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Travel the World in the Comfort of Your Own Classroom!

By Beth Newingham on March 3, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5

Good teachers strive to make their teaching come alive!  Providing students with authentic learning experiences is something I work hard to do in my classroom on a daily basis.  Social studies is a particular subject area that lends itself to great opportunities for this type of real-world learning.  My United States Region Tour is a perfect way for me to take my students to places they may never visit in real life and to provide them with unforgettable learning experiences through online field trips, by playing "pretend" in our classroom, and even by allowing them to taste the delicious cuisine of the different states we visit.  Come join me as I take you on an exciting year-long journey, and learn how you can implement a similar activity in your own classroom even if regions are not part of your curriculum!

READ ON to watch a VIDEO of our region tour, download printables, and see tons of exciting photos as we travel in the comfort of our own classroom!


Watch a Video of the Region Tour


What Is the Region Tour?


Text In our district, third graders are expected to learn about the regions of  the United States.  For that reason, we adopted the Social Studies Alive! program and use the Social Studies Alive! Regions of Our Country textbook. The authors of this textbook chose nine interesting and important cities or landmarks to highlight in each region. Each tour stop has a single page dedicated to it in the textbook, and each tour stop is presented through the lens of the four social sciences — economics, geography, political science, and history.  Students listen to a “tour guide” on a CD that is included with the program as they travel. 


Where Do We Travel in Each Region?

Students visit all five of the regions in the United States during the school year. Nine cities or landmarks are selected as great places for students to visit, but I also add my own tour stops when I feel it is necessary.


Train2  Cookies







Here we pretend to travel on a train. We visit West Quoddy Head in Maine; Mount Washington in New Hampshire; Plymouth, Massachusetts; Boston, Massachusetts; the Hershey Chocolate Factory in Pennsylvania; Independence Hall in Philadelphia; Washington D.C.; and New York City.





Fishing Mardi gras









Here we travel first by fishing boat to see  the Florida Everglades National Park, the J.F.K. Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  We then take a bus tour of Appalachia.  We finally board the Natchez Steamboat to make stops in Memphis, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; the French Quarter in New Orleans; an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico; Natchez, Mississippi; and Montgomery, Alabama.




Captain Dodge city








We pretend to travel on crop dusters in this region. We make stops in St Louis, Missouri; a farm town in Iowa; Dodge City, Kansas; Mount Rushmore in South Dakota; the Soo Locks and Ford Motor Company in Michigan; O'Hare International Airport and Wrigley Field in Chicago; and the Mall of America in Minnesota.



Big rigHoover dam








In this region we pretend to travel on a big rig. We visit Monument Valley, home of the original Navajo Indian reservation; Phoenix, Arizona; Hoover Dam; the Grand Canyon; Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico; El Paso, Texas; the Alamo; the capitol building in Austin, Texas; and Oklahoma, where we take part in a land rush activity.



Alaska LuauWe pretend to travel by bus and on an airplane in this region. We first visit Lolo Pass, a stop on the trail of famous explorers Lewis and Clark. We then travel to Yellowstone National Park; Leadville, Colorado; California's Central Valley; Disneyland; the Columbia River Gorge; and Anchorage, Alaska.  In Honolulu, Hawaii, we celebrate the end of our region tour with a Hawaiian luau.

Do You Need the Social Studies Alive! Textbook?

Definitely not!  If you want to create your own region tour, you could easily pick important and interesting places in each region and find valuable information on your own. The Internet makes this fairly easy for teachers. You could create a PowerPoint slide show with pictures from each tour stop and be the tour guide yourself as you teach students about each new place. Creating informational sheets for your tour stops would be a great idea so that students can reference the facts when writing travel journals after each place they visit.


How Does the Region Tour Work?

Travel Days

In each region students visit nine different places. On traveling days, students pretend to travel by train, bus, boat, crop duster, or airplane, depending on what region we are in. They listen to a tour guide on the CD tell them about one or two tour stops at a time. Students follow along in their textbooks. I also create a PowerPoint slide show to go along with each region that includes more pictures than the one photo students can see in the textbook. The slide show is projected on a screen in our classroom as we travel. 



