DECATUR – Jan Roddis believes in on-the-spot learning.

The retired Decatur schoolteacher takes grandchildren on summer explorations of U.S places they've studied in school and seen on TV.

“What better way to learn about our country?” she said.

Her grandchildren are Emily, age 12; Anya, 11; Bitty, 9; Aidlan, 6, and Finn, 2. Emily and Anya, in particular, have almost seen it all. Their parents live in Oregon, Ohio and New Jersey.

The trips started in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee in 2006. Lancaster, Pa., was the target in 2007. In 2008, Disney World in Orlando, Fla., was the destination.

Camping in an American Indian reservation near Forks, Wash., was a highlight in 2009. Portland, Ore., was also visited, along with Yellowstone National Park, and Mount St. Helens and the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, both in Washington state.

The children were getting older in 2010, so Roddis took them to Portland; then California, where they visited Redwood National Park, Disney Land, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then it was on to Las Vegas, Nev., and the Grand Canyon.

In 2011, it was back east to Acadia National Park in Maine. Then to Massachusetts with Boston, the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River and the site of the witch trails in Salem.

Going South in 2012, Washington, D.C., was visited, along with Atlanta, Ga.; Sea World; the Great Smoky Mountains; and New Orleans, La. In New Orleans, the kids saw an ancestor's home.

Last year, the Roddis family was in Gettysburg, Pa., for July 4 festivities, including a real bank robbery. They also visited Virginia and got to see Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown and Virginia Beach. They put in 10 days in Yellowstone National Park and five days in the Grand Tetons with stop in Cody, Wyo.

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“We camped all the way, particularly in national forests,” Roddis said. “Also in Walmart parking lots. The kids love it.”

This year's trip was to Glacier National Park in Montana. It was a family camping reunion for 10 days.

They frolicked in the snow on July 4.

The kids' parents went along, Casey and Jenn from Ohio; Aaron and JoAnna from Portland; Heidi and Richard McMahon from Oak Ridge, N.J.; plus a mother-in-law, Betsy, from Rochester, N.Y.

“What fun,” Roddis said. “I took a 10-mile hike and finished it.”

“Our travels have taken us everywhere, except Arkansas,” she said.

The 68-year-old Roddis retired in May from South Shores School. She was a teacher for 45 years, mostly first grade.

“People ask me how I can stand such long trips,” Roddis said. “I enjoy it.”

“Someday, I'll go overseas,” she said. “Meanwhile, there's so much to see in the United States.” 

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