Learning Labs

ETC's Annual Conference | Renaissance Montgomery Hotel | Montgomery, Alabama | January 28-31, 2019

Moving outside the hotel’s four walls, Learning Lab programs incorporate experience, new learning methods, and a reflection segment to provide a new lens on experiential learning through travel. Learning labs are a passkey into local culture, neighborhoods and personal narratives that bring you inside the pulse of a destination to discover new and surprising connections through experiential learning. Redefining travel experiences, the Learning Labs walk you through every stage of the design and delivery process of experiential learning to orchestrate immersive, local, interactive and compelling travel experiences for your travelers wherever the destination may be. Each Learning Lab delivers carefully crafted hands-on activities that create interaction and make learning active and memorable.

The tourism experiential models in all these learning labs provide you with frameworks for asking questions; and prompt you to think more deeply about the whole process of reflection and become a reflective practitioner in selecting and designing your travel offerings. However, the process of reflection in these models always remains personal – only you can decide what works for your own institution.

Join one of these wonderful learning labs and ensure that your educational travel offerings will be informative and great fun. Expand your current definition of experiential educational travel. Learn what it takes to craft activities and experiential programming that lead to rich discussions and insights by asking the right questions – and encounter collaborative learning at its best!

Six Learning Lab choices are featured throughout the 2019 Annual Conference. 

Learning Labs require pre-registration and are an additional fee beyond the core 3-day conference.


Monday, January 28th  8:00 am – 12:45 pm

#1 American Voices: A Contemporary Narrative

Photo of group of travelers learningWalk across time in Montgomery from a vision for the future, to touch points of the past. Our time in the historic Kress Building on Dexter provides a unique entrée to local citizens sharing a collective narrative that takes us from 1929 to 2018. A guided conversation in the Kress community room with Montgomery “insiders” provides ETC members with a more nuanced perspective on how Montgomery is in the process of exciting “transformation.” Witness a vision-in-progress for the city at large and the public-private partnerships that are serving to make this vision a reality.  After this exchange, we will move up historic Dexter Avenue to our next stop, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Meet with community elders and glean compelling insights into Montgomery’s history past to present.

#2 Farm To Table: A Fusion of Cultures & Cuisine

Explore the complex traditions and histories of iconic southern food and learn how some of Montgomery’s most exciting chefs use familiar flavors to elevate and advance the local palate. Chef Jason McGarry of downtown dining hotspot Central will be joined by the legendary Martha Hawkins, owner of Martha’s Place in a moderated conversation about how history, tradition and inspiration make their way into every dish, from humble entrepreneurial beginnings to high end dining. Walk away with not only a rich understanding of the origins of southern flavor and the cultures therein, but perhaps some recipes to take back to your own kitchen.

Monday, January 28th  1:00 pm – 3:30 pm

#3 From Slavery to Civil Rights: The Path to Justice – a Walking Tour!

Photo of Group Tour in Montgomery, Alabama TunnelBegin a journey at the banks of the Alabama River, where so many thousands of enslaved people entered the city of Montgomery. As you walk up Commerce Street, hear the voices from the past.  Pass Court Square, where Rosa Parks boarded the bus, and begin a journey up Dexter Avenue  past the Baptist Church which has become Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights Icon. Conclude at the Civil Rights Memorial with a deeper understanding of the continuing fight for equal justice at this powerful memorial.


Wednesday, January 30th   12:15 – 3:00 pm

#4 Innovation at the Local Level: Creating Exceptional Destination Experiences Through Public/Private Partnerships

Montgomery’s success in tourism is no happy accident – a dynamic partnership of public and private entities have been working for decades to lay a foundation for success that is taking shape before our eyes. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, County Commission Chairman Elton Dean and Convention and Visitor Bureau President Dawn Hathcock will be joined by one of the city’s most engaged real-estate developers and restaurateurs as well as a local hospitality consultant to discuss the power of partnership and intentional planning for tourism in a city poised to optimize its historic and cultural assets to deliver an irresistible destination for visitors, businesses and a new workforce.