Tour Stop Activities

While some tour stops are just "drive-bys" where students learn facts about the important place and move on, we choose to stop at some places so that students can take part in a hands-on activity or celebration.  Below are a few examples of some of the exciting activities students experience at certain tour stops.


Students act as factory workers in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  At the Hershey Chocolate Factory, they wrap Hershey's kisses on an assembly line, watch an online tour of the factory, and even make peanut blossom cookies with the Hershey's Kisses.



In Plymouth, MA, students act as Pilgrims on the Mayflower.  Before they depart the boat, they must work together to decide what form of government they want in their new country.  This activity leads students to understand the importance of the Mayflower Compact.


King cake

In New Orleans, students celebrate Mardi Gras by making King Cake, eating chicken gumbo, and learning about the history and traditions of this famous festival.



During a visit to Dodge City, Kansas, students learn about cattle drives.  They pretend to work at a cowboy employment agency where they create "Help Wanted" signs advertising the many jobs that are necessary for a successful cattle drive.


Hoover dam1

One of our main stops in the Southwest is the Hoover Dam. Students must act as construction managers who are presenting plans for the building of the dam.  They must address the challenges of drying so much cement, what shape to make the dam, and what to do with the water when building the dam. Students work in groups to present solutions to these problems.


Travel Journals

After each tour stop, students write travel journals about what they saw or what they learned at the important place. The travel journals are a great way to connect writing skills with social studies, as the students are expected to give a narrative account of their experience at each tour stop. They are also asked to draw a picture that looks like a photograph taken at the tour stop. They can use the pictures in the textbook or from the slide show I create to go along with each region.

Travel journal1  Travel Journal 2



Souvenir Scrapbook Pages

At each region tour stop, students are given a souvenir that will help them remember the place they visited.  The souvenirs are often pictures that I find on the Internet and print out for the students, real brochures from the places we visit, or anything that makes sense depending on the tour stop. I just make sure that it is something that can eventually be glued onto their scrapbook pages. I have had a great deal of success contacting visitor centers or the actual tour stop (e.g., Mall of America) to request that they send us brochures or other souvenirs that I can give to the students.  At the end of each region tour, the students use construction paper and decorative hole punches to design creative scrapbook pages on which they display the souvenirs they collected along the way.

Scrapbook pages1 SE Scrapbook

Scrapbook pages

Southeast scrapbook


Region Tour Binders

Students keep all of their travel journals and scrapbook pages in a region tour binder.  I collect the binder after each region tour is complete and use the region tour rubric below to assess each student's work.

Binder  Binder journal

You can download all of the resources — including printables I created for the Region Tour binders — and find additional information and pictures from our United States Region Tour on my classroom Web site. To get to the Region Tour page from my Web site, choose Teacher Resources in the left hand navigation and then scroll down to the United States Region Tour links.

Class website



How Can You Use Technology to Enhance the Region Tour?

LaptopsWhile special hats, authentic foods, and makeshift vehicles for each region are ways to make the learning come alive for your students during the region tour, the best way to really make them feel like they are truly visiting the places is to take advantage of the virtual opportunities that await your students on the Internet. For almost every region tour stop, there is an accompanying Web site that we visit to find more information, take an online tour, see more photos, watch demonstrations, etc.


Below are some of my favorite online activities for specific tour stops.



In Plymouth, Massachusetts, we visit the Scholastic Web site to take a virtual tour of the Mayflower. 


Hershey Website 

In Hershey, Pennsylvania, we take an online video tour of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. 



When visiting the JFK Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, we go to the NASA Kids' Web site.  It is filled with great information and fun games. 



After visiting Jamestown, Virginia, and learning about the hardships John Smith and his followers faced trying to make their new life in the colony, students play an interactive online Jamestown Survival game to see if they can do a better job than John Smith as the colony's leader.


Mall of America 

During our stop at the Mall of America, students visit the mall's Web site to help them plan a shopping spree and check out the exciting attractions such as Nickelodeon Universe, Lego Land, Underwater Adventures, the Camp Snoopy amusement park, and many more.


 As part of our tour stop in Anchorage, Alaska, we visit the Scholastic Web site to learn more about the Iditarod Race.


What If Regions Are Not Part of Your Curriculum?

While my activities are specifically designed for a United States Region Tour, the idea of traveling to the different places your students are learning about can be easily adapted to fit your specific curriculum.  For instance, if you are teaching about different countries, your own state, American History, Native American tribes, etc., you can still pretend to travel to the different cities, states, or battle sites that you are studying.  The fourth grade teachers in my building teach students about the state of Michigan.  Instead of traveling to different states, their students pretend to travel to different cities and landmarks within our state.  A fifth grade teacher friend of mine does an entire unit on Native Americans.  On multiple days, she turns her classroom into a different Native American campground and has her students eat food and do activities related to the different tribes they are studying.  Her students keep travel journals about their experiences and create a scrapbook to display the souvenirs they receive from each tribe.


Optional Extensions to Enhance the Region Tour 

Reading Takes Us Places

Once students become familiar with the regions and begin traveling to different states and cities on the region tour, I create the bulletin board you see below.  As students come across specific cities or states in the U.S. as they are reading books from the classroom library, they pinpoint them on the map using the colored tack that is designated for them on the map key.  This is a great way to connect reading workshop to social studies!

Reading Map Map key Tacks


Postcard Geography

In the past, we have taken part in a project called Postcard Geography.  When you sign up for this project, you receive postcards from schools across the country.  Each time we receive a new postcard, we add a pin to a huge United States map in our hallway and then update our graph that keeps track of how many postcards we receive from each region.  We also create a class postcard about our city of Troy and send it to the other schools participating in the project.  Another option is to ask students to have their family and/or friends send postcards from the various places that they live and pinpoint those on a large map.

Postcard geo Region count


For more information about the Region Tour, you can visit my class Web site!  Post any questions you may have below!







Comments (61)

I would love to visit your website, but the connection is not working. Do you have a new address?

I can't seem to connect to your website.

I'd like to view the plans and printables but I'm having trouble accessing your website. Is there another way I can get these?
Love the idea!

I love this activity! I am having a problem accessing your site. Is there anyway to get a copy of the printable's?

Your website link is not working for me. I would love to have access to this because my 4th graders are doing the regions and I would like engaging activities to do. Is there a different way to access the website?

This is fantastic! Are the printables still available? I did not find anywhere to download them. Would love to do something like this with my 4th graders! Thanks so much for sharing!

Have you gotten a response for downloading all the printables? The link to her page is not working for me.

Have you gotten a response for downloading all the printables? The link to her page is not working for me.

Hi Beth! I did the Postcard Geography project a few years ago with my class and it was amazing! I am at a new school now and was looking to do it again, however the link does not work anymore. Do you know if this program still exists? Thanks for the help! :)

Hey there!

I also did this project years ago, but the site is no longer the same! :-( I'm so sad. Did you find another site to do this with?


Angela B

beth -
thanks for the great ideas. I tried several times to download the travel journal page printable (s) but could not (said page removed)
Would love to print it to save some time implementing...train leaves this week!:-)
Becky in Beverly MA


I love this idea and I teach my 4th graders the US Regions in SS. I am so not creative and would love to know if you have a template of the train tickets, etc that you used for each unit? Thanks so much.

I have been trying to print the Northeast page 1. I can not get it to print at all. No matter how I try. Could you send it via email to me? I appreciate it.

Hi Beth,
Is there a way to access your printables. Would love to implement this into my 4th grade classroom.
Thank you!

I use this textbook and have been looking for a way to bring it to life. I love your ideas, but the link doesn't work. How do I access your printables?

Hi Beth,

I am a new 4th grade teacher this year and I've been working on putting together a travel theme for our regions unit and for our Wisconsin unit including travel journals. My principle suggested virtual field trips to me today and so I started searching the internet. I was very excited when I stumbled upon your regions tour. Unfortunately the links seem to be broken to your main Region Tour page and also to your printables. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could access those resources?


