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Jay Bloxsom: NationsClassroom founder sparks inspiration through hands-on learning

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Since its founding in 2008, NationsClassroom has engaged and inspired over 50,000 students on hands-on, educational tours to the historic East Coast. Founder Jay Bloxsom and his team partner with teachers to offer students and families all-inclusive trips that are educational, safe, affordable and fun.

Like many professionals in the travel industry, Bloxsom didn’t begin his career by planning student tours. After working in sales and marketing at Nike, he began working in student travel as a fun way to figure out what he wanted to do when he “grew up.” And, as it turned out, student travel was what he was meant to do.

Editor-in-Chief Courtney Birchmeier chatted with Bloxsom about NationsClassroom and the importance of hands-on learning through travel.

Q.How did NationsClassroom begin?

A. I had been working for a family-owned student travel company. I fell in love with what we did, and it reminded me how much educational trips impacted me when I was growing up. I thought I would stay at the company for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, the company was sold, and everything changed pretty quickly.

I left the industry for a number of years but wanted to get back to it because of how meaningful it is to me.  I had been following the industry and noticed that there were even more mergers and acquisitions. With the industry consolidations, service started to decline, and prices went up. I had an “aha moment” that there was an opportunity to match my passion with the need in the marketplace.

Q.Why is hands-on learning important for student travel?

A. This is such a great question. We are in the experience business. Most of the students who travel with us are in their tween or teen years and genuine engagement is so important to their learning and growth. Ben Franklin is credited with a great quote that gets to the heart of why experiential learning is so essential for them. He said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Q.Why should teachers consider hands-on learning for their students?

A. Genuine connections to classroom learning is important to our teachers. Leading an educational tour also gives teachers the chance to provide experiences their kids will remember well beyond the year’s classroom curriculum.

Learning how to travel in a responsible way prepares students for future experiences. Ask anyone who has traveled with students and you will hear stories of passports left on bus seats, soda bottles in luggage sent through TSA screening, boarding passes found on airport floors, and bags left unattended. It is a different type of education, but learning to be responsible in these situations helps them handle other responsibilities more confidently in the future.

Q.What do you hope students take away from your tours?

A. For this generation I think the internet and just overall globalization have made the world so much smaller than it seemed to me back then (when I traveled as a student). As much as I want students to grow academically, it is my hope that they get stretched a bit, grow as people and that we can light a spark of inspiration that will carry over to them being lifelong learners through travel. •

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About Author

Courtney Birchmeier, Editor in Chief

Courtney Birchmeier oversees the editorial department at Group Tour Media. With half a decade under her belt in the group travel industry, she's eager to connect tour operators and group leaders with new destinations. It's a great day at the office if her dog, a chow/lab mix named "Kiwi," is in tow. In her free time, she enjoys reading (for fun, with no red pen in hand), sampling craft beer (New Holland Brewing's "Dragon's Milk," anyone?) and adding new destinations to her travel bucket list (like Salzburg, Austria).   

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