Educational travel can give teachers and administrators a boost in exciting many students about their academic lessons. Travel brings curriculum to life while teaching lessons that students will need throughout their lives. As a former middle school principal I found that educational travel goes hand-in-hand with offering a total educational program to young adolescents. This is even more important today as teachers and principals are facing increased pressure to prepare students to pass mandated academic tests.
During my years teaching in middle school, I learned that young adolescents can gain a multitude of invaluable experiences from travel, learning both the information they will be able to apply in the classroom and skills that will help them develop personally. Unfortunately, some young people will never be able to take educational tours without involvement with their school. So, middle school educators can contribute to a young adolescent’s complete education when they include education travel in their program.
Once you’ve decided to include travel in your student’s education, there are important plans and decisions that will affect the overall success of their travel experience. This article focuses on selecting the best educational venues in Washington, DC for a class or grade level trip.
The best time to consider such a trip is during seventh or eighth grade when the middle school social studies curriculum focuses on U.S. history. An educational trip to Washington, DC coinciding with this year can provide substantial benefits to both the individual and the school as a whole.
All student groups that visit Washington, DC should tour the White House and the US Capitol. Their educational links to the classroom are countless. It’s important to note that the popularity of these two sites coupled with the recent increase in national security now require that an appointment must be prescheduled by a Senator or State Representative.
Next, I recommend visiting as many of the following as possible:
Ford’s Theater and the Peterson House
Arlington National Cemetery
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
Iwo Jima Memorial
Korean War Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
World War II Memorial
All of these sites have strong ties to the social studies curriculum and, best of all do not charge an admissions fee. Once you have decided to include them in a travel itinerary, the key is to make sure the students receive the strongest possible educational connections during the actual visit.
You can easily increase the educational value of the visit by using a reputable student tour provider like Travel Adventures that specializes in educational travel to plan your trip. To begin with, their experience will help prepare an itinerary that sequences the stops so that the students are not overwhelmed with information. Their experience will also present you with strategies for planning effective group visits. I strongly recommend you ask the travel provider about adding Washington, DC guides when visiting the monuments and memorials. Their historical knowledge base will only enhance the educational experience.
Another outstanding educational venue is Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to visiting the John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Challenger Astronaut Memorials, your student tour provider can schedule a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. This ceremony adds depth to the educational value of the visit and allows those students selected for the ceremony the rare opportunity of interacting with an Army Honor Guard member.
A visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum can be extremely educational especially if the students have studied this era in American history and/or read The Diary of Anne Frank in English class. The museum is self-guided. The emotional impact of the tour, coupled with their collection of newsprint, historical video and news reporting provides an outstanding educational experience for all visitors.
A student trip to Washington, DC should also include a visit to Mount Vernon – the estate of George Washington. The new Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, and a tour of the beautifully restored estate, outer buildings and the grounds have strong educational value.
Finally, I recommend that student groups traveling to Washington, D.C. schedule a cultural activity. Exposing young people to the arts and culture is invaluable to the overall development of the individual. One of the most popular activities is attending a theatrical performance at one of the area dinner theaters or a performance at the Kennedy Center. The theaters schedule age appropriate productions like “Beauty and the Beast or Fiddler on the Roof” to help make this opportunity both educational and entertaining.