Love this activity. The link for your printables wouldn't work. I tried the trick you suggested to right click and save, this wouldn't work either. Is it possible for you to send a link? Thanks so much!

Hi, Beth!!! I love all your ideas for students to learn about the regions of the U.S. I tried to print the documents for the Region Tour binders but was unable to...

Any idea how to access the links to the documents?

Thank you for sharing all your region info. I can't open the printables. When I click on the link it tells me the URL is wrong. Could you send me another link? Thanks for your help.

I am new to 4th grade (from kindergarten and pre-k) I have been struggling to keep my teaching intereactive and hands on and LOVE your ideas for the region tour. My district also does the regions and I have been trying to use many of your wonderful resources. I have recently been trying to download your powerpoint of Mall of America. I cannot seem to get it to work. If it is at all possible to email me the power point, I would be very gratefull. Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas. Now it is just a matter of time to develop them all fully in my classroom.

All of the links to the printables appear to be broken... Any ideas?

Fantastic unit! I am a 4th grade teacher in Ohio. For the past 12 years I've taught Language Arts and we blocked. Next school year we are going to self contained, mandated by the disstrict. I'm 'chinking" your idea to include the regions of Ohio. Have been doing quite a bit of research and found loads of virtual tours of the state. So thanks a million for your efforts and your willingness to share.



I am a 4th grade teacher at Southern Lehigh School District in Pennsylvania. I came across your Region Binders while I was trying to look up ideas to make the Social Studies Alive curriculum a little more engaging for students. I must say that what you are doing is amazing. I am sure the students love everything that you do and take a lot from it. I am hoping to implement a variation of this into my classroom. I really like the Region Tour Binders!! Anyways, I was looking on your website and noticed that you had train tickets for the North East. I was wondering if you would be able to provide me with just one sample of each of the tickets you had created for the other regions? My email is rutha@slsd.org.

Again, your website has been very helpful and has shown me how I can make my classroom even more fun with the Social Studies Alive curriculum.

Thanks for your help in advance, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank You,
Amanda Ruth

Hello Beth. I am currently doing your regions unit. The kids love it! Would you please explain the "jobs" involved in the Hershey facory. I see in a picture that you have an 'inspector'. Are there other jobs the kids have, as they attempt to wrap the sugar cubes? Thank you! I LOVE your site.

Would you be willing share the powerpoints you have created for the regions? I am in the process of studying the northeast region next week.
Jen Bersch

This is such an commendable and informative site. I really like the layout and ideas you have designed to inform learning. I will definitely be emulating a lot of the awesome strategies and styles you have shared. I just love the organization of your classroom and the authentic experiences the students are involved in.

Angella R-J

Beth, I have LOVED looking at your site and getting new ideas for my classroom! This was my first year teaching, and around December I implemented your Reading Workshop (thanks to your generous reproducibles)! My kids loved it! This is a bit of a silly question, but I LOVE all the fonts you use to create all of the materials in your classroom. Do you use a particular program or did you find the fonts to download off a website?

Also, in terms of your Social Studies instruction, do you teach your curriculum by theme/unit or do you guide it more by the chronological order? Is the Region Tour your basis for instruction, or just a major element?

Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas!


Hello! I have loved reading all your engaging posts on so many fun things to do with your third graders. I was wondering if you were willing to post your powerpoints of the Regions Tour that you supplement with. I would love to get an idea of how to create my own. I am going to TRY the regions tour this year after contemplating it for a year now! Wish me luck!



If you have the money, I would definitely order a copy of the teacher edition. There are many cool activities that are explained in the teacher edition that I use at some of the tour stops. While I tend to "spice them up" and add my own resources to the activities, the background information and some of the teaching masters are helpful.

In terms of finding grant money, I have only written grants for the "Troy Foundation for Edicational Excellence," a non-profit community organization that specifically supports innovative learning opportunities in our school district.

However, here is a link to a website that provides tips for writing educational grants. http://www.ehow.com/how_4473087_write-educational-grants.html

I hope this helps!



If you have the money, I would definitely order a copy of the teacher edition. There are many cool activities that are explained in the teacher edition that I use at some of the tour stops. While I tend to "spice them up" and add my own resources to the activities, the background information and some of the teaching masters are helpful.

In terms of finding grant money, I have only written grants for the "Troy Foundation for Edicational Excellence," a non-profit community organization that specifically supports innovative learning opportunities in our school district.

However, here is a link to a website that provides tips for writing educational grants. http://www.ehow.com/how_4473087_write-educational-grants.html

I hope this helps!


Also re: Social Studies Alive would ordering the student editions and the CD be sufficient, or do you recommend purchasing the teacher's manuals as well?



I've revisited your class page many times over the past 4 years, and continue to implement your wonderful ideas in my classroom. Thank you for sharing!

You mentioned previously that you have utilized grants to fund many of your creative projects. As someone who is new to grant writing (and by new, I mean I know absolutely nothing!) where can I begin my search and what tips can you offer in getting your grant request selected?


Now I know what you are talking about! The sheet that you see comes from the Social Studies Alive student book. I rarely use anything from the book, but this sheet is a way for the inspector to keep track of how many Hershey Kisses pass the test. It is not an "inspector checklist." It is just a sheet that has pictures of a bunch of uncolored Hershey Kisses. When each wrapped kiss passes the test, the inspector colors in one of the Hershey Kisses on the worksheet. You definitely do not need this sheet to do the activity. In fact, I do not even use it every year. The inspector can just as easily make tally marks to keep track of how many Hershey Kisses pass the inspection.

Sorry for the confusion!


Beth Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. In the pictures on your website, it appears that your inspector has a worksheet that has kisses at the bottom and directions for inspection. Is this used for something different? Again, thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas!


There is no recording sheet that I use for the Hershey Kiss Assembly line activity. I just put students in groups of 4. The first student is the cutter (cuts tin foil into squares), the second student is the placer (places Hershey Kiss in center of tin foil square), the third student is the wrapper (wraps the tin foil around the Hershey Kiss), and the fourth student is the inspector. The inspector must make sure that the tin foil covers the entire candy. If it passes the inspection, he makes a tally mark so that the group can easily determine how many total candies were made when the time is up.

I hope this makes sense! It is certainly a fun (and yummy) activity for the students!


Congratulations on your new addition to your family.

I just wanted to send a quick question regarding the inspection form for the Hershey Kisses assembly line. Did you create it or is it on the Hershey website. How would I be able to get a copy of it? Thanks so much


I think you will find the answer to your question in comment #10. David asked a similar question, so I go into detail about the timing of the region tour in response to his question. If you feel like my comment (#10) does not answer your question completely, please repost and let me know!

Thanks for your comments! I appreciate your kind words!



Sometimes when you just click on the link, it does not open on some computers. Try this. Right click on the link and choose "Save target as." Then select a location to save the file on your own computer. Hopefully this will allow you to open the file.

Let me know if that does not work!


Hello Beth,

First, let me start by saying I think you are an amazing teacher and definitely an inspiration to the rest of us! I appreciate all that you do and share with students and teachers alike. :-)

My question is, how long does your Regional Tour take when it's all said and done. I saw that you do about 2.5 hours a week....how many weeks does it end up being about?

Thank you, Katie


Thanks for posting your wornderful ideas! I have gotten so many good things from you. I downloaded all the pages for the scrapbook, except for NE Pg. 1. I couldn't get it to come up. I also tried to download your Genre Posters and had the same problem. Is there any way you can e-mail them to me?

Thanks for everything!!!


Thanks for posting your suggestion for doing the region tour with limited curricular time in your schedule. My hope when writing my blog entries is always for teachers to not only communicate with me but also with each other. I love your solution for finding time to do the region tour, and I'm sure it will help other teachers who are finding it hard to fit social studies into their busy schedules. Your idea of connecting the region tour with writing workshop is an awesome solution!

