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Marching Band Competitions

When our son joined the high school band, I had visions of Friday night lights and a rousing drum beat calling to the crowd at our high school football games. I imagined the tattoo accompanying the cheerleaders and the military precision of a halftime show. I didn’t envision countless hours of summer practice and daily practices once school resumed. Not having a background in music, I didn’t understand why all the fuss.

Now with a year under my belt as an official “band mom,” I get it. His band isn’t JUST a spirit band- it’s a competitive band (and a darn good one, too!). Just as the football team practices and prepares for a shot at the playoffs, the band trains for its big dance at the Bands of America regional competition. Our high school participates in the southeast regional, but there are marching band competitions across the country. This fall, 22 Bands of America (BOA) Championships will be held throughout the U.S.

What is Bands of America?

Bands of America is a Music for All program with more than one million alumni. It was created in 1976 as “Marching Bands of America” and renamed in 1984. In 2006, it merged with the Music for All Foundation to become the program we know today. Music for All’s mission is “to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through music for all.” Bands of America plays a huge part in reaching this lofty goal!

What are the Bands of America Events?

BOA offers several participation levels for bands of different sizes. All are exceptional venues for amazing performances and are evaluated by experts.

Regional Championships

Regional Championships are complete, one day championships with educational events. As many as 32 bands can compete, with 10 advancing to the evening finals.

Super Regional Championships

Super Regional Championships are two-day, amped up events that allow up to 84 bands to compete (52 on Friday and 32 on Saturday). Two panels judge the preliminaries followed by a 14-band final competition on Saturday evening.

Grand National Championship

The BOA Grand National Championships is a three-day, preliminary, semi-finals and finals event held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It is touted as the nation’s most exciting marching band event open to all high school bands on a first-come, first-served basis.

Where and When are Bands of America Events Held?

There are 22 marching band competitions from September 21st through November 9th across the country, so chances are good there’s a BOA event near you. States include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

How Much Does it Cost to Participate in Bands of America?

The short answer is, it depends on which competition you choose and if you want to include extras. Regional championships have an early season base price of $700 and a regular season price of $875. Super Regional Championships have a base price of $875. The Grand National Championships base price is $975. Sunday clinics may be available for an additional cost of $275.

Why Should Our Band Apply for Bands of America?

Bands of America Championships are nationally recognized as premier high school marching band competitions and listed on the 2019-2020 National Association of Secondary School Principals as an approved program for students. They are stunning displays of skill and pageantry. Beyond all of this, they are the playoffs for which our kids have trained so hard. Find the BOA event that makes sense for your band and showcase your students’ incredible talent on a national stage!

Costa Rica is the Perfect Destination for Science Trips

I’ve just returned from an incredible Costa Rica trip. Having never been to this little slice of Central America, I had no expectations other than to enjoy some uninterrupted family time in a beautiful spot. Wow! Not only did our visit exceed my rather humble expectations, it awakened the dormant educator in me. The lush tropical forests, pristine beaches, towering volcanoes, diverse climates and impressive animal sanctuaries made my inner science teacher drool just a little. It’s also a leader in “green” technology. It strives to be one of the first countries in the world to be carbon-neutral by 2021! Therefore if you’ve ever considered traveling internationally with students, Costa Rica is the perfect destination for science trips.

Biodiverse Environments

Firstly, one of the things that struck me upon our arrival was the sheer beauty and vivid color of the country. We stayed in Guanacaste on the Pacific side during our trip. Guanacaste is home to beautiful, black volcanic sand beaches like Playa Hermosa and biodiverse national parks like Santa Rosa and Tenorio Volcano National Parks. Students can explore crystal clear turquoise pools and waterfalls or hike trails in in Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park to get up close and personal with an active volcano. They can also enjoy natural hot springs and bubbling mud pits in the beauty of a tropical forest.

One of the highlights for my teen and tween was a zipline experience that sent them soaring above the canopy with sweeping views of the volcano and ocean! I kept my feet planted firmly on the ground, content to watch the pangolins playing in the trees above me…


Costa Rica is only about as big as West Virginia yet boasts 12 distinct microclimates. Students will be amazed to learn that while it is near the equator and therefore given “tropical” status, its temperature varies from hot and humid to cold and frosty (depending on elevation). The two main seasons are dry (December – April) and rainy (May – November). The tilt of the earth and the sun’s intensity play roles as well. It’s a fascinating study of how geography impacts weather and a great science lesson for students.

Cloud Forests and Hummingbirds

One specific climate sure to be a hit with students is the cloud forest. Cloud forests are found throughout the central highlands of Costa Rica. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve near San Jose is a stellar example of this magnificent environment. The low-level cloud cover (usually at the canopy level) certainly exists somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 feet. It’s a magical area ecologically rich in unique flora and fauna. In fact, Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, home to 4% of known species of plants and animals. Talk about connecting classroom to reality!