Thursday, January 31st 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

#5 Slavery to Incarceration: Inside Montgomery’s Equal Justice Institute (EJI), new Legacy Museum & National Memorial For Peace & Justice

A narrated visit to the nationally acclaimed Equal Justice Initiative’s reflection on America’s history of racial inequality, The Memorial for Peace and Justice. Artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo’s sculpture on slavery confronts you as you enter the memorial. Our journey moves from slavery to lynching and racial terror, with text narrative and monuments to lynching victims in America. At the center of the site is a memorial square, where you can pause for reflection before moving on to explore the rest of the memorial.  Additional memorial highlights include Dana King’s sculpture dedicated to the women who sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott, MORE

displays featuring quotes from Toni Morrison and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a reflection space in honor of Ida. B. Wells. Our visit to the memorial concludes with a work of art created by Hank Willis Thomas, which expresses the contemporary issues of police violence and racially-biased criminal justice.  Our march to justice continues at The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which is located on a site that once warehoused enslaved people. The museum is located one block from one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in the United States, and just steps away from an Alabama dock and rail station where tens of thousands of Africans were trafficked during the 19th century.

#6 Inside Cultural Tourism: Contemporary Issues, Yesterday’s Reflections

A panel of experts from Montgomery’s impactful Civil Rights, cultural and historic attractions share thoughts on how programing takes the visitor experience beyond the basic and into life-changing, culture-shifting territory in a city that continues its world-changing legacy. Panelists include Outreach Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center Lecia Brooks, Alabama Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Rick Dildine, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Director Angie Dodson, Museum of Alabama Director Steve Murray, and Rosa Parks Museum and Library Director Dr. Felicia Bell.

Advance signups are required for the Learning Labs (each limited to 22 persons) on the Conference registration form, and may not be available on site. 

The three hour Learning Labs include transportation (where needed), curated leadership, site visits, local storytellers.

Learn the true meaning of experiential learning

Changing interest in travel and learning styles means that educational travel has become an exciting and ever expanding field. How can you address the different needs of the growing educational travel market? What does it take for Planners and Operators to develop and promote “hands on” destination experiences that result in enjoyable, enriching and informal learning? How will you design a program to allow for organic connection to place and people?

ETC’s Learning Labs will consist of well-designed and carefully organized pod-learning experiences that will include opportunities for reflective harvesting of learning through story-work. Each of these carefully crafted hands-on experiences draw on the best of Montgomery that lead to rich discussions and insights by asking the right questions. Activities will be structured so participants are fully immersed in them with time slated for reflection on the experience, the learning they extract, and where they can apply ideas in their own programs.

The tourism experiential models in all these learning labs provide ETC delegates the frameworks for asking questions; and to think more deeply about the whole process of reflection and therefore become a reflective practitioner in selecting and designing their travel offerings.

 Learning Lab Objectives

We have constructed these labs to demonstrate how to infuse the experiential learning components into affinity travel/tours.  As such this is not a fam trip or tour but rather a new key learning platform through which to attendees will expand their understanding and:

  • Learn how to create unique and mission focused tours and experiences by working with local people and resources.
  • Learn the true meaning of experiential learning.

As an essential part of the Learning Lab module, time is allocated for personal reflection and group discussion on what fosters and cultivates effective learning through travel. What kinds of experiences are most important to design for our own travel programs? How might your travelers benefit from a more engaged/reflective and inquiry based approach to educational tourism?  And, based on this learning lab experience, what will you design differently in your travel programs going forward?


As a participant you will be able to:

1) identify what it takes to design and organize experiential educational travel programs;

(2) describe the personal and collective impact  and value of full immersion in a specific educational travel/tour experience; and

(3) use insights and learning from full travel/tour immersion experience to extend personal and organizational competence in the professional practice areas of educational tour and travel development

Photo of Old Alabama Town School Room