Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2015

Roadtrip Nation

Outstanding site motivates kids to follow dreams, work hard

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6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Diverse, relatable, and just-plain-fun video content will knock the socks off even the most blasé teen.

Cons: Curriculum has to come from a classroom; kids can't go exploring the site on their own.

Bottom Line: Incredibly inspirational, fun, and helpful guide for kids trying to figure out a sustainable, happy future.

Roadtrip Nation's content would fit beautifully into a civics class or a curriculum that focuses on life skills and career placement. If your school has an AVID program, Roadtrip Nation has a specific program to fit there as well. Because it's pretty fun (and motivating!), you could end a successful week of class with a Roadtrip Nation video and chat.

If your school doesn't want to commit to the full program, teachers and students can access Leader Profiles (including videos and activities) on PBS Learning Media; search for "roadtrip nation" to try it out and see how your students respond.

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Roadtrip Nation offers a series of lessons that revolve around short videos, incorporated into a self-discovery curriculum that empowers students to explore pathways and opportunities for their futures. Based on the PBS television show of the same name, the website encourages students to explore their communities and speak with local "Leaders" (any adult they look up to) to learn the steps they took to get to where they are today. In a series of online lessons accompanied by workbook activities, Roadtrip Nation shows how different interests can correspond to a future life pathway. Kids collaborate, develop online research skills and multimedia tools, and find out more about the career paths of adults who share their interests. Kids then receive guidance on how to meet and interview a local "Leader" of their choice, all the while blogging their experience and exploring their own goals.

Kids will watch videos, at home or in the classroom, featuring people from all walks of life who have found success in their chosen fields. For example, Ira Glass of "This American Life" might star alongside The Roots' Questlove in an episode about taking the first step in talking to a respected person in your community. A classroom discussion will follow, and kids then complete questionnaires and activities in a physical workbook or in a secure online notebook accessible to teachers.

There are two pathways available through Roadtrip Nation: The Roadtrip Nation Experience (for grades 9-12) and The Roadtrip Nation Exploration (for grades 6-8). The Experience features 12 lessons and costs $25 per student, while the Exploration features 8 lessons and costs $20 per student. The middle school curriculum gives teachers more flexibility for adapting the lessons and activities to their classrooms; specifically, teachers take on the task of facilitating kids' interviews with leaders (the culminating Interview Project in Lesson 8) via Google Hangout, Skype, or through an in-person appearance in their classroom.

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It's outstanding. For its video content, Roadtrip Nation has assembled some of the most interesting and talented people in the U.S., who prove that while it takes real passion to become successful in a field, it also requires work and committment. Roadtrip Nation respects that "success" is defined differently by every person, and it's also a refreshing take on the "follow your bliss" idea, offering very concrete examples, steps, and advice on how to create a satisfying career. The videos are well-edited, fun, and extremely inspiring to watch (you might find yourself tearing up a time or two!), and the workbook content gets kids to reflect on themselves, addressing fears and feelings without being hippy-dippy at all.

From the teacher's perspective, the two pathways for participation -- Experience and Exploration -- are nicely age-appropriate and thoughtfully done. While the program might have a high cost, its teacher resources and supports are exceptional and its value is enormous.

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Overall Rating
5

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

Videos are anything but boring, with a huge variety of success stories. Kids are encouraged to engage in classroom discussions, as well as get actively involved with a Leader of their choosing.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Drawing kids in with interviews featuring super-successful people they've heard of, the site helps kids absorb valuable information just by listening. And empowerment? Off the scale.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
5

Help is equally available for kids and teachers, and the site guides kids through every possible step they may have trouble with.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

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Rylan S. , Counselor, psychologist, or social worker
Counselor, psychologist, or social worker
4
Interesting movement to help students define their path in life!

Students often struggle with how they can change their world. Roadtrip Nation is a movement that is designed to educate students about current world issues (such as education or poverty) as well help students define themselves. The website is free to explore, but there is a $35 fee for students to actively participate. The movement has been documented on PBS and these videos can be seen on the website. The RV also travels across the country, participating in conferences and symposiums, including the Clinton Global Initiative America in 2014. They also travel to many high schools across the country to share their message. This would be a great way to help students connect the classroom to the outside world, and hopefully inspire further engagement beyond the classroom.

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