Learning During the Journey

“We are not citizens of just our hometowns or nations, but of the world.” — Socrates


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Exploration, discovery, reflection, connections ...


intelli.tours Academic selected Oaxaca as our primary destination for our educational journeys because of the city’s wealth of learning and educational opportunities 

From it’s long pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial history, rich cultural traditions, culinary renown, artistic expression, linguistic diversity, intact indigenous cultures, architectural treasures, and a vibe that is just unparalleled — Oaxaca is indeed the perfect place to learn!

We are teachers. We plan each day as the perfect student-centered lesson plan with a the goal of igniting intellectual curiosity, learning, and great conversations.

Each day begins with essential questions for students to consider as we progress though our discoveries and explorations.

We revisit these essential questions at meals to more completely put together the cultural and historical puzzle we are discovering.

We include activities and events to connect students with the people of Oaxaca.

With Oaxaca as the classroom, students become a part of a real-life experience of learning, exploration, and discovery. 

Best of all, with their experiences in Oaxaca and what they’ve learned previously in the classroom and in our pre-departure learning modules, students make new connections and better understand their place in history and in the world.

Discover below how we make every day on an intelli.tours Academic journey to Oaxaca the quintessential learning experience and create lifetime learners and global citizens who change the world:


intelli.tours Academic knows that a broad understanding of history better prepares us for success in the present and provides a foundation for building a better future. We also know that, with a twist on the common saying: You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you came from!

As Oaxaca is an important location in North American and human history, we explore:

  • Pre-Hispanic history
  • Spanish Colonial history
  • Mexican history  

We focus on these essential questions:

  • What do you know about Mexico’s pre-Hispanic history?
  • What do you know about the pre-Hispanic history of Oaxaca?
  • Why might our knowledge of pre-Hispanic history, cultures, and accomplishments be limited?
  • How might an indigenous account of the Spanish colonization of Mexico differ from the Spanish account of the same event?  
  • What surprises or interests you the most about pre-Hispanic culture and why?
  • How is the British colonization of the US similar to or different from the Spanish colonization of Mexico?
  • How can you compare and contrast pre-Hispanic cultures, people, and history with those of the Native Americans in the US?
  • The Native American population of the US is estimated to be approximately 1.5% (4 million out of 327 million people) and the indigenous population of Mexico is approximately 22% (26 million out 127 million people). What do these numbers say to you relative to history, colonization, culture, language, and the future for each country and as compared to each other?
  • How do we apply lessons from the history of the Spanish colonization of Mexico and its reality today, relative to the US and the cultural and demographic changes taking place in our nation?

intelli.tours Academic knows that culture describes a certain set of customs, ideas, and social behaviors of people in a society. We also know that one’s personal culture is an important component of one’s individual identity.

As Oaxaca is a repository of multiple cultures, we focus our journeys on these important cultural components:

  • Indigenous and pre-Hispanic
  • Spanish Colonial
  • Modern Oaxacan
  • Modern Mexican

We also focus on these essential questions relative to culture:

  • What is culture?
  • What is the purpose of culture?
  • What is your personal culture and how is it similar to or different from your societal culture?
  • What culture do you or your family have that is different from others in your community?
  • What are the hallmarks of pre-Hispanic culture in Oaxaca?
  • What are the hallmarks of Spanish Colonial culture in Oaxaca?
  • How did religion play a role in the merging of pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cultures?
  • What are some examples of where pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cultures merged?
  • How has contemporary Oaxacan culture been influenced by pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial traditions and cultures?
  • How are pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cultures different from or similar to US Native American and British Colonial cultures?
  • What examples of Oaxacan culture have you seen here that you don’t see in the US?
  • What are the consequences on people and societies when they lose their cultures or have another culture imposed on them?
  • What examples of culture being lost or imposed on do you see in US society today?
  • What is cultural appropriation and what are its effects on individuals and society?
  • Why do we tend to believe that one must lose or repress one’s own culture to become a part of another culture? Is this true, fair, right, or just?

intelli.tours Academic knows that art is the most important expression of individualism, culture, and perception of events and one’s place in history. We also know that artistic expression is a window on cultural and historical understanding.

As Oaxaca and its people are intensely artistic, we incorporate the full range of the region’s artistic expression, including:

  • Pre-Hispanic
  • Spanish Colonial
  • Modern Oaxacan
  • Modern Mexican

We also focus on these essential questions relative to the arts:

  • What is art?
  • What is the purpose of art?
  • What are the hallmarks of pre-Hispanic art in Oaxaca?
  • What are the hallmarks of Spanish Colonial art in Oaxaca?
  • How did religion play a role in art in pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial art?
  • What are some examples of where pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial art merged?
  • How has contemporary Oaxacan art been influenced by pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial traditions and cultures?
  • How do pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial art differ?
  • How do pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial art differ from US Native-American and British Colonial art?
  • How is contemporary Oaxacan art similar or different from US contemporary art and what similar or differing influences do you see?

intelli.tours Academic knows that architecture reflects and influences culture from personal expression to cultural expression to national expression. We also know that what we build is a lasting record of influence, power, and position often overpowering historical and cultural identity.

