With another school year drawing to a close, many parents are faced with the yearly dilemma of “what now?” If you are working full-time, you’ll be looking for ways to keep the kids busy, teach them a thing or two and make sure they stay out of any trouble this summer.
The summer is an opportunity to provide valuable lessons your kids may or may not have received at school: positive identity building. How can you do this? Take them on a trip! Even if they were not on their best behaviour or achieved top grades, this trip is about more than that. In fact, it could be an essential part of changing unwanted behaviours.
As a world traveler with a master’s degree in education, I’ve had the opportunity to spend my fair share of time in Ontario classrooms. These can be great spaces, led by energetic teachers who thrive on nourishing young minds. However, my research, along with that of countless others, show that students of colour often have isolating experiences that both implicitly and explicitly demonize their race, culture, and history. It’s usually not intentional - it’s in the way history can be told with black faces erased unless in servitude, and in lowered expectations or perpetuation of damaging stereotypes.
As parents, we can pick up where schools fall short and give our youth what they need so badly - varied role models, a history of sophistication, and the nod to the fact that we have done much and can do even more as a people. Experiential travel has the potential to close this loop and provide a counter-narrative and perspective.
Scholar Lenore Borzak, describes experiential learning as a “direct encounter with the phenomena being studied rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.”
In this case, there is no one ideal destination since the decision of where to go will be based on your personal history. For example, if you are a Caribbean-born Canadian, imagine the power of standing with your children at The Door of No Return in Ghana, where slave ships once departed with your ancestors to the islands. For our youth, the stories of resistance, resilience, politics, and economic drivers that naturally fill these visits show how they fit into a much bigger landscape, their potential so much more than what they see in their immediate surroundings.
For some, this may sound far fetched but it really isn’t when you look around at other communities. Keep in mind that this kind of education comes in all forms and doesn’t necessarily have to include international travel. For example, for those in Toronto, a short day trip to the Chatham-Kent region near Windsor can lead you to local historical treasures that explore the history of the underground railway and slavery in Canada, another bit of information that schools typically don’t do a great job at teaching.
Few other experiences have the power to fundamentally shift a mind like the wonder that comes with touching, smelling, feeling and seeing something that is somehow a part of your history first-hand. So, where do you plan to take your children this summer?