Summer Road Trip – Have Fun And Get Some Professional Development


This week’s blogger is Adam Topliff: He teaches 8th Grade Social Studies and Civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS.  Adam loves all things Hamilton!



Congratulations! You’ve made it to summer! Now take a deep breath and relax for moment.  You should allow yourself some quality time with your family, catch up on some reading (ask Glenn Wiebe if you are looking for some good reads), and maybe do some things to make yourself better at your craft.  

In recent years, summer professional development has become a popular trend and is taking on many forms.  There are great webinars and online opportunities.  Check out Twitter. You will find a great variety of chats and great people posting awesome ideas to steal.  You can partake in the face to face opportunities (insert my shameless plug for KSDE Summer Institutes) along with many other organizations that have great professional development options.  These might not be for you, either because of time or resources, but that does not mean you can’t get some quality professional development.

I love to use my summer family road trips to squeeze in some quality self-paced professional development.  Every summer, the Topliff Crew heads to a variety of places around this great state and nation to explore and expose our kids to as much as we can. This summer, we have planned four days in New York City and we are pretty pumped! Each year as we plan our trip, I look into what the area has to offer historically.  With New York City, the trip practically planned itself.  We included many things related to Hamilton, including a visit to the famed Fraunces Tavern.

Fraunces Tavern.jpg

Beyond just the sightseeing element of a vacation, I try and build time to think about how these experiences can be used in the classroom.  Here are a few tips for turning your summer road trip into some great summer professional development:

  1. Gather up as much free stuff from the museum that you can hold or they will allow. Museums have brochures and guidebooks that you pick up when paying for entry, but more places are creating fun and engaging activities to get more people interested in attending.  If they provide free hands-on activities, beg, borrow and steal what you can.
  2. Talk to the educational director of the museum. Share with them that you are a teacher.  You might be surprised what doors will be opened to you if share that little piece of information.  A couple of years ago our family stopped at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Site and Museum and after sharing that I was a Social Studies teacher, my family and I got a backstage access into the renovation that was taking place and were allowed to hold some rare Civil War artifacts. What a cool experience! While talking to the educational experts, they might be willing to part with some resources and give you access to things to help get their museum promoted. You won’t know until you ask.
  3. Take as many pictures as possible!  I love using photos in my classroom to give kids the experience of seeing things first hand. We may be able to find those same images online, but there is power in showing students photos that you take.   There is a lot of information and ideas about how to use virtual reality as an educational tool in your classroom.  With a little bit of patience and time you can create your own virtual reality experience of historical locations.  Not sure how? Check out the Google Cardboard Camera App.  
  4. Ask questions when you take a tour.  Record information shared if allowed, but gain new insight and wisdom of these great historical places to use when you return to your classroom.  Find out any interesting local angles of the stories that the history books may not share. Those are the stories your students will remember.

Get out and see our great nation!  Not only will you have fun, but you will make your classroom instruction and resources richer. That’s the best professional development imaginable!

About Kori Green

I teach 8th grade social studies at El Dorado Middle School in El Dorado, KS. I enjoy U.S. history, dabble in British history, and love incorporating technology in the classroom.

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