Oaxaca is a wealth of pre-Hispanic, Spanish Colonial, and modern architectural expression and we focus on these essential questions relative to architecture:

  • How does geology affect architecture?
  • How did local geology influence architecture in Mesoamerica?
  • How did the geology of Spain and Europe influence Spanish Colonial architecture?
  • How do seismology, weather, and other natural phenomena affect architecture?
  • How did seismology, weather, and other natural phenomena affect pre-Hispanic architecture in Oaxaca?
  • How does architecture transmit messaging of power and dominance?
  • How does culture affect architecture?
  • What was the “messaging” in Spanish Colonial religious architecture to the indigenous populations?
  • How did pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial architecture influence modern Oaxacan architecture?
  • What similarities or differences do you see with US architecture?
  • How does the architecture of where you live differ from Oaxaca and other places in the US and why?

intelli.tours Academic knows that food is culture and that it tells the story of a people, their history, their geographic location, their territorial expansion, and conquests. We also that food is an important expression of individual culture. 

As Oaxaca is known as Mexico’s gastronomic capital and renowned for its fusion of pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cuisines turned contemporary, our journeys focus on food and include:

  • Snacks and tastes in markets, on the roadside, and in restaurants.
  • Specially selected restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • A pizza night, because comparing comfort food from other places is fun and edifying.
  • A cooking class to learn how to Oaxaca specialties such as memelas and tamales wrapped in banana leaves.
  • A snack box full of popular Mexican treats and beverages for enjoyment to enjoy in your room.
  • A trip to a supermarket to bring home local specialty foods such as mango tropical fruit drink mixes, candies, and fixings for a great Oaxacan meal once you’re home.
  • A visit to Oaxaca’s most famous chocolate store — Mayordomo — where chocolate is ground and mixed to order and students can create their own custom blend.

In addition to enjoying delectable food, we focus on these essential questions relative to food and cuisine:

  • What do we mean to say that “food is culture”?
  • What determines the staple foods for a culture?
  • What factors influence a culture’s or country’s food choices and food customs?
  • What differences do you notice between pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cuisine?
  • What influences has pre-Hispanic cuisine had on contemporary Oaxacan cuisine?
  • What cultures influence cuisine in the United States?
  • What foods and spices are common in our diet today that come from pre-Hispanic cultures?
  • How do you compare or contrast the food you have eaten in Oaxaca with your experience and Mexican food we eat in the US?
  • Oaxaca is famous for its mole sauce that is a fusion of pre-Hispanic and Spanish Colonial cuisines. What foods from your state or culture represent a merge of cultures?

intelli.tours Academic was founded by a credentialed Spanish teacher. We take great pride in incorporating speaking and listening in Spanish throughout our journeys to Oaxaca.

We ask everyone who registers for a journey — teachers and students — if they wish to incorporate a focus on Spanish in their journey experience. Based on this information we develop language opportunities for students and teachers during our 8-day journeys to Oaxaca.

For all travelers on our journeys we incorporate the following language learning practices:

  • Using simple, repetitive Spanish each day with general instructions.
  • Pointing out the use of cognates and simple Spanish on billboards.
  • Incorporating Spanish food vocabulary at meals.
  • Supporting individual students in their desire to use Spanish on the journey.
  • Pointing out the use of indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca.

Over 16 indigenous languages are spoken in Oaxaca with Spanish as the lingua franca. In this rich linguistic environment we focus on these essential questions relative to language:

  • What does it mean to say that language is culture?
  • How does one’s native or primary language influence how one sees the world?
  • How does speaking more than one language influence how one sees the world?
  • What examples of languages other than Spanish have you seen on the journey?
  • Do Mexico and the US have official languages?
  • What has the US done to preserve Native American languages in our country, and what do you think policy should be in that regard?
  • What do you think about a country having or not having an official language?
  • What are the advantages or disadvantages for a country that embraces multiple languages?
  • What are the effects on a people or a culture when their language dies?
  • What differences have you heard or noticed in the Spanish spoken in Oaxaca and the Spanish that you are taught or hear in the US?
  • If you speak Spanish, how has that affected your journey?
  • If you don’t speak Spanish, how has that affected your journey?
  • English has become the world’s common language; as you look toward the future, what is your view of being monolingual or multilingual?
Spanish Before You Travel 

For those who wish to brush up on or learn some Spanish for the journey, we suggest the free online service Duolingo.

A few pointers for using Duolingo:

  • Select “Travel” as the reason you are studying Spanish — this provides travel-related lessons.
  • Unless you’re a native speaker select “No Spanish” or “Intro” — the more basic the better.
  • Don’t do the placement test — the goal is for you to review and review — and review again.
  • Repeat lessons over and over — repetition is the best way to learn.
Cultural Connections

intelli.tours Academic incorporates an evening of dialogue and discourse between travelers and their Mexico contemporaries.

For this event, we invite 10 local Oaxacan students to join us for dinner, and later we return to the hotel for dessert and conversation.  

Our goals for this event are that all participants will:

  • Learn from one another through respectful dialogue.
  • Hear new perspectives on current issues.
  • Share perspectives respectfully.
  • Learn to express challenging questions and thoughts in a polite and positive manner.
  • Realize that there is more that unites us than that separates us.
  • Return home with a deeper understanding of our neighbor, Mexico, its people, and its culture.

This cultural connections event will take the form of a Socratic seminar — a formal discussion in which the leader asks open-ended questions, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others.

We will provide information in advance of departure for students to consider and we’ll work together prior to the event to home in our their curiosities and questions.  

Most importantly, we will provide a framework for communication for Socratic discussion to ensure the comfortable participation of all involved.

Academic Credit

intelli.tours Academic works directly with school districts, secondary education institutions, and universities to offer the opportunity for students and teachers to earn credit for traveling on our journeys.

For teachers, simply indicate your interest when you register. Based on your district, we may have a program already set up, or we’ll work with you to ensure that you qualify for professional development credit per your district’s requirements.  

Students also can earn credit for participating in our journeys! For more details see: Student Academic Credit

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