A Junior High Class Trip to Washington D.C. and Williamsburg VA

This past spring, a junior high school from Texas traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia and Washington D.C. on a class trip that was organized around the theme of American history. This was the first time that 8th grade teacher Bobbi Goodson led a school group on a trip. She had many interesting observations about the trip and the process of bringing nearly 50 people across the U.S. for a learning experience they will never forget.

Q. What made you decide to sponsor a class trip to Williamsburg and Washington D.C.?
A. In previous years, other teachers had taken this on. I always heard great stories when students came back. The teacher who had done this previously was unable to organize a trip this year because she had a new baby at home. I decided it was time for me to lead a trip.

Q. What course do you teach at Pleasanton Junior High School? How was the trip related to your curriculum?

A. I teach 8th grade special education. My students need assistance with reading comprehension. The object of my course work is to improve reading skills and get kids focused on the study of math, science and history. In eighth grade history courses, students learn about Colonial American history. They study Jamestown and the inception of the colonies, as well as the life of George Washington and the Revolutionary War, among other things. So, a trip to Washington D.C. with an additional day or two in Williamsburg was the perfect complement to course work.

Q. What sites did you visit in Williamsburg, VA?
A. We visited Jamestown Settlement, where living history actors were dressed in costumes. The students saw replicas of the three ships colonists landed on and they saw what a settlement encampment might look like. We also took the lantern tour in the evening in Williamsburg, and a daytime tour of Colonial Williamsburg.

Q. How did the students (and you) respond to the idea of learning from living history?
A. The living history actors and actresses are dressed in period costumes. This type of learning is very hands-on. I found it to be kid friendly and interactive. There was certainly an awe factor and students responded well. Compared to a museum setting, listening to a story about history by a dressed interpreter was far more appealing and engaging for this age group.

Q. What sites did you visit in Washington D.C.? And which were most memorable for students?

A. We visited the Washington Cathedral, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, the Supreme Court, Mount Vernon, and we even had a photograph in front of the White House. The number of dead buried at Arlington National Cemetery astounded students. There were also plenty of comments about the Holocaust Museum. I don’t think students had any idea how many died there, until they saw a room filled with shoes, and numerous videos that described the events. They also found the trip to Mount Vernon and Jamestown Settlement memorable because of the exciting way history was presented at each site. Also, their history course had prepared them pretty well for Jamestown and Mount Vernon.

Q. How were your tour guides and bus drivers? Were they personable and responsive to your needs?

A. Ann Greenwald was our Washington D.C. tour guide and she was fabulous. She had a deep knowledge of the area and helped to adapt our itinerary to meet our needs. When time was running out she helped us to hit the hot spots in Washington D.C. She helped students by pointing out things they might have missed along the way. She had an excellent rapport with the children. Everyone in the group loved our bus driver. It felt like we would not have had the same experience if we did not have this tour guide and bus driver. We were on the go from morning until night and I was surprised we could all keep up – but we did!

Q. What type of response did parents have after the class trip was completed?

A. I ran into some parents afterwards while shopping around town. Many said they never could have done a family trip to Washington D.C. for their child. They were thankful their children were able to experience this. Some of the parents who were chaperones appreciated the time they had to spend with their child before they became high school students.

Goodson also mentioned that the five day, four night trip offered a great deal, but kids were missing their parents by the end of the trip. “Of course you always lose at least one cell phone to a swimming pool,” said Goodson. She was most appreciative of the security provided at the hotel at night, which made her sleep sounder, too. “If I ever lead a trip again,” commented Goodson, “I will make sure security is included.”

For junior high school students from Texas, a trip to the East Coast helped to enrich their study of American history and give them a new perspective about the founding of our country. It was also a welcome change of pace and scenery they will remember for years to come.

To obtain more information about a class trip to Washington D.C., email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or request a quote online.

Eco Tours of Florida: A Contemporary Class Trip Idea For Science Students

Class trips to Washington D.C., New York City, and Orlando, Florida often focus on the study of government, history, culture and art. But what about the science student, who is engaged in studying the environment and biology? Hands on interaction with the natural world can be a joyful learning experience. Eco tours of Florida are a great way to engage this type of student in some active learning about these subjects.

These days, students want to know how and why they need to protect the natural, uncontaminated wilderness areas from further incursion by ‘progress.’ Eco tours of Florida offer science students a course that will begin to answer some of these questions.

This article gives a brief overview of a sample itinerary for an educational group tour of areas of Florida where the study and preservation of the environment is the focus. It can be customized to match a group’s specific educational objectives.

