Hands-on and Experiential Learning From Our Travels Through Southeast Asia

by Justin Tsui

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

Being a high school teacher for 15 years gave me countless opportunities to work with some amazing young people. I witnessed firsthand how the classroom can become a valuable tool to help develop a lifelong appreciation of learning for everyone. I also witnessed how the classroom has changed and evolved during the first part of the 21st century. Some of these changes have impacted the classroom in a productive way and others have made learning more difficult.

Simply put, the education system cannot support all of the current challenges it is facing. One of the biggest challenges in the education system is that more and more responsibilities are being passed onto classroom teachers. There are more students with individual learning needs, more students struggling daily with their mental wellness and technology is constantly pulling at the attention of young people.

The news is not all doom and gloom though. As an eternal optimist, I know that any challenge in life comes with the opportunity to create change for the better. If all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, government and the community at large) work together and collaborate, we can create an education system that will best prepare all of our kids for the demands of life in the 21st century.

One thing that was evident at the start and end of my teaching career was that the best learning always occurred when the material was hands-on and relevant for both students and teachers. Let’s allow our kids, big or small, to get their hands dirty, to play more and to make things relevant in the course of their day-to-day lives.

Here’s how my wife and I are providing some hands-on and experiential learning for our kids. My wife and I value lifelong learning so we have always wanted to be active participants in our kids’ learning. We do not believe it is solely the responsibility of our kids’ teachers to educate them so we want to expose them to as many life experiences as we can. During our transition away from traditional teaching careers, we decided that travel would be a big priority for our family as we have never had this amount of time freedom before. We chose to take our kids on a seven-week trip around parts of Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. This has been an exciting and interesting growth opportunity for all of us as we have been able to explore a different part of the world. This experience has pushed all of us past our comfort zones but that’s where the best learning takes place, right?

As we were preparing for this trip, one of the most common questions we were asked revolved around the kids and their school. I jokingly told everyone that the kids were getting enrolled in “The School of Life.”

What is the School of Life?

What are the kids learning during the first few weeks of this hands-on learning experience?

  • They have been exploring different parts of Thailand and how each region has its own distinct energy and vibe. We started off our trip in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Then we moved to the more laid-back culture of the north in Chiang Mai. We are finishing our time here in Thailand by exploring the many islands and beaches around Krabi. We are fully immersing in life here eating new foods in Night Markets, meeting new people and the exploring a new culture (aka – social studies).
  • They have been learning a new currency, the Thai Bhat. Tyler has really turned into a great little accountant as he has been calculating how much our meals will cost, then figures out how much things convert back into Canadian dollars (aka – math).
  • They are walking a ton – so lots of daily movement as our main mode of transportation has been the heel-toe express. Taking the time to walk around and explore the different areas has allowed us to get a much better feel for the different parts of Thailand. To cool off after our long walks, the kids have been jumping in the pool to cool down when we get back to our hotel. Not a bad way to stay physically active while away (aka – gym).
  • The kids have been able to keep up with the French by practicing and speaking with other tourists we have met from Quebec and France. It’s really cool to watch them apply their lessons from being in French Immersion in the real world. (aka – languages).
  • Tyler decided to make his own drum set out of old plastic water bottles to keep himself entertained in the room. Kiyena has been singing and providing vocal back-up to Tyler’s drum solos. We are not really sure why Eiffel 65’s “I’m Blue” is the song of choice but at least it brings me back to my university days at the bar. (aka – music) .

The best part of this whole experience is that they are learning that they CAN always start to create life on their own terms. I want my kids to know that the only limitations on their lives are the ones they put on themselves – anything and everything is possible.

Now you may be thinking this is all and great but how do I apply this to my everyday life at home? Here is a framework you can use to create your own “School of Life” at home.

  • Ask your kids what they are learning about in school. This is a great way to create greater connection with your kids and develop a better understanding of what they are learning about in school. As I wrote this article I asked Tyler to tell me about something he was learning about in school before our trip. Tyler told me his class was learning about structures, the two different types of structure (e.g. natural and man-made) and the four characteristics (e.g. shape, size, function and the ability to hold weight) of a structure.
  • Create one experience this week with your kids that allows them to extend their learning from school into the real world. What a great opportunity to create some mindful movement by getting outside for a walk together and exploring what types of structures we have around our current home.

Developing a lifelong appreciation of learning is one of the best lessons you can ever teach your kids. It is an important way to inspire and empower them to make GREATNESS their standard in life.

About the Author – Justin Tsui

I recently left a successful 15-year teaching and coaching career to focus full-time on the Win Each Day community. I coach other men 💪 to PLAY at their highest potential in all areas of life 🚀. I’m committed to helping inspire and empower more men to create and cultivate the life of THEIR dreams.

Ways to connect:

  • Follows us on Instagram – @win_each_day

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