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Mission & History

Image of host family with a participant

Our 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 their teachers who seek an authentic international experience that offers the opportunity to effect positive change at home and abroad.

Our Collaboration

Black Smithsonian Student Adventures Logo
Walking Tree Travel logo

For 170 years, the Smithsonian Institution has inspired generations through its steadfast dedication to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” In a globalized world, it is more important than ever to promote the Smithsonian values of Discovery, Creativity, Excellence, Diversity, Integrity, and Service. This is why the Smithsonian, in collaboration with Walking Tree Travel, a premier service-focused student travel provider, is pleased to offer a new collection of dynamic programs for high school students – Smithsonian Student Adventures. These educational immersion programs highlight our shared mission of learning and discovery, and offer a unique opportunity for travelers to explore the world in a meaningful way. Smithsonian Student Adventures uncover the genuine culture of each destination and inspire students to take an active role  in their local and global community. We partner with schools to provide memorable small-group experiences, and invest in cultivating and maintaining long-term relationships with our partner communities. This focus allows us to meet the diverse needs and desires of our travelers with dynamic and flexible itineraries that inspire and delight.

Smithsonian Student Adventures is operated by Walking Tree Travel under license from the Smithsonian Institution. The name of the Smithsonian and the sunburst logo are registered trademarks of the Smithsonian Institution and Walking Tree Travel is an authorized user.

Our Commitment

Our Commitment to our Planet

In addition to serving human communities, we are dedicated to the exploration and protection of the biological communities that support people around the world. Our Conservation Expeditions are designed to emphasize the interconnectedness of human society with the fragile ecosystems that support it.

Walking Tree Travel, is pleased to partner with Sustainable Travel International to give Smithsonian Student Adventures participants the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions of their programs. In order to reduce the amount of paper we use in application forms and printed catalogs, we maintain a regularly updated and mobile-ready website where students, teachers, and parents can contact us, apply for a program, see their flight schedules and packing lists, and learn all they need to know before embarking on one of our adventures.

We also provide our team and travelers with reusable water bottles to help to reduce the amount of material that we, our participants, and our associates put into the waste stream both at home and abroad.

Image of hammocks under a hut in the sunset
Costa Rica family standing together

Our Commitment to our Host Communities

The experiences that students have when they travel with us would be impossible without the hospitality, kindness and cooperation of our host communities. The families that open their doors to our students donate their time, energy and love to receiving our students in their homes, and they  provide a fun, safe, meaningful experience.

Although our host families do this out of the kindness of their hearts, we make sure that your tuition not only covers the cost of your stay with your family, but helps contribute to their household. In this way, your travel with Smithsonian Student Adventures has a positive impact on the sustainable development of rural communities in developing countries. Our commitment to truly sustainable travel is of paramount importance to our mission.

Our Commitment to our Travelers

We are committed to providing our travelers with the most authentic experience possible while simultaneously allowing each individual the opportunity to develop leadership skills, realize new passions, and consider their role in our global community. Our programs have the potential to alter perspectives on what is important in life and expose students to new paths they haven’t considered before.

Our leaders take an individual interest in each traveler and work to facilitate the successful achievement of your personal goals. Whether you hope to improve your language skills, devote yourself to the community service project, or start planning your next international adventure, our leaders and in-country staff are there to help make it happen.

Finally, we are committed to helping you continue to explore the world even after your program is over. Upon completion of your program you become part of our every-growing alumni family, providing you access to an amazing network of globally-minded people that will prove a great resource as you move into college, the job market and beyond!

Image of students on a boat pointing out into the ocean
Image of participants hiking

Our Commitment to our Alumni

One of the advantages of traveling with Smithsonian Student Adventures is the fact that after your program, you become family! You also join the ranks of a worldwide network of students, educators, families, and community leaders. It is our goal to see each and every one of our travelers continue to explore and engage the world in a meaningful way. For that reason, the Smithsonian Student Adventure Alumni Network can be a valuable resource as you apply to universities, consider further studies abroad, and search for employment. Many of our alumni make lifelong friendships and stay involved with us long after their return home, often through becoming Program Leaders, interns, or holding other positions on our team.

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