The intangible moments that make it so worthwhile!

Experiencing IMOEs

by Lance Harvey

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The aha or light bulb moments

There is no doubt whatsoever, the best part of planning educational travel is witnessing the life-changing moments that occur on tour. While the curricular benefits of the tour are beyond debate, equally important are the breakthrough social moments students encounter on the tour. While I have heard teachers refer to these as “light bulb” or “aha!” moments, I have always labeled these as the "intangible moments of education." 

Students will never forget

I include “educational” because these are the moments that give meaning to their education- to their “life education.” They are intangible because they can’t be duplicated in a classroom, they can’t be planned and they can’t always be explained later. They often occur spontaneously when you least expect it. Sometimes the moments are so significant they emotionally move every student and teacher in the group. Other times, perhaps a single student experiences a moment. One thing is certain- these become the memories a student remembers for the rest of his or her life. These generate the stories they will tell their own grandchildren one day. 

This is YOUR ‘pay it forward’ moment

Having the honor of witnessing more than 30 years of these moments, I could literally write a book of amazing stories where one moment on tour literally changed a student's life. Some of these students today are respected leaders. Some honorably serve our nation. Some have gone on to creating movements that have changed communities and positively benefitted hundreds of thousands of lives.  As a tour leader, just bringing these students on tour is an incredible example of "pay it forward" service to your community. You are giving our next generation of leaders, professionals, scientists, scholars and citizens some of the most important and impactful moments of their lives. 

Maximize the opportunities for IMOEs to occur

The important thing to remember is that you never know where a student’s "intangible moment of education" is going to occur. Every student brings with them a different life history, aspirations, skills, emotions and values. For this very reason, student tours are very different than adult group tours. For so many of these students this may very well be their only time to experience these cities and thus the pace and breadth of the tour are intentionally challenging. Students shouldn't have leisurely schedules, a lot of down time, lengthy meals or even hours of classroom time on tour. I'm not at all suggesting you run site to site for quick picture stops. Schedule your tour to give students sufficient time to fully witness the site and be able to grasp the importance of the moment. 

Keep their eyes and ears open at all times

The important thing is to give your students the opportunity. Encourage them to think and explore. Ask them to put down their cameras and cell phones and to be present in the moment. Encourage them to express how the moment made them feel. Expectations and outside attitudes can heavily influence a student’s perception. As a tour leader, whether you have seen the site 15 times, treat the moment as you did your first time and lead by example. Enthusiasm and self expression are contagious. Below are just a few of the thousands of places intangible moments of education routinely occur on tour. As you can see, the potential for these moments is often the result of the travel experience itself. They can occur anywhere at anytime. After considering the list below, I would love to hear some of the unforgettable tour moments you have encountered as well.

Just a few of the thousands of IMOEs…

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