In addition to the cloud forest, the Selvatura Hummingbird Garden is an exquisite jewel nestled in the heart of Monteverde. The garden features more than 14 species of hummingbirds with a pristine waterfall as a backdrop. Students can study these delightful creatures and their habits as they dart back and forth among them.

Animal Sanctuaries

There are animal sanctuaries scattered throughout Costa Rica, but we loved the Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Guanacaste. It has world-class habitats for some of the most amazing creatures on earth. Consequently my two students never wanted to leave! Students can view and learn about the biology, ecology and natural history of the animals. This place really focuses on education and raising awareness for the respect and protection of wildlife. Oh, did I mention? The kids can check out one of the cutest critters of all- the sloth!

Green Technology

One of the most striking features of Costa Rica is the country’s emphasis on green technology. In 2018, it generated 98% of its electricity for 300 days from renewable sources meanwhile the rest of the world averages a fifth. It is a country focused on the future, using rivers, volcanoes, wind and sun to generate power. Students interested in this kind of forward-thinking technology and application will find an abundance of resources to study in Costa Rica.

Plan Your Trip

Our  Costa Rica trip was everything I hoped for and more. It’s a fabulous place to vacation and a perfect destination for science trips. Above all you’ll want to introduce your students to its incredibly diverse opportunities for learning. Click here to get started planning  your Costa Rica trip!

Cedar Point is Great for Student Groups

Recently my family and I visited Cedar Point Theme Park in Sandusky, Ohio. It had been a few years since we were last there, and I was anxious to check out the new features as well as some old favorites (still love the Gemini!!). I secretly donned my student travel guru hat as well to see if the park is as amazing for students as I remembered. Spoiler alert- it is! Thrilling attractions, excellent educational programs and stellar performance opportunities make Cedar Point great for student groups.

The Park

The moment you cross the causeway into the lot (which has plenty of bus parking), the park’s energy pulls you in. Cedar Point is the second oldest operating amusement park in the country and has maintained its popularity for a reason. It’s a beautiful spot bordered by stunning Lake Erie, which offers cooling breezes as you play all day. It’s just the right size for students to feel comfortable exploring and still know where the meeting places are. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the park is spotlessly clean.

Of course, the rides and entertainment will captivate the kiddos. Cedar Point is home to a jaw dropping 17 roller coasters and tons of other great rides. My middle schooler/daredevil rode them all (including the ridiculously hair-raising Dragster) while I enjoyed a rousing ride on the carousel. There’s no shortage of things for student groups to do and see.

Fabulous Food

Park food is always a highlight and Cedar Point has some of the best around. Classic fare like corn dogs and elephant ears are always fan favorites, while new and trendy choices like BackBeatQue, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks appeal to young and old(er) alike!

Exceptional Educational Programs

Each spring, Cedar Point hosts exceptional educational programs for students. Engineering Day introduces students to the role STEM plays behind the scenes, both creatively and mechanically. Physics, science and math take center stage with hands-on exhibits and interactive displays during several days in May. Lesson plans for middle and high school as well as a catered lunch are available. Amusement Park 101 is a unique program that spotlights career opportunities in the amusement industry. These are all great ways to incorporate curriculum into your class trip!

Phenomenal Performance Venue

Your performance group can “flex” their skills in front of an international audience on a Cedar Point stage or as part of a parade. Marching bands, theater groups, choirs, orchestras and dance teams are welcome to join the fun. If you’re looking for an adjudicated performance, Cedar Point’s Festival of Music is open to elementary, middle and high school performers. Experienced adjudicators will provide helpful evaluations and advice to inspire your group’s best practices.

Our day in the park reinforced what I already knew – Cedar Point is great for student groups of all kinds. When you’re ready to plan your performance, educational or homeschool adventures to this unique locale on the lake, Kaleidoscope is ready to help. Our expert team of student travel consultants provides top notch service and unrivaled attention to detail. Trust Kaleidoscope Adventures to plan your travel beyond expectations!

3D Printing is Changing the World!

Among my 16-year old’s friend group, 3D printing is a hot topic. Several of his cohorts have their own printers (causing a suspiciously green cast to my son’s usually thick skin). They discuss types of printers and their uses with the same casualness that I discussed a Walkman at his age. I confess that I really didn’t know much about these three-dimensional wonders, other than what I learned on an episode of the Big Bang Theory. I decided to dig a little deeper and discovered that 3D printing is changing the world. How’s that for a headline?!?

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is a process used to make three dimensional objects by fusing melted layers from the ground up. The process includes designing the part to be printed, slicing the file into parts using available programs like TinkerCAD or 3D Slash, printing the actual object using a variety of materials and giving it a finishing touch.

When was 3D printing invented?

