Why We Travel

Why student trips are important at American Christian Academy

by Dr. Dan Carden, Headmaster

I think the importance of travel became more evident to me when I was asked in 1992 to be a part of a team that went into the former Soviet Union to help their education department bring morals and ethics into their public system of education.  I had a predetermined picture in my mind of what I would find.  And I was so wrong!  The people were so open and generous.  They were so eager to learn from us and were open to sharing ideas with me about their country.  The scenery was beautiful.  I discovered a new world and made friends with a completely new group of people.  It was one of those life changing moments for me.  I wanted to share this new found enthusiasm for the world with my own family and with my students.  The world was much larger than Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

We began to travel with our students at American Christian Academy almost by accident.  A few teachers wanted to show students the Civil War Battlefields near us and took a few trips to see them. We took students to Mobile or Chattanooga but there was not a philosophy behind the trips,  only the field trip mentality of taking students to see a battlefield.

After my trip to Russia I became more interested in doing more for our students.  My wife, Janie, had also tried to find some things that our boys would both enjoy and become good at doing.  Because Janie had family living in the mountains of New Mexico, we introduced them to skiing while they were in elementary school.  They fell in love with skiing and they actually planned trips for the family during Spring Break. We started inviting families to go with us and the number soon grow to 50 or more people driving non-stop to Colorado on a bus for a week of skiing.  While returning from a trip in 1996 we talked about going skiing in Europe.  My son, Kevin, was convinced we could do it almost as economically as Colorado.  I put him to work searching the Internet and he did indeed find a great deal.  Because it was so important to me to introduce my family to the cultural and language differences of Europe we took out a second mortgage on our house spent a week skiing in Chamonix, France and then took another week and went to Rome, Florence and Venice. That trip opened the doors of interest for all of my children.  The enthusiasm of my children for this new found love of travel spread to their friends over the few next years.  We began to take large groups to Europe.  I saw the opportunity to use this travel tool in our school.  We began to take our seniors to places like Cancun and on cruises.  After a few trips we realized that even though those trips were inexpensive they were not accomplishing the educational goals we wanted.  Our school Board wisely voted to require that trips either accomplished and educational function or a mission project. 

Now our students begin to do some overnight trips in the 5th grade.  They spend a few nights at Camp Cosby.  The 6th grade spends 5 days exploring Washington, D.C.  We now begin to teach our students (and their parents) how to navigate the subway system and how to get around in a big city. The 9th grade spends 4 nights at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  Our 10th grade spends a week in New York City.  We give our juniors and seniors some choices for their trip.  The juniors have gone to Chicago, Santa Fe, Colorado Springs, Boston, and San Antonio.  Our seniors usually go places like Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Buenos Aires, and London.  Doesn't supper in Beijing,China make you hungry?  Oh, the world is such a wonderful place!