Swamp Buggy Daytime and Nighttime Eco Tour
A swamp buggy is a vehicle that’s designed to navigate the Everglades landscape with ease. The extra large tires, elevated design and cage-like passenger seating area provide safety while touring wilderness areas of the Everglades by land. Black bears, panthers, alligator, deer, antelope and hogs are some of the animals that might be seen on a swamp buggy eco tour. Student tour leaders can book swamp buggy tours in advance of their trip. It’s a great way to see animals in their natural habitat and keep students secure while doing so.

Overnight Stay in Traditional Seminole Chickee Huts
The Seminole Indians once constructed their homes from bald cypress logs and palmetto thatched roofs. Gradually, the Spanish took over their land and they were forced deeper into the Everglades. The Seminole began to build their huts on raised platforms over rivers and bays. The National Park Service provides overnight camping in Chickee Hut style sites that are accessible only by water. Tents can be used but stakes and nails are not permitted. An outhouse is attached to the Chickee huts and each platform can hold 5 or 6 campers. Adventurous student travel groups would find the experience of camping on the water extraordinary. Groups should bring plenty of bug spray and come equipped with a strong rope for getting in and out of canoes.

Everglades National Park Boat Tour
Everglades National Park is a national treasure that has several nicknames such as: Mangrove Wilderness, Ten Thousand Islands, or River of Grass. The park encompasses 1.5 million acres. One of the best ways to see the wildlife, birds, flora and fauna, is by boat tour. The dry season is from November through May, and is a perfect time for student tours to visit the Everglades. Students may see dolphins, alligators, tropical birds, mangrove trees, and more while taking the boat tour of the Everglades. Educational travel companies will schedule tours with National Park Service approved boat tour companies that are licensed and insured to work in the park.

Shark Valley Tram Tour
If the student group is too large for swamp buggy tours, the tram tour of the Everglades is a good alternative. The Shark Valley Tram Tour is led by a naturalist and provides access to the Northern part of Everglades National Park. These open air trams glide easily through the wetlands and give student groups an up-close perspective of the wetlands. The nickname River of Grass was given to the Everglades because of the proliferation of grass prairies that permeate these wetlands. Midway through the tram tour, students can climb onto an observation deck for a bird’s eye view of the northern Everglades.

Airboat Ride
Mangrove creeks, also called walking trees, populate the swamplands of the Everglades. Airboats are a popular way to cruise these creeks and see the alligators – without being too close. Airboat companies offer ½ hour, 1 hour and 1 ½ hour boat tours of the Everglades. Boat captains are familiar with the environment and the fragile habitats of the reptiles, birds, and amphibians that live there. Student groups love a thrilling airboat ride through the swamps.

Florida Keys Snorkeling and/or Glass Bottom Boat Tour

The Florida keys are home to the only living coral barrier reef in the lower 48 states of the U.S. The coral reefs are five miles offshore from the keys and are easily accessible by boat. Two of the most popular ways to explore the rich marine life that lives in and among the reefs is by glass bottom boat or snorkeling. On board a glass bottom boat or on a guided snorkeling trip, students can see over 80 different kinds of coral fish, as well as lobster, urchins, shrimp, anemones and more. Many different varieties of coral are also visible in these waters, too. Seeing the richness and diversity of marine life near the Florida Keys is a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to learn firsthand about marine science and why it is so important to preserve these habitats.

Dolphin Research Center
Everyone loves dolphins. Of all of the marine life, they seem to be the most fun, lovable, and playful creatures of the sea. At the Dolphin Research Center, student travel groups have a chance to interact with dolphins through their swim with the dolphins program, or look more closely at these unique sea animals by participating in a DolphinLab. The Dolphin Research Center is located on Grassy Key, at mile marker 59. A trip to the DRC can easily be integrated into the itinerary of an Eco Tour.

Key West Conch Train Tour
Students can rediscover the allure and legacy of those who visited and lived in the Florida Keys by taking a ride on The Conch Train tour. The Conch Train tour provides a look at the last island of the Florida Keys – Key West. Notable writer Ernest Hemingway and President Harry Truman were two of the most famous part time residents and visitors to Key West. At one time, there was an actual train that took visitors out to the Florida Keys, and the person who built it was Henry Flagler. Today, Flagler Station remains as an everlasting memorial of his vision to bring the world to Key West. Students who take The Conch Train Tour are granted free admission to Flagler Station. This train tour is a wonderful way to see Key West and learn about the history of the island and its inhabitants.

Student travel groups headed to Florida may venture to Orlando and Walt Disney World, or they can opt to do an eco tour of Southern Florida instead. No matter what the focus of a class trip to Florida, it is sure to be educational and fun. For more information about educational eco tours to Florida, email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or Request a Quote.