VIDEO: 2015 European War History Tour Recap
Brent Nieter is an 8th Grade US History Teacher from Chesapeake, Virginia. He took a group of his students to Europe in the summer of 2015 to expose them to the places and things he taught them about in his classroom. In addition to the great video he created chronicling his journey, he participated in an interview describing his educational travel experience with ACIS:
What originally attracted you to educational travel?
I was introduced to educational travel by several of my colleagues who had taken tours with ACIS in the past. I have always wanted to travel in order to gain experiences that would make me a better teacher.
What subject do you teach and how long have you been teaching?
I have been an 8th grade United States History teacher for 14 years.
What made you seek out the trip you picked specifically to France and Germany?
The ACIS European War History tour fit perfectly with my curriculum. We visited locations that were key turning points in World War I, World War II, as well as the Cold War.
How did you use the trip abroad in your classroom to get your students excited about the subject matter?
Honestly, my school district frowns upon teachers discussing educational travel opportunities in the classroom. I did my best to comply with their wishes, even though I did probably say, “And I’m going to go there and see that this summer!” more times than the kids cared to hear!
Did you notice a lift in excitement and enthusiasm in your students before, during or after the trip?
This was a trip that was very focused on the events of the world wars and the Cold War. I prepared myself ahead of time that not every student would share my passion for the things that we were seeing and doing along the way.
I grossly underestimated how the experience would not only keep the students’ attention, but have them gain an even deeper understanding of the importance of the events that transpired in the locations that we visited. Since our return, several of the students have contacted me to let me know that they have done further research on topics that were covered during our time in Europe.
My favorite quote came from one of the students while we were standing on the steps of the Zepplinfeld in Nuremberg. While quietly looking out over the former Nazi party rally grounds, she said, “There’s no way you could possibly understand the feeling of standing in this spot while sitting in a classroom back home.”
How important is experiential learning to your approach to teaching?
As a history teacher, I believe it is imperative that students make connections between the events of the past and the present. History isn’t just a string of unimportant facts and accounts of dead individuals who used to be important. It should be taught as a story that tells the lessons of the past and how they apply directly to our lives today. What better way to learn these lessons than by visiting the very places where these world-changing events took place?
What goals did you have for your trip abroad?
My main goal was that the students have a great time while they learned. The European War History tour is a curriculum-based trip that is specifically focused on the events of the two world wars. I had a great group of students with me, but before we left, I was a little concerned that they were going to be overwhelmed with the amount of information that was going to be presented.
The tour completely exceeded my expectations! The students had an absolute blast while experiencing things that could not possibly have been duplicated in a classroom.
Any other comments or feedback you’d like to share about your experience with ACIS?
This was my first trip with ACIS and I cannot over-state how amazing this experience was for both my students as well as me! The trip was perfectly organized, our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, the accommodations were in great locations, the food was amazing, and the students made great new friends from around the country while they learned about history by experiencing it. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime!
If hearing about Brent’s experience traveling with ACIS awakened your wanderlust let us know! We’d love to provide a life-changing experience for you and your students as well!
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