Teaching Kids to Be Global Citizens Through Travel

This is a guest post from Dr. Jessie Voigts, the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel resource for global educators. Her daughter Lillie (7) loves to travel and write about her experiences. When traveling together, they’ve found ways to contribute meaningfully to the communities they visit. Jessie provides some great tips and ideas for ways to use travel as an opportunity to teach kids to be global citizens.

Picking up trash on the beach

There are a myriad of ways to explore the world with your kids. You can share travel, friends, music, culture, food, photos, books, videos, games, and more in order to teach about the world. But when you think of raising a global citizen, there are also other factors to consider. One of the most important facets of being a global citizen is CARING about others. On Good Global Citizen, you can learn many different people’s ideas about being a good global citizen. From famous stars and athletes to kids, there are a million definitions. Mine? “Learning about others, practicing intercultural sensitivity, and trying to make the world a better place.”

One of the ways that kids can be a good global citizen is to interact with local communities in a meaningful way. In trying to make the world a better place, you can start at home. It will become second nature to you, and you will automatically want to help others, wherever you go. You can become inspired by others’ journeys and how helping others have changed their lives or read up on volunteering as a way of life. We live on a lake and kayak almost every day. When we kayak, we always clean up any trash we see. Another way we love to interact in our community is to be good neighbors.

When we travel, we also try to carry the spirit of interacting with locals with us. We do our research beforehand, and follow our interests. Because we are so involved with reading and education, we try to bring books to donate to local libraries. Lillie brings a few copies of her favorite books, especially ones about Michigan, where we are from. Ed is a published author – he brings copies of his books. We often talk to the local librarian and see if they’d like guest speakers from another country for a short program. We are also committed to the environment – so finding out local cleanups, or plantings, can also be a great way to both help the community and make new friends.

We love arts and theater – and try to catch as many performances as possible while we’re in a new place. Visiting the theater beforehand – and seeing if there are ways we can help, such as passing out programs at a free concert – can help involve your family in a new milieu. Meeting the performers or artists can help your children learn about different cultural traditions in a new way. We’ve helped at street fairs, and made tons of new friends while interacting with locals.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Listening to music and watching videos from a new place can serve to reduce the newness of a place. If you’re familiar with the books, history, and culture of a place, it seems like you’re just exploring a place you know but haven’t been before. Our daughter prefers to know as much as possible about a place before we go – so we research the music, artists, history, books, what kids do, geography, and activities that we can explore. If Lillie has a hand in planning what we’ll do, she’s much more open to learning about a place and meeting new friends. She’s made friends at an outdoor sculpture garden in Minneapolis, read books together in the Seattle Public Library, and is currently lining up activities and friends in Ireland and Scotland, as we’re heading there in September.

Finding pen pals before you travel is a great way to get involved with communities while you travel. Especially if you are staying in one place for more than a few days,making friends beforehand, or at local markets, restaurants, libraries, or parks can open a new world to your family. Be friendly, outgoing, and ready to get involved. You never know – there might be a community project that weekend that wasn’t publicized, that would be a perfect fit for your family. Interacting with locals is more than just saying thank you at the grocery store. It is all about learning of a place and the people who live there.

Listening, learning, and helping others can exponentially expand your child’s world. It is important to explore the world and understand people and cultures. Whether at home or when you’re traveling, interacting with local communities in meaningful ways is an excellent way to be a good global citizen.

Relevant Links:

International travel with children, more tips for raising global citizens

Family travel USA

Family travel Europe

Family travel Canada

Family travel Mexico

Family travel Belize

Family travel Costa Rica

All Ciao Bambino family travel destinations

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