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Let's Travel!

Project URL:


How it works:
The project begins with the teacher establishing behavioral guidelines for the classroom. Rules and expectations are reviewed with the students, who earn points each day by making the correct behavioral choices. These points are charted by the teacher, discussed with students at the end of the day, and sent home to parents. Each student has a desktop-size map of the United States that hangs prominently in the classroom. During a scheduled "Travel Bureau" period at the end of the week, each student tallies his/her points, rounds to the nearest ten, and exchanges points for frequent flyer miles. The number of miles earned determines how many inches are traveled on each student's map.  They plot their journey on their individual maps, and each student also keeps a notebook called a "Travel Log." Each week, the students track the mathematical calculations they did to tally, round their points, and convert them to frequent flyer miles. In addition, they log the states from which they depart and in which they arrive. They use a compass rose to determine the direction of travel.

As an additional incentive, students earn "bonus miles" that are added to their total during the "Travel Bureau" period. These miles are based on Internet research at various websites that provide information allowing students to complete projects such as state fact sheets, artistic state flags to display, or oral presentations on states. Students look forward to using their free time to complete bonus projects in order to earn more frequent flyer miles. At the end of each month, "travel parties" are held with themes such as "My Favorite State," "My Route," and "How I Spent My Vacation." Information relating to these themes is found on the Internet by the students. Games, contests, and project presentations are all part of the party. Classroom decorations evolve as students generate flags, travel posters, and other projects in which they take great pride. If students remain in the same class for a second year, the program can be adapted to a "Travel the World" theme. 

Standards addressed:  
Students become familiar with the location of the United States or of countries and continents around the world and learn facts about states, countries, or continents including flags, capital cities, mottos, products, birds, and population. They use compass directions; learn about geographic features such as oceans, borders, mountains, rivers, and lakes; obtain facts from Internet sources; organize information into written paragraph form; and present written information in oral presentation form.

Materials used: 
]Required materials include computers with Internet access and Microsoft Word. 

The students:
Let's Travel! was designed for special education grades 4 and 5. It is easily adapted to enhance the regular education curriculum in grades 3 through 8.

Overall value:
This unique project ties a classroom behavior system to curriculum and has proven to be highly motivating. Student enthusiasm grows throughout the year. Students gain the ability to read maps and do Internet research, and become more aware of United States and/or world geography. Writing and organizational skills improve. Suddenly, TV news stories and newspaper headlines become more relevant. Students check their maps regularly and look for states and countries they have heard about. Behavior improves as students try to earn points throughout the week to trade in for miles. They are encouraged to make good choices and are reminded of their progress and goals. The visual classroom maps showing how far they have traveled is highly reinforcing and a source of great pride. This program makes even reluctant students excited about learning. 

It is important for the teacher to decorate the classroom with maps and colorful travel posters. Students are motivated when they see the maps with their routes displayed around the classroom. Each week during Travel Bureau, the teacher has the opportunity to meet individually with each student to discuss his/her progress. In addition, this is an opportunity to review the student's behavior and stress positive choices and improvement.

About the teachers:
Marti Rifkin, M.S. (left) has been a special education teacher with Rockland County BOCES for almost thirty years. She has extensive experience with
elementary school students with a variety of disabilities. Her education includes a master's degree in speech and language therapy and graduate work in technology for education. Through her experience with children of special needs, she has recognized the potential that today's technology holds to motivate students and enhance their mastery of the curriculum.

Arleen Sonkin, Ph.D. (right) is a licensed psychologist who specializes in clinical work with children and families. She has worked with Rockland County BOCES for the past ten years with particular emphasis on programs for children with Asperger's Syndrome and various emotional disorders. 


Subject Areas: 
Social Studies
Special Education

Grade Levels: 


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