Student Travel Groups Heading to Washington D.C.: What’s New?

by Howard Clemens on September 19, 2012

For teachers seeking to provide their students with an invigorating, immersive, and comprehensive exposure to art, culture, history, and just about anything else, Washington D.C. is the place to be.  A student trip to Washington D.C. is one of the gold standards of educational travel. Student travel groups have a range of famous landmarks at their fingertips, from Ford’s Theater to Arlington National Cemetery to the Library of Congress to the quaint hustle and bustle of Georgetown. There is something for everyone in this great city, and its liveliness makes for a one-of-a-kind experience that makes learning fun, exciting, and revelatory.

For students studying history, the city is nothing short of an invaluable resource.  Seeing everything could take weeks. For student tour groups on limited schedules, a focused itinerary for a three or four day tour works best.

The list of sites to see is growing now that Washington D.C. has added some new war memorials, a site dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a branch of the Smithsonian that focuses on African American History. Students who visit these places will gain a broader understanding of American history.

The World War II Memorial, on 17th Street between Constitution and Independence Avenues, is surrounded by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and combines beautiful architecture with many moving testaments to those who participated in one of the 20th century’s greatest epochs. At the crossroads of these three great attractions, students will get an acute and unforgettable sense of the nation’s past. Featuring the famous “Rainbow Pool” and an its mingling fountains, the memorial is open from 9 am until 11:45 pm, and the National Park Service provides guided tours every hour, on the hour, from 10 am -11pm. Teachers can search the computerized World War II registry for information, and use the material to prepare students for this trip with advance lessons in the classroom.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, at 1964 Independence Avenue on the National Mall is a special address because the street number refers to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The MLK Memorial is a highly unique structure designed, like all of Washington’s memorials, to draw the spectator into a uniquely “hands-on” historical experience. Students can stroll the grounds, which are flanked by an abundance of cherry blossom trees and crepe myrtles, and read stone-etched inscriptions from the “I Have a Dream” speech.  The statue of Dr King itself, as massive and awe-inspiring as the Lincoln Memorial, is almost Egyptian/Sphinxlike in scope.  Visiting this new memorial to an American dedicated to the advancement of civil rights is a must for any group studying African American history and its historical and contemporary impact on the world we live in.

On the same topic, the Smithsonian Museum of African Natural History just had its groundbreaking ceremony in February of 2012, and is scheduled to officially open in 2013. The Museum of African Natural History has exhibits that are presently housed on the second floor of the National Museum of American History. From their current exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty” to their upcoming show, ”The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963” (slated to debut in December 2012), the Museum provides a comprehensive and essential overview of African American life down through the generations, from music to sports to arts and politics. Many have been anticipating the opening of this new Smithsonian Museum where African American culture and tradition is highlighted.

Like New York City, Washington D.C. is a city that can be regarded as one of “the crossroads of the world.” There is no end to the varieties of experiences here, whether a student group is touring its many ethnic neighborhoods, dining at a variety of wonderful restaurants, touring the museums, memorials or the Capital and White House, or just steeping themselves in its atmosphere and energy in general. Teachers and student groups have loved the U.S. Capital city for all of its history, government, culture, dining and entertainment and it’s splendid architecture and memorials.

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