Expedition Unknown

We’ve been watching a lot of Expedition Unknown at our house lately. With an eleven year old girl and eight year old boy, this Travel Channel show that follows an engaging adventurer as he searches archaeological sites for answers to historical mysteries is one of the few programs everyone can agree on.

Over the summer we’ve sat together on the couch and learned about Viking sunstones, Mayan cenotes, and Henry Morgan’s attack on Panama City.

expedition unknownThe kids watch, wide eyed, curious about worlds they never knew existed, my wife and I chuckle at host Josh Gates’ humor, and we all learn a little together.

As a high school principal, and teacher of more than a dozen years, I appreciate Expedition Unknown’s ability to craft an entertaining hour that keeps my kids’ attention while teaching them to appreciate the grandness of human history.

Josh Gates brings a boyish energy and smiling charm to the adventures, as we’re led through caves and up mountains, across deserts and into jungles, and entertained with pinch of archaeology and dollop of wonder.

This concept of wonder has the potential to be one of the most powerful motivators in education today. I’d argue it has been a cornerstone of education since before Socrates.

Good teachers are able to help students understand the context of what they’re learning and see science, or history, or math, or any subject as a part of the greater human story. Students sparked to be curious are students who will learn; teachers able to inspire this desire to know more are the heroes who make our world a better place.

In a culture so focused on testing and accountability, so concerned about college applications and building academic resumes, I find inspiration in the teachers who follow Socrates’ advice: “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds…”

This might be building rockets or throwing pottery, designing buildings or designing t-shirts, egg drops, one act plays, Pi Day, or poetry. At its best, this kind of learning takes place in an environment where students of diverse interests learn, laugh, work, and wonder with teachers who care deeply about them.

Kind of like Expedition Unknown and our couch.

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