As a hub for activities, entertainment, recreation, arts, and leisure, Atlanta—like many other big U.S. cities—was particularly affected by pandemic-related closings. As the city cautiously re-opens, it also optimistically re-introduces its favorite attractions, and also welcomes some new ones.
Atlanta is known for its complex history and roots in the civil rights movement, diverse pop-cultural significance, from The Walking Dead to hip hop to Gone with the Wind, and some of the biggest leaders in industry, including Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, CNN, UPS, and more. With so much to see and do, it’s become a go-to for educators looking to provide students a full-spectrum of learning and doing, hitting all the highlights of a STEAM curriculum and beyond. Many attractions are offering virtual tours and programming in addition to, as well as in lieu of, in person, so teachers can still present Atlanta’s many offerings, even if they aren’t traveling yet. Let’s explore some top happenings in The ATL.
Newly opened summer of 2021 and located off the Atlanta BeltLine, Illuminarium offers an immersive experience that engages sight, sound, vibration, and even smell. The first exhibit, WILD: Safari Experience, features a virtual African landscape and all the sensations that accompany it. 4K laser projectors pair with audio beams and in-floor haptics to fully immerse students in an authentic, extraordinary experience. While entertaining and awe-inspiring, it also provides an interdisciplinary, cross-curricular platform that integrates science with language arts, math, social studies, art, music, and phys-ed. A one-stop STEAM shop, you might say! Programs that emphasize student-centered learning and development of next-generation skill sets are available for every age group. The K-2 program focuses on animal Interdependence, 3-5 on animal adaptations, 6-8 on innovations and biomimicry, and 9-12 on careers in conservation. Groups of 20+ are encouraged to book in advance, working through the Group Sales Department.
Georgia Aquarium, which contains a jaw-dropping 11 million-plus gallons of water, recently underwent an expansion, making the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere even more colossal. It has five themed galleries that span tropical to low-temperature habitats and feature coral reefs, penguins, whales, sharks, dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays. At Georgia Aquarium, education is at the forefront of their mission, and that is reflected in their many youth-centered offerings. Take a self-guided tour, included with Aquarium admission, or participate in instructor-led, grade-specific programs that include a teacher guide with pre- and post-visit activities. There’s also a Sleep Under the Stars opportunity for student groups—updated to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines and protocols—that runs all year and a weeklong Camp H2O in early summer that educators can look into for 2022. Classrooms can also access Georgia Aquarium educational materials through webcams, online lesson plans, and virtual tours.
Always a hit with student groups, World of Coca Cola invites visitors to learn the story behind the iconic beverage brand, interact with a number of displays, check out more than 1,200 artifacts and pieces of memorabilia, and sample products from across the globe. Come for the new Scent Discovery exhibit with ambassador-led activities involving the origin of scents and the anatomy of smell, as well as aroma profiles in Coca Cola products. Included with field trips is a teacher toolkit with pre- and post-visit lesson plans for grades 8-12. They can also bring their programming to you with virtual live STEM tours and a virtual live education session with a World of Coca-Cola’s food scientist. Peek inside the bottling process, learn about beverage creation and distribution, and see how food chemistry applies through a variety of disciplines.
Special field trip pricing applies to minimum of 15 tickets. Groups Sales representatives can help educators schedule in-person and virtual visits.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights shares powerful stories and inspires important conversations around American civil rights and global human rights. The museum and cultural institution features immersive, interactive exhibits, guided tours, original art, and interesting artifacts, as well as the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection. For educators, there are downloadable guides for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 to use before, during, and after the visit. Make a day of it by taking a trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, about 10 minutes from The Center. The campus encompasses a number of significant landmarks, such as MLK’s birthplace and childhood home, Freedom Hall, historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the entombment. Exhibits and educational materials honor the life, contributions, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as his wife, Coretta Scott King and other notable civil rights figures, including Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi.
For something completely different, add the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta to the itinerary.Sure to pique the interest of new and soon-to-be drivers, as well as the younger crowd and their adult chaperones, this exhilarating space offers a Young Driver Experience for licensed drivers ages 16-24, plus a simulator lab and instructor-driven demonstration laps, both available to students 8 years or older and a minimum 40 pounds. There are also 90-minute guided tours through One Porsche Drive and VIP tours that include a 1.6-mile demonstration lap, both available Tuesday through Saturday. Two options for lunch on site and a retail shop complete the visit.
Written by Allison Kay Bannister for Teach & Travel’s September issue.