In July our family went on an extended field trip to Puerto Rico. While we were there we covered several academic subjects, including: spanish, history, science, writing and geography.
Both my husband and I are firm believers in the practice of “language immersion” to learn spanish. Our trip to Puerto Rico helped kick-start our children’s interest in the language. Until then we had focused primarily on songs with important vocabulary words and phrases, and developing an ear for the language. Once we arrived in Puerto Rico, however, our children had many opportunities to use the important words that they had already learned, such as “por favor,” “gracias,” “buenos dias,” “hasta luego,” etc., plus learn and use new words and phrases gleaned from their interactions with people and observation of highway signs, billboards and other writings. Every time we went to a restaurant we allowed our children to participate in the ordering process, and in stores, we encouraged them to ask questions and practice being polite. After our trip our children came back with a fresh desire to learn and practice Spanish, as well as more confidence in speaking the language.
Because of it’s geographical location, Puerto Rico has a lot of historical significance in the Caribbean region and in the history of the Americas from the time of the conquistadors to the present. Because our girls really enjoy learning and reading about history, this subject was a major focus of our trip. Maritime history and world history are one and the same, especially when talking about the Spanish explorers, Columbus, Cortez, pirates, privateers, and the battles between them all. We visited Old San Juan and the forts there, which are run by the National Park Service. This gave the girls a great overview of the influence of Spanish rule over the Caribbean region and its reach into the southern United States, including our home state of Florida. Because we live near St. Augustine, the children got to see the similarities between the two forts and the reach of Spain’s rule.
Geography has always been a fun subject and we used this trip to reinforce what the girls already knew and also introduce new concepts and terms. We did a lot of travel by car around the island and used several maps to help guide our travels which the girls consulted regularly.
It was during these trips around the island that we integrated science into our Puerto Rico lesson plans. The highlight of this was our trip to the rainforest and El Yunque, the highest point in Puerto Rico. We climbed to the top of El Yunque, a nice hike through the tropical rainforest where we saw all kinds of vegetation and animal and insect species. Part of El Yunque is a cloud forest, although the day we went up it was a beautiful, clear day. Another very fun time was the daysail we enjoyed on Capt. Tony’s Hunter 38. We anchored in beautiful, turquoise water and the girls got to snorkel and swim in the Caribbean. We also explored a small island off the coast of Fajardo, the main port on the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico.
Throughout the trip the girls wrote in their journals and drew pictures of the different things they saw. We also had them send postcards to their friends and family back home, which they had never done before!
Puerto Rico is a US territory, which means that you do not need passports to travel there. The local currency is the US dollar and the official language is Spanish and English. There are two international airports on the island and plenty of airlines that fly in and out of the island to major US cities and Europe. Our tickets were from Orlando, FL and were under $200 round-trip per person.