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Fun & Educational Travel in Florida (with Hernando de Soto)

Hernando de Soto knew a good vacation spot when he saw one.

It is almost June, and that means that the school year is winding down, and many teachers and librarians are looking forward to a much-needed vacation! And, like de Soto, many of you, with families in tow, will be heading for sunny Florida to rest and relax on the beach. But just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. There are many fun and educational things to do and places to see while in the Sunshine State.

Hernando de Soto Research Topic

Hernando de Soto Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Florida Beach Towns Research Topic

Florida Beach Towns Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike Hernando, most of you will be either flying or driving the interstate to your destination. After sailing for over 30 days, in late May 1539, Spanish conquistador de Soto landed nine ships with over 620 men and 220 horses in an area generally identified as south Tampa Bay, Florida. You must admit…travel is so much easier today. How would you like to take care of 200 sea-sick horses for a month?

After hitting the beach, wearing yourself to a frazzle at Disney or taking the kids to see Harry Potter at Universal, it will be time to check out some of the slower-paced sites Florida has to offer…like the Kennedy Space Center, a STEM teacher’s dream.

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden [Photo by Tom Mason]

Atlantis Exhibit, Kennedy Space Center

Josh at the Atlantis Exhibit, KSC [Photo by Tom Mason]

 

 

My son Josh and I geeked out at Kennedy. Plan on spending an entire day there.

Besides seeing the awesome Rocket Garden, you can go to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and don’t forget to take the bus tour where you will pass by the Vehicle Assembly Building (one of the largest buildings in the world) and stop at the Explore the Moon exhibit which is a massive display of the technology that sent humans to the moon.

 

 

One of the highlights is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit which takes you past two solid rocket boosters and orange external tank to see Atlantis close-up.

Space Shuttle Atlantis, KSC

Space Shuttle Atlantis, KSC [Photo by Tom Mason]

Moving up the “Space Coast,” you’ll arrive at St. Augustine. Besides being the oldest city in the United States, it also lays claim to having the oldest wooden school house in America. It is located in the Old City on St. George Street near the City Gate. Tax records show that the tiny school was around in 1716 and possibly before then. You will notice a huge chain wrapped around the building; it was placed there in 1937 to hold the house in place during hurricanes. I might also recommend going on one of the Ghost Walks in the Old City (which will take you past the school house). They are entertaining, educational and not too scary for the kids. History teachers (and history buffs) will enjoy the many sites in Old St. Augustine.

Oldest Wood School House in America

Oldest Wood School House in the USA [Photo by Debra Mason]

For you ELA teachers, I would recommend the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West. It was Hemingway’s home from 1931 to 1939 and is now open to the public. It is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Now, getting back to de Soto…

While Hernando might get a failing grade for his relations with the Native Americans he encountered, you certainly have to give him an “A” for chutzpah. Hernando de Soto led the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas), and he was the first documented European to have crossed the Mississippi River. He encouraged the local natives to believe that he was a type of sun god, but, uncharacteristic of a deity, died of a fever on May 21, 1542.

Hopefully, that will not happen to you while on vacation this summer.

Here are just a few eLibrary Research Topics and Websites to look at before you head out on your Florida vacation:

Everglades National Park (Research Topic)

Florida Forests and Parks (Research Topic)

Florida History (Research Topic)

Florida Keys (Research Topic)

Fun Florida Field Trips (FL Dept. of Education Website)

Key West (Research Topic)

Let others know about some of your educational travel ideas. You can tweet us using #ProQuest

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