Friday, October 12, 2012

Middle School Students Take an Educational Tour of Georgia

Recently, I worked with Cathy Carlton, a Social Studies teacher for Bennett's Mill Middle School in Fayetteville, Georgia, to create an itinerary for a class trip that encompassed historical highlights of the state of Georgia. Her class on Georgia history spans an entire school year. The class begins with the prehistoric Indians and continues with Colonial studies, a close look at the American Revolution, the antebellum period and Civil War. Studies also include a consideration of the impact of modern wars, a look at regions of Georgia and economics that thrive in them, and the way entrepreneurs have impacted life in the state.
An Educational Tour of Georgia in Sync with Curriculum Objectives
In previous years, Carlton took the student travel group to Savannah for three days and two nights. This year, she found it more economical to limit the trip to two days and one night, so more students could afford to attend. But saving money was not the only motivation to create this unique tour. "I felt like this trip was much more meaningful because we were able to visit many more sites around the state," noted Carlton.
Students Travel to Different Sites Across the State of Georgia
Some highlights of the tour included a visit to Milledgeville, Georgia, the first capital of the state, a tour of Andersonville Prison, where prisoners of war were housed during the Civil War, and a tour of CNN Studios in Atlanta, where students were able to see how television news is produced. In Atlanta, students also visited the Governor's Mansion as well as The Bremen Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum and Oakland Cemetery, where famous Georgians were interred.
The first stop on the tour was Andersonville Prison, a two-hour bus ride from the group's hometown. Carlton wanted students to see this National Historic Site, because it tied in with their classroom studies of the Civil War and modern wars. Students toured the site and gained a better understanding of the place where Northern soldiers were detained and housed during the Civil War. They were also engaged in learning about the dynamics of prisoners of war, and how it affects our society as a whole.
A Student Tour of Milledgeville: Georgia's First Capital City
The visit to Millledgeville seemed especially important to Carlton, as it tied in nicely with her curriculum and gave students a chance to actually see the grandeur of the historic capital. Carlton said, "Students were really impressed by the fact that the capital began there. It was eventually moved to Atlanta so it could be more centrally located. We were able to visit the Old Capitol Building, but we missed our tour of the Governor's Mansion there, because we were running a little late, having spent more time at Andersonville then we anticipated."
Educational Trip to Atlanta Includes Multiple Destinations
When the student tour group reached Atlanta, they took a break to eat supper at the Hard Rock Café, then toured Oakland Cemetery, where Bobby Jones, Maynard Jackson and Margaret Mitchell are buried. "The guided tours of Oakland Cemetery included the graves of these famous Georgians -- which were part of our studies -- and many other historical people as well," observed Carlton.
The educational tour group spent the evening at the Hampton Inn near the Perimeter Mall where breakfast was included the following morning. Their tour of Atlanta began with a look at the Governor's Mansion, where they actually saw Governor Perdue leaving the building that day. This was followed by lunch at the Varsity, a famous Atlanta landmark.
The afternoon was filled with a visit to the Bremen Holocaust Museum. Carlton was impressed with the tours given here, which were led by "survivors or family members of survivors. It was fascinating for students to hear what the holocaust was actually like. The group also viewed artifacts and videos of the holocaust."
The trip on Georgia history concluded with a tour of CNN Studios in Atlanta, founded by the famous entrepreneur Ted Turner, who also started the first television station in Georgia, TBS. The group of over 81 students was broken up into smaller groups for the studio tour, where they saw live news and also had a chance to glimpse the behind the scenes work involved in airing national news 24-hours per day. Carlton recalled, "Students were thrilled by seeing the live newscasters, because they recognized some of the people they've seen on television."
Educational Trip of Georgia was a Success!
Overall, creating a historical tour of Georgia was a positive experience for me and my staff. Usually, student tours are limited to the Atlanta metro area, because there are many educational sites to see in this city. After collaborating with Carlton on the creation of this custom tour, I can now see the benefits of widening the scope of destinations in Georgia. It provides students a larger view of Georgia's history because it includes landmarks that may be lesser known, but are equally important in understanding state history.
Student travel groups interested in touring Atlanta may want to consider including some of these prominent sites in their tour with visits to Milledgeville and Andersonville Prison included on their itinerary. Overall, students did not spend more than 3 ½ hours on the bus the first day, and they had plenty of stops to keep the travel time interesting.

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