Mac wrote this on one side of a Southwest Airlines napkin on our way back from ATL. (He also wrote, “I love Southwest,” on another side and drew a Southwest plane as well. Then, he shared it with the crew.)

Using Their Passions

Travel is, in itself, an educational experience, but as we’ve discovered, there are ways to heighten any trip with a bit of authentic learning. In my last post, “Atlanta, Georgia: A (Brief) History Lesson,” I discussed how even the quickest of visits to a museum or landmark, such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, can make an impression, and how it brings a bit of perspective to what might otherwise be a completely abstract concept. However, visiting a site purely for its place in our history isn’t always tapping into the most receptive part of a kid’s brain.

In order to up your educational game and turn a vacation into a truly authentic learning experience, find places or excursions that cater to your child’s unique personal interests. Just as every child is different, so are his/her passions, and for younger children these “passions” can change weekly or even daily (or hourly, if we’re honest). Yet, if you can identify an area of consistent focus, such as marine mammals, sports, television shows, engineering, or even beverages, for that matter, there are places you can go and things you can do to tap into your child’s natural curiosity and foster his/her own interests.

Mac dreaming of flying the aircraft that hangs above the atrium at Denver International Airport, Concourse C.

We Followed Mac

With our oft-flying family, it should come as no surprise that Mac is interested in airplanes and aviation, and though we’ve flown on multiple foreign and domestic airlines over the years, he has a particular affinity for Delta Airlines. This being the case, and thanks to some specified research and recollection by Mr. V, we made it a point to visit the Delta Flight Museum during our trip to Atlanta, Georgia this past January.

Mac loved it, of course, not only because of the airplanes, but also because it’s the kind of place where he and his sister could take the lead and guide us through. While there are informational aspects to some of the exhibits, which are apt to elude the interest of most children and some adults, there are also hands-on experiences and some fun photo ops (and props).

Parents may genuinely find the historical data and displays of interest, but children prefer things they can touch and interact with. The first hangar you enter contains multiple aircraft to peruse, including an attention-grabbing Douglas DC-3 aircraft. There are also a couple of items the kids can tinker with.

“Hangar 2,” features the massive Boeing 767, named “The Spirit of Delta,” around which smaller exhibits are featured. If you can find the staircase leading to the second floor, you can climb aboard and explore.

One of the most notable parts of the Delta Flight Museum is the Boeing 737-200 flight simulator (that, in my own awe and interest, I forgot to photograph). While there’s more room in the simulator than in an actual cockpit, space is still limited; so, you may have to wait in line, but it’s totally worth it.

With no one behind us, we decided to put Miss V in the first officer’s seat to start, hoping to give our budding aviator the majority of the focus afterwards. Unfortunately, our time was cut abruptly short by someone who had paid for a personalized simulator experience, and Mac never got to sit in the pilot’s seat. (Time in the Boeing 737-200 simulator at the Delta Flight Museum costs $425 for a one-hour session.)

Another impressive aspect of the Delta Flight Museum is the Boeing 747 located across the parking lot from the main hangars. If you’ve never flown on one of these beasts, it’s pretty incredible. Here, you can climb the stairs to view the cockpit and extra first class seating, walk out to see the wing area, and, because the majority of the interior’s lower level has been peeled back to display the aircraft’s fuselage, you can see some of the plane’s inner workings as well.

A visit to the Delta Flight Museum is not free, but it’s an educational experience that everyone in your family will gain something from, especially any future pilots. This visit left us all bummed that Mac never got his chance to view things from the right seat of the simulator, but as it seems with each trip we take, we’ve left ourselves a reason to return.

If you’ve got an airplane lover or future pilot in your home, here are some links you may find helpful: