Thanksgiving is the time of year when showing gratitude is top of mind. It’s a mindset that can benefit all of us, but it can be difficult to instill in teens and tweens who are still wired to focus on their own needs and wants.
For teachers who lead student trips, finding ways to show appreciation along the way helps kids re-focus.
Here are six ideas to help develop a grateful mindset on a school trip and a bit of research that reinforces why we should.
Research from in the Journal of Happiness tells us showing appreciation “tends to promote valuing connections to people, personal growth, and social capital.” The idea being that kids care more about personal connections than material or inconsequential things. That sounds like reason enough to teach them to say “thanks.” The study goes on to to say,
“Grateful youth report satisfaction with their friends, family, community, and school; they also report having supportive family and peer relationships, as well as helping others. Further, by focusing young people on ways others have benefited them, gratitude may enhance self-respect."
Developing healthy self-respect that will propel the kids confidently into the future sounds like a great reason to try a few of these ideas.
1. Thank you cards - Ask each of your students to write three thank you cards to someone who did something they appreciated related to the trip. A good exercise is to have them start by brainstorming the people who helped make their trip possible, and go from there. Outline the structure of a good thank you note as a language arts lesson, but give the kids the freedom to choose the messages and recipients. As a follow-up, the kids can do a pair-and-share activity to talk about how it felt to write the notes and how they think the recipients will feel when reading them.
2. “How Did That Get Here?” - It’s a great idea from an article in Edutopia called,Habits of Heart: Helping Students Reflect and Act on Gratitude. Posing the question can be the focus a research project related to attractions visited on tour. Monuments and memorials visited on a school trip to Washington, D.C. would be a great focus for this type of question.
According to the Edutopia article, tracing the origins of the Washington Monument for example, can help students “develop a sense of appreciation for the many things that had to happen” in order for it to be constructed.
What did Washington do for others? Who decided to honor him? Who constructed the Monument? What challenges did they face? Who maintains it today?
Many things had to happen in order for students to experience the Washington Monument, and understanding that helps develop an appreciation for its existence and meaning.
3. Honor Ceremony - Many cities have memorials to people who have made personal sacrifices for different causes, from wars to human rights. Find out the rules for paying tribute at a memorial and choose a way for students to show their respect.
If you are traveling to Washington, D.C.,schedule a time to participate in a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.The Tomb of the Unknowns honors those who gave their lives in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War “in defense of the Nation’s integrity, honor, and tranquility.” Members of the public may participate in a wreath laying ceremony that at the Tomb.
Requests to lay a wreath are accepted online up to a year in advance. Participants make arrangements to bring the ceremonial wreath for the assigned date and time and must follow the protocol and dress code in order to participate. Your request can be made here.
If you are traveling elsewhere, ask students to get involved by researching hometown heros, war memorials, and other places that commemorate the contributions people made and ways they can honor them while visiting.
4. Tips and Gratuities - Many people in the hospitality industry rely on gratuities for income. While on tour there will be plenty of opportunities for students to appreciate the hard work that others do for them like serving a meal, cleaning their hotel room, or loading their luggage on the bus.
To help make things easier on you as a trip leader, plan ahead for how you will handle tips. Not all student travel companies help coordinate gratuities ahead of time, so be sure to ask. This is one of the many benefits of working with an all-inclusive student travel provider like NationsClassroom.
Our student travel consultant will help collect gratuities in advance and allow the trip leader to give the tips after the services are provided. Other companies may require you to collect money from families at a parent meeting that you will need to organize and pay forward when appropriate.
5. Manners, Please - Just as monetary tips are appreciated, so are kind gestures and manners. Remind students to clean up after themselves, use “please”and “thank you”, and act respectfully in public spaces like museums, hotels, and restaurants. This is an excellent way to show appreciation for the gracious hospitality they experience while on tour.
If you are traveling by air, this is especially important at the gate where student groups often congregate and volume can get out of hand quickly. In this age of social media, it’s easy for a traveler to quickly Tweet or post video naming the obnoxious group in your charge (I’ve seen it happen), so reinforce the importance of R-E-S-P-E-C-T at all times.
6. A Momento - Find a way to help students remember the trip and they will most-likely have a feeling of appreciation for their experience each time they see it.
One idea is a group photo taken at a memorable stop. Either print a copy of the photo for students or have a professional photo ordered ahead of time. For example, Central Photo in Washington, D.C. takes high quality, panoramic photos in front of the Capitol that make an excellent keepsake.
Some schools opt for wearable keep sakes, like a t-shirt or hat, while others print a memory book.
Having the opportunity to travel with their classmates will be a memorable experience that will be something to appreciate in itself. As a trip leader, you are giving the kids an invaluable gift and for that, we thank you!