3D printing is not as new as you may think. In fact, it’s been around since 1984 when Charles Hull invented stereolithography. It didn’t make it into the mainstream until all the patent laws expired and people began to understand more about it. As more people gained access to technology (via the internet), interest grew. Now, 3D printers are available to anyone – just check out Amazon!

Which 3D printer is best?

The short answer is- it depends on what you want! Models vary based on cost, functionality, quality and materials. Decide what you want to print, what materials you want to use, the size of your item, color specifications, open or closed frame models, etc. Once you check your boxes, you can begin to search for the one that works for you.

What kind of materials can be used for printing?

There are a lot of options, but the most common ones are plastic. They are easy to melt, and spools don’t cost much. There are different types of plastic like PETG (polyethylene terephthalate), which is similar to the plastic used in soda bottles, and PLA (polylactic acid), which generally comes from renewable resources like corn starch and sugar beet pulp.  That makes PLA more biodegradable and environmentally friendly, but neither one is edible!

What can you make with a 3D printer?

The possibilities are endless. People have already used 3D printing to make acoustic guitars, medical models, sculptures, camera lenses, clocks, phone cases and more. My personal favorite is jewelry- talk about a conversation piece!

How will 3D printing play a role in the future?

The impact of 3D printing for both commercial and home use is staggering. Much like the internet moved from obscurity to complete necessity in our lives, 3D printing is poised to lead us into the future. Current trends are already hinting at what is to come.  It will influence art, fashion, medicine, manufacturing, architecture, education, the automotive industry, aerospace engineering and construction in ways we can’t yet imagine.

Will 3D printing be featured during Journey into STEAM?

Teens and tweens like my son are preparing for careers in a unique time. Many of the jobs that will be available to them have yet to be created! Technology (like 3D printing) continues to unfold and shape the workplace. This is exactly why Journey into STEAM was developed.

Journey is an exclusive event for middle and high school students, power packed with opportunities to learn, explore and get hands-on with STEAM. The STEAM fair will take place on a soundstage in the heart of Universal Orlando Resort™.  It will allow students to speak directly to the experts, participate in hands-on activities and discover future career opportunities in emerging industries.

The brilliant minds behind DeltaMaker 3D printing will be one of the companies participating. They’ll answer questions, share the latest models and discuss the future of 3D printing for both personal and professional use. It’s a unique opportunity for career exploration and a great way to demonstrate how 3D printing is changing the world. My son will be there – and he’ll be the envy of his friends!

The Disney Candlelight Processional – Make A Joyful Noise!

What is the Disney Candlelight Processional?

The Disney Candlelight Processional is an inspirational telling of the story of Christmas since 1958. Celebrity guest narrators share the greatest story ever told while surrounded by an array of student choirs and the Voices of Liberty, accompanied by a fifty-piece, world class Disney Orchestra. The candles held by the cast during the performance add a beautiful touch.

This dramatic holiday spectacular is held three times per night Thanksgiving Day through December 30, 2020 in the World Showcase at Epcot in Orlando, Florida. The open-air America Gardens Theatre sits on the banks of the World Showcase Lagoon near the American Adventure Pavilion.

Who will be there?

Celebrity guest narrators tell the age-old story of Christmas each year with visitors from around the world. This year, the list includes Whoopi Goldberg, Gary Sinise and Neil Patrick Harris (to name a few). Narrators are subject to change. In addition to a celebrity narrator your choir will also be able to perform right next to the world famous Voices of Liberty.  The Voices of Liberty are an 8-part a capella group that performs at the parks as well as around the world.

Who can apply?

All choirs 9th grade or higher can audition to be a part of the grand celebration! Deadline for application is early September . Groups are evaluated based on interpretation and execution of music, showmanship and stage presence, accompanists, and overall show value. The minimum group size for this event is 10 participants. Transportation is also not included and will need to be handled on your own or through your preferred travel company. Three chaperones at least are required to travel with the group to remain backstage during your group’s performance.

How can we apply?

To apply for Candlelight 2020 your group has to fill out this application form to Disney directly. The application includes a video of a performance less than a year old. One of the pieces in the video has to be a specific arrangement of “O Holy Night” they provide the sheet music for this. Once the video is recorded and the application submitted you will just need to wait to see if you have been accepted!

When is rehearsal?

You will receive the show music 6-8 weeks before your appearance and a pre-performance rehearsal will be arranged with a guest conductor and professional Disney singers.

What about costumes?

Students are required to furnish full-length black dress pants (no jeans), a plain white shirt (no turtlenecks), black socks, and closed-toe black shoes (no sandals, flip-flops, or athletic shoes). The robes will be provided to your group on the day of your performance as well as the candles to be held.

How can we participate?

To join in this spectacular holiday experience,  click here and begin your Candlelight 2020 performance trip.  Kaleidoscope is a preferred travel partner with with Walt Disney World® and have been organizing student tours for 26 years.  Enter promo code “Candle20” to receive a pizza party at your school for your trip kickoff meeting.