Learning Opportunities Beyond the Museums and Landmarks

Elizabeth Melucci

Elizabeth Melucci

My husband and I love to travel. Our three children have held passports since they were infants. There are so many ways that children benefit from traveling, even beyond the obvious trips to museums and historic landmarks. I believe that exploring unfamiliar places, discovering new foods and experiencing different ways of life help stimulate growth—in both adults and children. 
 
I'm no neuroscientist, but it seems that by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone we grow and blossom, much like a root-bound plant that is repotted.
Each time our family returns home from a trip, I notice a change in the physical, emotional and cognitive development of my children. When they were toddlers, their expressive language improved markedly after a vacation. One of my children took his first steps while another suddenly became a voracious reader. In Jamaica my oldest son, who was very timid around water, learned to swim without his safety vest. I'm no neuroscientist, but it seems that by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone we grow and blossom, much like a root-bound plant that is repotted.
 
Of course, there are many ways that we as parents can help nurture that growth. On one of my family's many trips to Italy, my oldest son Dante was very interested in reading the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. The books are fictionalized stories about historical landmarks or people, and many have a companion nonfiction book that provides more details about the subject. Dante loved, "Vacation Under the Volcano," which was set in Pompeii, and was excited to wander among the ruins of the site after reading that book and its companion, "Ancient Rome and Pompeii." 
 
 
As I'm also a teacher, I have another perspective on the effect of travel on children. During my 14-plus years teaching preschool I see how my students come back from a long break invigorated, focused, and ready to learn. For some students there is a marked difference in their academic performance and social skills as well.
 
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But by far one of the biggest benefits of travel is that it connects us to the rest of the world. The sooner we can establish that feeling of connection in our children, the better. Our students at Whitby are fortunate in that they are more worldly than most young people. Not only are they part of a diverse community here, but they are able to travel and experience cultures as far away as Singapore, India and Russia. 
 
As Mark Twain stated so famously, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." It is the hope that the experiences of travel will help shape our children into open-minded, caring and knowledgable citizens of the world.
 
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Elizabeth Melucci

Elizabeth Melucci

Elizabeth Melucci fell in love with teaching preschoolers after becoming disillusioned with corporate life. She started moonlighting part-time as a teaching assistant in a special needs kindergarten and eventually quit her position at a financial printing firm to work in the classroom full time. When she moved from San Francisco to Brooklyn with her husband, Elizabeth discovered a Montessori school in her neighborhood and applied for a job. This is Elizabeth's fourteenth year as a Primary teacher at Whitby and her sixteenth year as a Montessori teacher. In that time she has earned a Montessori Early Childhood certificate, and IB levels I, II and III training. She also has three children, ages 14, 11 and 4. The oldest is a graduate of Whitby, Class of 2016. Her other two children are current students at Whitby, in Upper School and Primary. Elizabeth finds that being a parent is a greater learning experience than any formal education.