions — Info-packed and short (most videos run three minutes and under), these videos explore everyday science-related phenomena, like “Why Do Your Eyes Get Red in the Pool?” to “What Does ‘Clinically Proven’ Actually Mean?”
Weird Places — True to its name, this playlist dips into the science behind some of Earth’s stranger natural locales.

(Next page: 4 more YouTube channels for your classroom)


App of the Week: Digital scavenger hunts for learning

Ed. noteApp of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? 

GooseChase EDU is a web-based platform that creates scavenger hunts for mobile (iOS and Android) devices. First, teachers go to the website to create a new game with a basic description. Teachers then add missions to their game. Each mission is a scavenger hunt clue, which comes in three types: photo/video, text, or location. Photo and video questions are the most popular, where students submit a picture or video (limited in length to 15 seconds). Text missions are completed by typing information. Location questions are interesting but less frequently used: The teacher can set it so that mobile devices fulfill a clue by being in a certain area, down to a 50-meter radius (though they recommend 100 meters).

Price: Free, Paid

Grades: 3-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Highly engaging and fosters collaboration in any subject area.

Cons: Video recordings are a maximum of 15 seconds, which limits the depth of learning.

Bottom line: Students and teachers will enjoy the powerful learning of a modern scavenger hunt.


10 Hour of Code activities students will love

It’s that time of year again–the Hour of Code is (almost) here.

The Hour of Code is just that–one hour of coding, done at any point during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 4-10). Educators can find all the information they need here, such as how to get started, which activities to choose and how to promote computer science on a regular basis.

The need to focus more on computer science learning frameworks and opportunities is evident–last year, a two-year Google study exposed racial and gender disparities in computer science education, and it is well-documented that girls tend to lose interest in and disengage from STEM activities by the time they reach middle school.

Part of the goal is to interest students in coding beyond the Hour of Code, and to encourage students to explore how they can use coding in their everyday lives.

Computer science education also has important implications for students’ success in their adult lives. Right now, 71 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but just 8 percent of STEM graduates are in computer science, according to Code.org data.

(Next page: 10 engaging Hour of Code activities)


Video of the Week: Simple ways teachers can protect student data privacy

Ed. note: Video of the Week picks are supplied by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to watch the video at Common Sense Education.

Video Description: Privacy can be a complex, intimidating topic. But there are some steps any teacher can take to better protect their students’ data when using online tools. Make these simple privacy and security checks a habit whenever you visit a website or use it with your students. For more tips for protecting student privacy, check out Common Sense Education’s resources on the topic.



Incredible: Teachers are forming job-specific collaboration networks. Here’s why and how

A large percentage of public school districts across the U.S. are comprised of 15 or fewer schools; 46 percent of districts have fewer than 1,000 students and a third have fewer than two schools. While many of these smaller school districts face the same challenges as larger school systems, they often lack the infrastructure and supports of larger districts—especially in the form of peer collaboration.

Several research studies have pointed out that educators in these districts—many of which are located rural areas—often experience “professional isolation,” making it hard to gain traction with the greatest school-related influencers on student achievement: the recruitment, development, and retention of teachers, teacher leaders, and principals.

As research has clearly stated for decades, there is no greater school-related impact on student achievement than the teacher in the classroom. The second-greatest school-related impact on student achievement growth is principal effectiveness. Not surprisingly, the largest impact on teacher retention is administrative support and school culture, both of which are impacted directly by the principal.

Unfortunately, the research is also clear that our most economically disadvantaged students—many of whom are in small, rural districts—are disproportionately served by higher percentages of ineffective and/or first-year teachers.

While smaller districts have advantages over larger districts, including less anonymity and more opportunity for tight-knit communities where students and faculty are more connected, they face unique challenges in recruiting, developing, and retaining human capital— especially in high-need schools.

Many lack the support infrastructure to provide aligned resources and systems to support their educators’ growth, including such supports as coaching for both teachers and principals and content-specific professional development.  As researcher J.D. Johnson explains, “The larger the district, the more magnified the negative effects of poverty over student achievement, and the smaller the district, the more poverty’s effects are muted.”

How Cross-School Collaboration Will Bring Change

However, for five districts—all with fewer than 15 schools each—in Delaware, Indiana, South Carolina, and Texas, there is good news. Through Insight Education Group’s Empowering Educators to Excel (E3), with multi-year funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s new Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (TSL), educators in these districts, including principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders, and teachers, will soon form a groundbreaking networked improvement community (NIC) and receive new levels of support for school effectiveness.

