There are many ways to promote a high school foreign trip. Classroom decoration and appropriate reminders of past trips sell future adventures.
One mid-June, weeks after the high school semester ended, a recent graduate stopped by the classroom door and fixed his gaze at the blank wall on the opposite side of the room. I had already removed all wall hangings in preparation for repainting and general renovation. Judd, however, sat down and pointed to the wall which had been decorated for an entire year with fast-food placemats taken from restaurants in different countries like Russia, Italy, Turkey, and Australia. The collage was designed to promote a global aspect to a particularly American habit of eating.
Well Meaning Ideas Might Prove Counter Productive
“My lunch period came right after your history class,” Judd state wistfully. “I came into this class hungry every day and was forced to stare at delicious burgers from all over the world.” The collage served several purposes. It represented a colorful sales pitch to promote summer trips abroad. It was also an attempt to highlight aspects of globalism within the American history curriculum. It never occurred to me that its purpose provided animosity and hunger!
Judd’s honest appraisal demonstrated that the placemats probably did more harm than good and should have been replaced with symbols and images more meaningful toward foreign travel considerations. Some teachers mount posters of famous world landmarks like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Athens’ Acropolis, or Big Ben in London. But even travel posters fail to fully connect students with any meaningful global connection and, ultimately, experience.
Students Involved Send a Better Message than Inactivity
The best wall decorations designed to elicit interest in foreign adventures are group pictures enlarged as posters. A group picture of students standing in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House raises eyebrows, but a serious of larger pictures depicting students at the top of Sydney’s Harbor Bridge overlooking Circular Key personalize an adventure experience that few students will duplicate.
Students react best to action pictures clearly identified with an atypical foreign travel experience. This might be sloshing through a rainforest creek, cruising the Danube River at Budapest or Vienna, and walking St. Petersburg’s Nevskii Prospect in the dead of winter.
How to Use the High School Classroom
By the time students enter high school, classroom decorations such as intricately prepared bulletin boards serve little education purpose. Schools that sponsor foreign trips for their students in language and history departments should use these educational billboards to create interest in the planned trips while attempting to integrate global messages into on-going curricular goals. The beginnings of Western Civilization can be seen firsthand in Italy and Greece and can be displayed on classroom rooms as a “preview of coming attractions.” Students should feel enticed to wander through the excavations at Pompeii or trudge through Germany’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein, built by the mad king, Ludwig II.
Plastering fast food placemats in a variety of languages yet each depicting a Big Mac cooked to local expectations may be a counterproductive way to sell students on a foreign trip. This is all the more so true because most teacher group leaders do not want their students eating at an American fast food establishment but prefer students sample local cuisine. This is not always easy since some establishments like McDonald’s offer beer as a beverage and reconfigure American products in order to comply with existing law and local taste.
Students Experiment – Even at McDonald’s and Burger King
Secondly, foreign tour directors are often convinced that American students prefer the less expensive fast foods at lunch times and have thwarted planned efforts by teacher-chaperones to find an ethnic restaurant. American fast food restaurants are frequently well attended, attesting to their popularity whether in Helsinki or Dresden. Even the McDonald’s at Rothenburg ob der Tauber was build to blend into the Seventeenth Century motif.
Selling students on a foreign tour begins, in part, with tempting reminders from past, successful trips. If none were taken, students that have been abroad should be encouraged to submit enlarged action pictures of people doing something other than posing for the camera. Such images best promote global adventures whether representing seven-day trips of month-long treks such as through the South Pacific.