Educational travel isn’t just about seeing famous attractions and discovering new foods—it’s also about the connections you make along the way. Here at EF, we aim to offer students the chance to experience history in new ways that go beyond books and essays. Whether it’s on an educational tour or through a virtual experience, students can hear from those who have lived through monumental moments. These intergenerational relationships help make history real and personal for students, give them context for historic events, and help them develop the skills to connect with people from many different backgrounds. Here are a few ways EF is driving these connections.
Honor Flight Network
EF Explore America’s exclusive partnership with the Honor Flight Network strives to connect students with veterans. Honor Flight brings veterans from all over the country to the Washington, D.C. memorials that commemorate their sacrifices. What started as a group of volunteer pilots has now become a national organization with the same mission: to transport as many veterans as possible to Washington, D.C. To date, Honor Flight has helped more than 225,000 veterans visit these monuments.
On some of EF Explore America’s Washington, D.C. tours, students have the opportunity to interact with Honor Flight veterans, allowing them to learn from people who have experienced history firsthand. The intergenerational relationships supported by this partnership augment the lessons students are learning in the classroom. Not only can they put faces to history, but they hear stories that will hopefully stay with them for years to come. It’s an experience that’s proving meaningful to veterans and students alike.
“Our veterans are concerned about their legacy, and if our youngest generation will even care about what they did and what they sacrificed,” said Steve Paulsell, vice president of Central Missouri Honor Flight. “These kids will truly bolster their faith in our future.”
So far, thousands of students have met Honor Flight veterans on EF Explore America tours. Even with travel on hold, these connections have continued (over Zoom, of course).
9/11 Tribute Museum
Washington, D.C. isn’t the only place where students are building intergenerational relationships on tour. EF Explore America partners with the 9/11 Tribute Museum in New York, where students can hear powerful personal accounts from 9/11 survivors.
On September 11, 2020, EF Explore America and the 9/11 Tribute Museum brought students, teachers, and survivors together virtually. Many were moved to tears as two 9/11 survivors recounted their experiences as employees at companies based in or near the World Trade Center. It’s a day current middle and high school students were not yet alive to experience, but they’re able to make connections to its place in history through survivors’ stories.
Mary K., a teacher and EF Group Leader from Montana, brought a class of students to this virtual session. She called the experience “priceless.”
“My students were quiet as church mice listening to them speak,” she said. “Again, EF has provided a wonderful learning experience for students, even during COVID. Life has changed after 9/11 and it has changed once again in 2020.”
75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy
In 2019, EF helped thousands of students travel to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Students were able to attend a panel comprised of veterans who reflected on that momentous day. Following the panel, students spoke directly with the veterans to hear more about their experiences during World War II. Then, students journeyed to the Utah Beach Landing Museum where they could use an augmented reality app—created by EF—to hear the story of Jack Port, the last living veteran of Utah Beach. They returned home with new personal connections to a part of history they had only read about prior to this event.
Looking for ways to help your students build intergenerational relationships and connect with history in meaningful ways? Browse our tours.
Editor’s note (2021): Since the original publishing of this post, Jack Port, a WWII veteran, passed away at the age of 98. We are eternally grateful for the relationship we formed with Jack and the opportunity to share his incredible story.