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Educational vacations for the whole family: Part I

Date posted:  5/27/16 09:00:00 AM

Summer will be here before you know it, and with the warm weather comes extended holiday time for the family. 

If you have children, you may want to incorporate educational material into the holiday to keep their minds engaged while on a break from school. When done well, it can be incredibly enjoyable and beneficial for the whole family.

Check out a national park 
Heading to a national park for vacation is a great way to teach your kids about the environment, geography and wildlife. Park rangers, guides and other outdoor experts can provide valuable information about our nations most beautiful parks.

Encourage your kids to bring along wilderness journals to jot down notes and fun facts about their experiences throughout the vacation. Fox News reported many experts indicate it can be a lot to take in.

"I always look at it as sensory overload," said Dan Austin, founder of a tour operator, according to Fox News. "You've got more geothermal features there than the rest of the world combined. You've got the wild life (and) Western history. You've got geography and geology. It really is a fascinating place especially for young kids."

Learn more about the Cold War 
Throughout history the U.S. has experienced many hardships and stresses. The Cold War was an especially terrifying time. Family Vacation Critic suggested taking some time off and heading to The Greenbier in West Virginia. This top-secret facility gives families an opportunity to learn about the U.S's strategy when it came to the Cold War. 

Tourists can check out the Bunker, a 112,544-square-foot space surrounded by concrete walls that were three to five feet thick. This structure was designed to keep members of the Senate and House of Representatives safe in case of a nuclear attack on the nation's capital. 

Chase your roots 
With the fast-paced society we live in, it's easy to forget what really matters. Sometimes slowing it down and connecting with your family on another level is the best way to spend a vacation. Consider heading to your ancestral homeland for a summer holiday adventure everyone can enjoy and learn from. 

Try to find distant relatives, old homes or even grave sites to become more connected with your ancestors. AARP suggested first conducting some genealogy research to learn a bit more about your family tree and where you are from. Some helpful sites include: 

  • U.S. Census Bureau records 

Learn about the nation's history 
CNBC suggested bringing history to life by taking the kids to sites where the events they read about in books at school actually took place. Colonial Williamsburg provides an opportunity for the whole family to step back in time and become more familiar with the birth of the nation. 

There are even opportunities to meet actors who portray real historical figures and can teach everyone valuable and interesting lessons.

Blast off to a space center
Have a young kiddo who loves space and astronomy? Consider packing up the crew and heading to the Houston Space Center. Not only will you learn about the science and history behind space exploration, but it also provides the whole family with an opportunity to experience mind-blowing simulations. Be sure to ask about day camps for additional exploration opportunities at the space center. 

Another fun and exciting space-centered adventure can be found at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It's a great time to expose your children to physics, engineering and other space-related sciences. 

"93% of the alumni said they took more science courses, particularly physics and chemistry, in the years following...91% reported taking more math; and 74% said they learned about careers," notes the Space Camp's survey, according to CNBC. 

Check out the capital 
Washington D.C. is not only a great place to take the whole family, but it is also a fantastic education opportunity for parents and children. Learn about government, politics and the history of the U.S. by exploring famous monuments and buildings in America's capital. 

Reach out to your state representative to see if you and your family can meet him or her while you are visiting! Even if they are too busy to meet in person, have your children write a letter to a senator or state representative as a unique and fun activity. 

Vacations don't always have to take place at a beach or by the Grand Canyon. There are plenty of unique trips that are interesting and educational. Using travel as a vehicle for learning is a great way to ignite your children's curiosity.