Through the Eyes of an Educator: San Diego, California

Stacey Ebert's picture

Many of my educational travel experiences have been abroad. Transitioning to a new city opens eyes, and fills each day and new experience with childlike wonder. Checking out a new supermarket, finding the perfect yoga studio, or researching that new doctor can be a learning experience and adventure rolled in one. In a New York summer, you’d find me relishing my eight weekends from my beach chair. This winter, I find myself in the United States yet not set amongst high school students. This winter, after driving across the US (an experiential learning experience in its own right), the educator in me has been set free to roam the streets of San Diego. If this city can pull this ocean loving traveler away from the sand-it’s got to have something pretty amazing to offer!

 

The Maritime Museum, San Diego

The Maritime Museum

 

San Diego seems to have something for everyone, and all things teach, no matter how small the lesson. In the southwest corner of the country, the Pacific coastline offers hours of beachcombing, photographic treasures, oceanography, surf skills, exploring and much more. Whether you’re strategically crafting a sand castle worthy of Coronado’s Sand Castle Man or creating your first moat ever, San Diego’s beaches are sand pits of learning waiting to happen. Here discovery, creativity, imagination, and feats of artistry know no bounds.

 

The sand castle man's creattion at Coronado Island

The sand castle man's creattion at Coronado Island

 

Once a haven for sailors, this port city has never lost its respect for the military. The Navy Seals train on Coronado Island. Just north, in Miramar, you’ll find a constant stream of fighter jets of all kinds roaring through the skies, drawing eyes upward and hands to ears. Museums of military history and heaps of interaction with both present and retired military engage the interested. The Maritime Museum provides a chance to slither your way through submarines and check out how sailors, both American and Soviet, managed in those tiny spaces for weeks on end. The USS Midway is now a museum set on the Embarcadero. Beside pathways lined with memorial sculptures honoring veterans of all wars, the USS Midway looms large, enticing even the most unseaworthy individuals aboard. Future fliers can step into actual fighter planes and helicopters readied for all sorts of missions. Tour the quarters, find out the jobs involved in keeping a ship afloat, try your hand at simulated flight, or perhaps shake hands with a WWII veteran on board. Tactile, kinesthetic, audial, and visual learners can all be captivated by the inner workings of this floating city. Perhaps the young one who listened to the last lecture by a docent is a future marine?

 

roof deck of the USS Midway

roof deck of the USS Midway

 

Outdoor enthusiasts would need years to actually participate in all this city has to offer. Larger than New York’s Central Park, San Diego’s Balboa Park (which celebrates its one-hundredth birthday this year) merges activities for the active, the learned, the cultured, and the animal lovers. Aside from hiking trails galore, within the park active learners can play lawn bowls, chess, soccer, bocce, golf, and many other games teaching strategy and teamwork, amongst other non-quantifiable skills. There are gardens, a fully designed Spanish Village, and numerous museums taking you through history, science, air, space, photography, and more. One of the most colourfully designed buildings is the WorldBeat Cultural Center. Featuring diversity through music and the arts, this community space provides drumming lessons, dance, and festivals showcasing local and international flavour. Cultural diversity explodes through classes, conversations with volunteers, world-renowned teachers, and community pride.

One of my favorite spots in the park is the United Nations Building and surrounding cottages. The UN’s gift shop is home to snacks, trinkets, and flags from around the world. The surrounding cottages, each of specific nationality (England, France, Israel…) provide programs and events on Sundays along with information, treats from their countries, and an international feeling in the middle of downtown San Diego. Each time you step in a house, it’s as if you’ve leapt onto foreign soil. Accents draw you in and history is all around. For students who learn best by doing: you can literally walk around the world.

Most known throughout the park is the world famous San Diego Zoo. Whether you come to see the polar bears, pandas, or koalas, the natural beauty of the area will astound animal lovers. Providing these experiences showcases learning in life. Today’s schools often break down learning into subjects, sending students running throughout their day having to compartmentalize learning. Visiting the zoo involves reading, direction, biology, life-skills, environmental understanding, habitats, agriculture, personal space, and respect for all living things.

 

Koala at the San Diego Zoo

Koala at the San Diego Zoo

 

San Diego’s Old Town finds history reenacting itself daily. Considered the birthplace of California, San Diego is the spot of the first enduring Spanish settlement in California. Aside from some delicious restaurants, Old Town oozes history at every turn. An original schoolhouse and chapel sit beside a candy shop and candle-making store. Check out the blacksmith, or travel by way of the teashop carrying teas and coffees from around the world. Travelers are even able to reminisce through flavours and use their senses to transport to another time and place.

 

Old Town, San Diego

Old Town, San Diego

 

Diversity and access have been two major touchstones of life in San Diego. Within one half hour, you can cross the border into Mexico. Learning border etiquette, communicating in a language that may be unfamiliar, tolerance, patience, researching where to go, and leaning in to an enriching culture happens here. Access isn’t limited to that of border crossing. In less than eight hours, you can experience vast climate changes, cultural differences, state borders, national parks, and life in ‘the happiest place on earth’. Joshua Tree, Nevada, Arizona, Sea World, Lego-land, Hollywood, the mountains, valleys, deserts, and Disney are all at your fingertips. Often road trips are far more than adventures. Packing in mileage and maths, navigation and maps, license plate finds and geography along with the long lost art of storytelling and working with others all happen before you even reach your destination.  

Two months in San Diego and everything is still new. I am excited discovering new routes, finding joy in research, and tasting my way around the city. Isn’t this the type of interest level we wish for our students? Life that leaps off of pages, piques our interest, and sparks a bit of passion that would take a lifetime to stifle...isn’t that what we wish for our students? Travel has always provided that sort of magic for me, but everyday journeys can do the same. I’ve spent just as much time adventuring here as I’ve done at the beach, and that’s saying something. The eyes of this wandering educator learn something new each day I spend in sunny San Diego.  

 

Love San Diego!

 

Stacey Ebert is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand. Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Stacey Ebert and Mathew Higgins

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