Smithsonian Student Adventures (SSA) offers educators the opportunity to develop a meaningful international travel program for their students, an experience that is distinct and separate from the typical tour normally available to high school students. Beyond dynamic programing, SSA is dedicated to a holistic approach to group travel which ensures that the highest standards of safety, integrity and professionalism are maintained throughout. Read on in the sections below to get a better sense of the elements that will make your SSA experience one of the most remarkable in your teaching career.
Philosophy & Mission
The SSA mission is to inspire students to become global citizens by taking an active interest in the world around them. We achieve this by providing international travel programs in the areas of cultural immersion, wildlife conservation, and leadership development.
Smithsonian Student Adventures (SSA) offers a curious and compassionate approach to travel. Unlike a typical tour, our programs are designed for a select group of high school students and educators who seek an authentic international experience that offers the opportunity to affect positive change at home and abroad.
The safety and well-being of our travelers is our top priority. We are constantly evaluating the safety and security of our destination countries, both from a macro level to a micro level with respect to our partner host communities. Our in-country staff meticulously prepares for all programs by verifying the records of our drivers, testing the integrity and safety of all excursions, vetting homestay families through interviews and home visits and keeping up on important current events.
During travel, our program leaders, who are fluent in the local language and seasoned travelers in the area, make decisions in real-time with the best interest of our travelers at the forefront of their thinking, taking myriad criteria into consideration. Prior to joining our team each leader must pass a background check and undergo thorough training in CPR, First Aid, program management and emergency protocols.
As a part of the application process, participants must complete a medical release form and sign a Standards of Behavior agreement. Information provided on the medical release form is strictly confidential and enables us to best serve and support our participants while they are abroad. SSA’s Standards of Behavior are rules which we require all participants and Program Leaders to adhere to, and help to insure a fair and safe environment.
Smithsonian Student Adventures holds itself to rigorous standards when it comes to program preparation and emergency contingency plans. We register all SSA programs with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and have detailed emergency protocols in place for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based team.
Travel & Liability Insurance
Our experience has taught us that international travel can be unpredictable. For that reason, Smithsonian Student Adventures includes travel insurance for each participant on all of our programs with coverage for lost or stolen baggage, flight delays, medical emergencies, missed connections, emergency evacuation and more.
We also recognize the responsibility entailed when an educator makes the decision to travel overseas with their students. To ameliorate this exposure, SSA offers educators/schools/districts the option to be covered by the same robust liability policy that we carry as a company, at no expense whatsoever.
Standards of Behavior
SSA provides fun, safe, and meaningful programs for our travelers. In order to achieve this goal, we must create an environment of trust, security and respect. All participants are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at SSA’s discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before deciding to travel with us.
One of the fundamental advantages of working with Smithsonian Student Adventures is the fact that we handle each and every logistical concern from the moment a group departs the United States until their return home at the end of a successful adventure. With destinations that span dozens of countries across the globe, it’s vital that the logistics behind each and every program are handled with the utmost care and attention to detail. We book the international airfare, arrange all lodging and transportation in the destination country with the highest standards in mind, leaving you as the Group Organizer to focus on maximizing your time with your students during the program.
As students embark on a Smithsonian Student Adventure program, we understand how eager families are to be kept in the loop as the adventure unfolds. In addition to safe arrival and departure notifications, SSA is proactive in our communication with families, alerting them to the group’s safe and successful arrival in country, each time a group moves from one major destination to the next, and at the end of the program when students have boarded their flight home.
Our program leaders will also update a program blog every 24-48 hours (connectivity allowing) with written accounts, photos, and occasionally video, that gives families a clear sense of the group’s whereabouts and accomplishments. Finally, groups travel with internationally enabled cell phones which allow families to reach out to their student immediately in the case of an emergency.
Our team employs a strict emergency protocol. SSA requires incident reports and employs a robust array of safety standards guiding all aspects of program planning, implementation, and evaluation.
PROGRAM SAFETY CHECKLIST
- Program management is aware of the political and social conditions that prevail in the countries being visited and has made contact with the appropriate government officials.
- Participants are registered with the appropriate home country embassy and US State Department.
- SSA monitors any SOS travel warnings and abides by their recommendations.
- Participants and staff are made aware of the political and social conditions prior to agreeing to go.
- Health and medical considerations particular to the countries to be visited are known and researched.
- Program staff are aware of specific health and medical concerns in the countries being visited and how these concerns may or may not be relevant to the planned activities. Things to consider could be close interactions with local population; location, distance, accessibility, staffing, and training of locale medical facilities; and advising participants and staff to bring an extra supply of medications, medical kits, and any other items deemed necessary.
- Participants and staff are informed of health and medical considerations and health risks associated with the planned itinerary prior to agreeing to go and additional individual medical and health concerns for international travel are specifically addressed.
- The personal health history of all participants and staff is reviewed and considerations are made for the health conditions that may present challenges in another country.
- Staff and participants are made aware of any vaccinations required for international travel to host country.
- SSA has reviewed the carbon footprint and environmental impact of program.
- SSA has developed an emergency action plan for international travel.
- The program and/or participants have obtained appropriate insurance coverage for international travel.
- SSA has the required insurance policies to fulfill most district requirements.
- SSA plans and conducts activities with knowledge and awareness of the cultural context of the host country. Considerations include, but are not limited to, having some ability to speak the local language and communicating with local residents; knowledge of laws; knowledge of religious or spiritual customs; dressing appropriately; and understanding the contextual differences of being in a different country and culture.
- SSA has appropriately addressed possible unique situations related to nutrition, hydration and hygiene specific to locale.
- SSA has ensured that local area is able to provide sage food and drinking water for participants and staff, particularly in rural areas.
- Standards are adhered to and adapted if necessary for providing adequate drinking water. Hygiene practices are followed and adapted as necessary for the local conditions.
- Participants and staff have, or are provided with the appropriate equipment, clothing, and footwear for each activity.
- Field staff has an appropriate understanding of the equipment they will be using.
- Participants are provided with or have access to adequate water and nutrition.
- Hygiene training or education is provided, and appropriate measures are taken to minimize the spread of bacteria and disease.