Thanks for sharing!


In response to posting #'s 13 and 14. I feel your pain Lynne. We are required to have 200+ minutes of ELA each day and 70 minutes of math plus all the other must do's of lunch, recess, related arts... we are thinking of dedicating 1 afternoon (probably Friday) to our Regions tour. Then while students work on their travel journals (that day's writing) we will do our reading/writing conferences. It's not ideal but we hope it will give the students more of a connection to the curriculum - throughout the week one of our Literacy stations will be a "Travel Depot" with activities to prepare for that weeks trip.


I realize I did not answer the second part of your question. You noticed that the Social Studies Alive "Regions" textbook is actually written for 4th graders. You are right. However, when our district was piloting social studies materials, regions was part of the 3rd grade curriculum. Even though the Social Studies Alive materials were written for 4th graders, we were not able to find anything we liked better than the Social Studies Alive program. Since the students listen to the CD, it was determined that the reading level of the text would not be a problem.

Thanks for posting your questions on the blog! I hope I have been of some help!


Kym, I'm sure it was tough to move from kindergarten to third grade! What a huge difference in terms of the curriculum and the ability level of the students. I'm glad my resources have been helpful to you!

You asked how long I spend each day doing our social studies region tour. We do either social studies or science for the last hour of the day nearly everyday. Since I share my class with another teacher, I teach social studies for 1 hour everyday that I am teaching. I teach Monday, Tuesday, and every other Wednesday. That is equivalent to about 2.5 days per week for one hour.

You also asked which parts of the Social Studies Alive curriculum I use to enhance my region tour. I really just use the textbook and the CD since I create most of my own materials like the travel journals and the scrapbook souvenirs that students use to create their own scrapbook pages. The program does come with a student workbook, but I rarely use it. In fact, I do not even ask to have it ordered for my students. If I really like a certain page, I copy it for the students from my own copy of the workbook.

Good luck with your region tour! It's so much fun!


Another quick question. My district does not use the Social Studies Alive book. If I wanted to purchase it on my own, what do you use other than the text book and tour CD to help enhance your regional tours??? Also, what grade level?? When I did some research on the Internet site of the company who created the region tour, it appeared to be listed as fourth grade???

Thank you for ALL you do. I am teaching third grade again after 6 years in kinder. You've helped to make the transition a lot smoother than origionally anticipated. One quick question. How long do you spend EACH day on your region tour Social Studies block, and how many days per week??


The region tour is definitely a fun way to teach the regions! However, I'm not sure I would be able to do it with only 15 minutes of instruction time per day. I think it would feel so disconnected for the students because I would have to break up the tour stops and the tour stop activities into such short periods of time. I know that I would not be able to do many of the simulations and projects at the different tour stops if I had only 15 minutes allotted for social studies each day.

I am surprised your district expects you to effectively teach any social studies curriculum, let alone a regional tour, in 15 minutes a day. My only suggestion would be to look at your current schedule and see if there is anything you can do away with in your day to make some additional time for social studies instruction. I know that, as teachers, we could really use 2 more hours in the day to cover all that we need to teach! However, I do believe that teaching our students social studies is certainly an important part of the curriculum.

I know that I have probably not helped you out much in terms of providing you with a solution to your problem. My only hope is that you can somehow find a way to increase your 15 minutes so that your students can benefit from the awesome learning experiences that do come from the regional tour!


Beth First let me say what a wonderful person you are to share your work.

Our district's new Social Studies curriculum now includes Regions. I am truly in awe with your Regions tour and would love to implement it next year. However, here is my dilemma, I literally only have a 15 minute daily time slot for Social Studies, do you think that I could successfully implement a Reional tour? If so what would your advice be in order for me to be successful?


Grant writing is a great suggestion! I have been able to fund some great projects with the help of grant money over the past 10 years. It is a great option for teachers who are experiencing budget cuts in their districts but who do not want to cut back on great classroom projects and learning opportunities in their classrooms!

Thanks for being such an active reader and contributor to our blog Jada! I always love hearing what you have to say!


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