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Summer 101

Family Vacations, Summer 1996

Summer 101

They call these trips learning vacations. But don't let the name scare you
By Caitlin Maynard

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The very idea of a learning vacation is enough to make a kid gag. Once you're free from school for the summer, who wants anything to do with learning? Well, most of the vacations I've taken in my 14 years have been educational ones, and I've sure never found myself cooped up in a classroom.

My family bought into learning vacations in part because my dad, Thane, runs the education department at the Cincinnati Zoo. I joined the Junior Zoologist Club, and one trip we took was to Belize. Hiking through the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve, I stood a few feet away from two of the world's most venomous snakes, the fer-de-lance and the coral snake. We also snorkeled in Ranguana Cay, part of the second-largest coral reef in the world. At school, you pretty much just sit in class; on a learning trip, you're out in the field having this great adventure. And because you live it, you don't soon forget it.

But don't think the only way you can have a good time is to travel halfway around the world. There are so many exciting places right here at home. Like New Jersey: Every year, my parents, two sisters (Shailah is 11 and Lily is seven), and I pile into our minivan for the 14-hour drive to Cape May. This is on the main route for the southern migration of butterflies, songbirds, owls, and hawks. And, sure, my dad is the official animal expert, but it's my mom, Kath, who has gotten hooked on birds. Which proves, I guess, that even parents can be taught a thing or two on a learning vacation.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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