Lisa Wertz is a middle school teacher who brought her 8th grade class to Washington D.C. each year. “I always felt that the trip was good preparation for high school,” said Wertz. The visit to Washington DC is “great preparation for the 8th graders since they will take government classes in 9th grade,” added Wertz. An in depth look at the places in Washington D.C. which house the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government was also a once in a lifetime experience for many of the students who traveled on these trips from Boulder, Colorado to the East Coast.
Educational Trip to Washington D.C. Includes Time with Senator
Thanks to advanced planning, there were also added educational experiences on the most recent class trip to Washington D.C. In addition to seeing the White House and U.S. Capitol, the class was able to meet with Senator Bennet during their visit. “It was impressive,” said Wertz, “We met with Senator Bennet in the agricultural committee room in the Russell Building.” She said students were able to ask him questions. This type of interactive experience is possible for many student tours, though not all participate with representatives in this way. Sometimes a representative’s schedule or lack of enough advanced planning can prevent a group from dialoguing directly with their congressmen or senators. Trip leaders should ask a student travel consultant for procedures on booking time with representatives. Book six months to one year in advance of the visit to Washington D.C.
Casey Middle School Government Students Participate in Mock Hearing
In addition to meeting with Senator Bennet, Representative Jared Polis’ staff conducted a mock committee hearing for Wertz’s middle school group. She said students learned how bills are sometimes attached to other bills. The topics presented included Medical Marijuana and the Dream Act. This mock hearing enabled students to better understand the day-to-day workings of a democratic government. In this setting, students, like representatives, are challenged to listen to and assimilate the opinions of all sides.
Other D.C. Destinations on the Class Trip
There were other destinations on this trip to Washington D.C. that tied in well with the curriculum. The group was able to visit the Supreme Court. Students looked at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which was a highlight for many. They also visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the American and Natural History Museum — two popular choices for student groups.
Students See Mount Vernon by Boat and Land
On their final day on tour, Wertz’s students took a Spirit Cruise around Mount Vernon and spent the day at George and Martha Washington’s estate. Wertz said, “We designed a scavenger hunt for Mount Vernon. Students used their cell phone cameras to record the information they found there. It was really fun!” Incorporating the tools of new technology into the Mount Vernon visit helped to interest students in history by engaging them more deeply with the artifacts and structures there.
Casey Middle School’s four day, three night tour was packed with even more interesting activities. They visited the Newseum and had a full tour of the Holocaust Museum. Each of these museums has a great deal to offer the student of American History and government. Both museums are relatively new, and integrate interactive technology into exhibits.
On this unique tour, students took an in-depth look at U.S. government and studied how it functions in a free society. They were able to visit sites of historical significance, speak directly to their representatives and participate in a mock hearing. A combination of indoor and outdoor destinations created a full itinerary with plenty of opportunity for learning.