Another of the lessons my family and I learned on our trip to Europe over the summer was the value of hands-on experience in terms of things like learning geography or studying history. Let’s look at the geography first, and then we will look at history.
Various studies have indicated for many years that American students do far worse than students from other countries on identifying the appropriate locations of various places in the world. We may wonder what difference it makes in these days of gps and other systems. If you want to know, log on and find out. Otherwise, what difference does it make?
Learning the connection between what is drawn on a map and the actual location of a place forms connections in the brain that help us learn other visual-perceptual and percepttual skills. Having seen that Paris is across the English Channel and east of England, then taking the chunnel and going from London to Paris, that piece of geography is stamped into my children’s brains in ways that looking at a map alone will never touch.
We took a train from Paris to Rome, and that was also educational. Flying over a great deal of the world does not help with geography, except for the idea that it takes six hours to get from New York to London, but taking the train teaches you a great deal about the terrain between the two cities, the looks of the cities and towns on the way, and allows one to get a feel for what it must have been like for those who made the trip prior to the advent of trains and planes.
Geography also provides a great deal of insight into history. My daughter returned from the trip with a zest for her Freshman foray into World Geography that she was lacking prior to the trip. My 10-year-old did not seem to be affected by the history or geography, but we did look at maps, and I hope that his right brain or visual- spatial relationship skills were developed in the process.
In short, even if you share any map of any trip with your child, the idea that their visual-spatial relationships will improve makes it worthwhile. Involve them in the trip, ask them when the next turn is coming, and have them do something other than watch videos on the way to and from wherever you are going.
Along the way, you will notice that you have also increased the likelihood of several other good things happening. Some that come to mind are that you are increasing the chances of your child’s becoming more self-sufficient and able to get around, the family is talking more, and the family is involved in a common goal of getting somewhere. All of these things may add up to increase desire for knowledge, and they may increase your child’s ability to learn new information.