(Next page: How the educators collaboration network will work)


Language Arts teacher: These are “My Tech Essentials” for high schoolers

Being well-versed in literature means to be able to use the power of imagination to support and describe the essence of the subject. This is where the task can get tricky. Oftentimes the learners fail to understand the vocabulary of the book that sets the obstacles for the reading comprehension, or fail to discuss the topic because they lack active vocabulary.

In order to make students discuss the learned material in the class, it is important to provide them with encouragement and help that gives a good stimulus to learn and discover more.

The classroom can be a perfect ground for discussions, imagination training, and language improving activities. These app essentials will help keep high school students engaged while learning language arts, and teach them how to form the arguments and enhance learning comprehension.

Forming the Arguments

The idea is the main component in argument forming, and actively learn teaches students how to communicate by asking and answering questions.

Actively Learn is an online interactive platform where students learn through “layers”–the discussion questions that structure readings. This is a collaborative space where students can ask a question that concerns them, discuss their own vision with others, and share ideas considering the reading material.

As the students ask, answer, edit, and share the annotations right inside the text, the teachers can monitor their activities and make learning suggestions. The unique aspect of the app is that it not only encourages active reading, but also the active thinking process as students consider questions after reading.

Engaging the Reading

Newsela is a daily updated news-as-literacy platform accumulating articles on History, Science, Health, Law, and Arts. Newsela is a good app to use if you want to boost cross-curricular reading, but it can also be good for the classroom.

Selecting the appropriate reading level, the teacher can assign individual readings to the student or the group. As the students progress through the reading assignments, they also go through quizzes and write a quick prompt to the passage they’ve just read.

The workflow in Newsela gives a basis for independent classroom reading, as it also has a built-in dictionary and translator for when students encounter unknown or unfamiliar words.

(Next page: Language arts apps to avoid plagiarism, develop critical thinking and extend vocab)


How to prepare students for 2017’s Hour of Code next week

From December 4th to 10th, educators and students around the world will be participating in the Hour of Code, an annual event that takes place during Computer Science Education Week, and is designed to demystify and engage educators and students in coding. What are some ways to get started with an Hour of Code?

Kelly Knight, STEAM Coordinator at Riverside Presbyterian Day School, Jacksonville, FL, presented ideas and tips in “Get Ready for Hour of Code.”

1. Set your classroom up for “maker” success. Instead of a typical classroom, Knight designs her room to be more like a makerspace where kids work in groups on different problem-solving activities, like coding.

Through coding, kids can increase their computational and innovative thinking, expand their creativity and collaboration, learn how to think outside the box, and have more confidence in themselves. “(Coding) is the new literacy of today and children pick it up very easily, and at least in my experience, seem to love really it,” said Knight.

2. Get leadership on board. If your school does not have a program or is not already on board with coding, your administration must see that introducing coding is worthwhile. Seeing results from other schools’ programs is one way to do this. You should show passion about bringing coding into the school by being willing to be the one who teaches it.

3. Be flexible. It’s also important to be flexible in the beginning as you seek support to start your program from parents or the administration. Incorporating different STEM or STEAM activities into your exercises will help get all students engaged and on board with coding–which could help in getting support from parents.

4. Know what resources are available. Get started coding using free apps such as Scratch and ScratchJr, which students can use to tell stories and create their own games. Unplugged coding activities are also an option.

Knight incorporates a “bubbles and binary” activity into a science lesson. The students spell the first letter of their name in binary code using beads onto the handle of a bubble wand, which they’ve engineered themselves with pipe cleaners. She also has students play a partner game where one person is a programmer and one is a robot. The programmer must draw a program for their robot using different symbols, like move forward, jump, or squat.

With technology or unplugged activities, students can not only participate in an Hour of Code, but continue throughout the year. Educators can access free resources and games for the Hour of Code at hourofcode.com.

About the Presenter

Kelly Knight has worked for two years as the STEAM coordinator at Riverside Presbyterian Day School located in Jacksonville, FL. She facilitates a dedicated classroom makerspace where students, grades K-6, visit once a week to enhance their learning with STEAM-themed projects and challenges. Kelly provides students with access to a variety of tools and multiple forms of technology so that they have the opportunity to develop diverse skill sets. Students learn basic design and engineering principles, as well as circuitry, coding, robotics and most recently, 3D printing and design. Coding education has been enhanced by learning through technology like littleBits, as well as Sphero, KIBO, MaKey MaKey, and LEGO WeDo. Students have also used programs like Scratch and its app counterpart ScratchJr to develop coding skills.

Join the Community

STEM Learning: Full STEAM Ahead is a free professional learning community that provides educators, curriculum leaders, and industry members with a place to collaborate on bringing more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into the classroom.

This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by littleBits Education.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by edWeb.net. View more edWeb.net events here.]