Russia has had a potent influence on the history of the West, yet for many it is unexplored territory. Its stereotypes and images loom large in the modern zeitgeist, but they are often unmeasured and unchallenged by the personal experience of travelling to this vast and proud nation.This is largely due to the antagonistic shadow cast by the Iron Curtain and years of Cold War suspicions. Students who do travel there will be thrilled to find that behind this shadow, behind the stereotypes, and behind the harsh visage of unexplored territory lies a nation waiting to light up and educate the paths of travellers.A Byzantine SoulThe wealth of Russian heritage has deep roots. Stretching back long before the austere face of Stalinism, the nation has seen many territorial and hierarchical changes, but one strong vein of culture has remained stalwart throughout. Students on educational trips will be able to explore first hand the preservation of Byzantine Roman culture entrenched through the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. The rituals, the iconography, the art and finely crafted domes on churches such as St Basil’s, all hark back to Eastern Christianity and Constantine’s empire.The Home of the TsarsThe story of the Tsars has captured popular imagination. Students on educational trips can go beyond the veneer of these stories and explore the fascinating history in greater detail. From Nicolas the Second to Catherine the Great, and from Rasputin to Tsar Peter, the array of drama and tumult that surrounded the many years of tsarist rule will captivate the imagination and help students understand much of Russian customs.The Land of Rare WordsFor students of literature, Russian is a sacred island in a sea of easy words. Educational trips will allow students to explore the provenance and history surrounding some of literature’s great masters and greatest works of literary art. From Solzhenitsyn to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky to Chekhov, Russian writers have imbued their words with stark energy and grace; they have transcended the complexities of the Russian language and won the battle against the boundaries of translation. A chance to learn a little Russian and visit the inspirational sites of these great writers will not easily be forgotten.The Flourish of CommunismPerhaps the most well known image of Russia is that of the Soviet hammer and sickle. Yet, it is also perhaps the most misunderstood. Students of politics and history, as well as students who simply wish to better understand the modern world will do well to take educational trips to Russia to better understand the gritty details of life under the Soviet Union. The museums and tours of St Petersburg and Moscow will help students appreciate the lifestyle of ordinary people under Lenin’s legacy, and also help them see how the nation has faced both high and lows after it emerged from that stage in its history.
For teachers seeking an inspiring educational travel destination, Barcelona may be the perfect choice. A city with plenty to recommend it to any traveller, it is particularly rewarding for learners; vibrant and fashionable, it is sure to stick in students’ minds while broadening their horizons with new knowledge and cultural experiences. Famous for its fabulous architecture, warm weather and great food, it is a city that combines historic grandeur with a youthful spirit, and as such is bursting with opportunities for engaging young visitors. Here are some of its most appealing attractions for teachers and learners.Las RamblasBustling, colourful and full of things to see and do, the city’s main thoroughfare, Las Ramblas, makes an excellent starting point for any group visiting Barcelona for the purpose of educational travel. This broad, tree-shaded boulevard extends for 1.2 km across the heart of the city, and is where residents and visitors alike come to shop, talk, and soak up the atmosphere. Given its central location, it is home to a number of sights as well as being an attraction in its own right: look out for the famous Canaletes fountain, the Miro mosaic, and the Liceu Theatre. Adjoining the road, La Boqueria market is full of interesting stalls, and is ideal for experiencing the daily life of the city.Gaudi’s MasterpiecesFor art lovers, Barcelona will need little introduction: the city is almost synonymous with the striking architectural works of the great Catalonian artist Antoni Gaudi. Educational travel is an excellent opportunity to investigate the work of artists in their cultural contexts, and this is particularly true of Gaudi’s legacy, which is very much part of the city’s heritage. Some of the most famous examples of his work include the Sagrada Familia and the sculptures in Parc Guell, but there are many more buildings and other creations to be discovered throughout the city. For greater insight into the importance of Gaudi’s work, students can visit the National Art Museum of Catalonia, where they can learn about the artist’s contemporaries in the Catalonian modernist movement.PortAventuraFor many teachers, the secret to successful educational travel is striking the right balance between learning and fun. Not far from central Barcelona, PortAventura theme park provides plenty of fun – as well as some great learning opportunities. The thrilling shows and rides – including Europe’s highest roller coaster – on offer are located in a variety of zones depicting different parts of the ancient or modern world, including the Mediterranean, Mexico and Polynesia. Each has an educational content that can be taken in while enjoying the rides. There is also plenty of potential for science or maths related activities, with the opportunity to examine the effects of physics and investigate the park’s engineering.
Art Appreciation 101 has been a long running joke among university students. It’s the classic crutch course, the easy ‘A’. Art is the class you take to pull your grade point average out of the gutter with a minimum of effort. But according to cognition researchers at The Dana Foundation, the joke is on the college kids. Art does much more than augment a lagging GPA; it actually expands your ability to learn, across the board.How Does Happen?How does art affect learning? It follows the basic neurological principle, that what you do from day-to-day changes the way your brain functions. The act of habitually observing and participating in the visual arts improves your cognition in two ways: it naturally lengthens the attention span, and it creates openness to new ideas. This happens because art appeals to what you love– the beauty of a familiar or exotic landscape, the emotion of an implied story, empathy with a relatable character, wishful thoughts toward something pleasant, etc. Your attention is easily drawn out, either to study or to create something that is pleasing to your unique sense of history and truth. Likewise, the act of entering into someone else’s artwork, along with the artist’s unique perspectives and methods, opens new cognitive paths, to allow for understanding or sympathizing with another’s world viewCaptures Attention and Imagination.Both attention and openness have long been known to be vital factors in the ability to learn and retain new information, so it should come as no surprise that the gains in attention span and openness created in pursuit of the arts would enhance ability to perform in every other learning arena as well. Researchers at the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education found this to be true, even in poor-performing schools. Their finding was that the use of art in school was so effective in improving student cognition that it significantly leveled the playing field between low-income students and kids from more affluent backgrounds. Something as simple as the gift of a set of colored gel pens had the power to engage students who might otherwise have fallen by the wayside.The Results Are StunningHow can students and educators use art to work in their favor? With the prevalence of the Internet, art can be anywhere and everywhere. Anyone can take an online course in the visual arts, or do their own self-directed study in local museums and online galleries. But it doesn’t have to stop with observation. To get the best possible benefit, art must be practiced in every form possible. Students can learn to create in the style of their favorite artists, or sprawl out on the floor at night and do their homework in gel pen colors, and develop their own forms and techniques. Teachers can swap out that drawer full of pencils for sets of awesome gel pens, and allow writing to become as much a visual art as a verbal art. When aesthetics are free to work their magic on the attention span and the openness of a class full of learners, everybody gets an easy ‘A’.