An Educational Tour of Washington D.C. Designed for Junior ROTC or Social Studies Students

Washington D.C. has a great deal to offer for student tours of the city and surrounding area. In fact, there are so many different choices, that student travel trip coordinators might just become overwhelmed. Choosing a qualified and experienced student travel company can certainly help focus a trip and align it with curricular objectives.

Over the years I have developed many different types of trips that tie into a variety of curriculums such as art, history, government, performance tours, science, and more. I have designed a school trip for middle school students and JROTC students studying major U.S. conflicts of the 20th Century.  This educational tour helps students take a closer look at the Vietnam and Korean Wars as well as World War II.  Student travel groups visit sites in Washington D.C. which are directly related to these conflicts. I have organized these tours around the themes of sacrifice and conflict.

Depending upon time allowance, student groups may also plan to visit the main destinations for any educational tour of Washington D.C. The selection of sites might also include a visit to the White House, Capitol Building, Smithsonian Museum, and popular choices for dining, entertainment, and shopping.

Following are my suggestions for destinations for Social Studies and or JROTC students who are studying modern wars:

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam conflict was one of the most politicized events of the 20th Century.  Students studying it will want to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The names of soldiers who died in this conflict are embedded in the wall for all to remember.  On any given day, student groups may see families and loved ones of fallen soldiers honoring their loss with flowers, vigils, personal memorabilia, and more.  Groups visiting the wall may want to opt for the ranger guided interpretive tour, where stories about individual soldiers and units are recounted, as well as a brief history of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was opened to the public in 1995 and dedicated by President Bill Clinton and President Kim Young Sam.  Nearby the wall of pictures and names, there are 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers, representing all four branches of the military and from diverse backgrounds. The statues of infantryman and medical personnel appear to be walking in the same proximity as the wall and even emerge from the nearby woods.   The mural displays 2,400 photographs from the Korean War obtained from the National Archives.  Visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial, students gain a more in depth perspective of this War and its impact on Korean and American life.

Holocaust Museum

The Holocaust Museum is a must see for anyone studying World War II.  It details the systematic, bureaucratic killing of Jews, Russians, Poles, Communists, homosexuals, disabled people and others who were targeted by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s in Europe.  Students will learn about the Holocaust by viewing historical film footage, artifacts, photographs, and listening to stories recorded by survivors and witnesses. Much of the material in this museum is difficult to contemplate. The events of the holocaust have been well-documented in history books, biographies, fiction and non-fiction. Various texts can be studied alongside a visit to the Museum.   Yet there is really no substitute for the up-close, visual viewpoint provided by the Holocaust Museum which gives a student an even broader perspective and context in which to study this atrocity.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is just outside of Washington D.C. in the Northern Virginia town of Arlington, and is well worth the visit. These burial grounds are the place where many prominent American explorers, judges and historical figures are buried, right alongside of the common soldier who fought for his or her country and died for freedom.  The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at Arlington and students may observe it being guarded closely by a professional soldier. With enough advance planning, student travel group coordinators may request that their visit to Arlington National Cemetery coincide with a formal wreath laying ceremony, a solemn and colorful tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Smithsonian Museum

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. has many facets.  Student groups who are looking to gain a full understanding of American conflicts in the 20th Century will want to schedule some time at the National Museum of American History.  School trips visiting this Museum will find additional information, photographs, relics, films, and stories about the U.S. conflicts mentioned above. The National Museum of American History will expand upon knowledge gathered at all of the sites visited.  This Museum also offers some exceptional curricular materials that can be utilized in the classroom when prepping students to study these wars and make a visit to our nations capitol.

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School Trips to New York: Take Note of New Attractions in NYC

Student Youth Travel Association revealed the most popular U.S. and international destinations for educational tours in May 2010. New York City was the #1 choice for domestic student travel. School trips destined for New York City will want to add the newest, state-of-the-art attractions to their itineraries. These include the U.S.S. Intrepid Museum, Bodies the Exhibition and Blue Man Group. I am certain there are also many new restaurants, shopping and sightseeing opportunities in New York City. I am keeping my list to these attractions for this particular article due to limitations with space.

School Trips to NYC: Visit Interactive Museums
These days, new and updated museums and attractions tend to have the latest technology installed at their exhibits to keep the attention of student tour groups. This includes audio and video podcasts, and interactive features that make it possible for students to reach out and touch the artistic and/or historical periods they are studying through the use of technology. Student tour groups can even receive text alerts and ‘tweets’ about new exhibits and specials at these popular destinations if they choose to follow a chosen venue on Twitter or on their cell phones.

This fall, I am recommending these destinations to student travel groups headed to New York City because they attract and keep the full attention of educational student tour participants.

Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum
The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum re-opened in late 2008 with a wealth of new exhibits and programming. The Intrepid served in World War II, Vietnam, and during the Cold War in addition to being a primary recovery vessel for NASA. It is one of the most successful and visible aircraft carriers in history. Student travel groups will not want to miss the new interactive displays. School groups can ride in an A-6 Cockpit Simulator or experience the Virtual Flight Zone. The Concorde was the world’s fastest commercial airplanes, and is open for touring as well. Students can step into the cabin and view the cockpit, Groups will also want to take an inside look at life on a submarine by visiting the Growler Submarine, once a top secrete missile command center. Student tours will gain valuable insight into the Intrepid’s role in World War II and the Vietnam War, so a visit to the Intrepid will dovetail nicely with curricular studies in this area.

Bodies The Exhibition
One of the most innovative public exhibitions of the body is now in New York City at the South Street Seaport, Pier 17. School trips headed to New York can book a stop at Bodies The Exhibition, a nationally acclaimed success. The exhibit illustrates the most intimate details of the body using the latest polymer preservation technologies. Real bodies and authentic human organs are on display at this exhibit — a fact that continues to be at the core of the controversy of the show. Student groups are able to consider real human skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive and circulatory systems. This is a learning experience unsurpassable by any other. Students can see the impact a healthy life has on the body and also the perils of unhealthy life choices such as smoking or eating foods rich in fat. Science students studying anatomy and biology will find this exhibit parallels their course work. Health and art students will find applications for Bodies The Exhibition in their academic work, too.

Blue Man Group
This high tech stage performance that combines performance art, music, visual art and more has a wide appeal to student tour groups. High school trips headed to NYC will find the show engaging because it speaks directly to them — the children of the digital age. Three men, painted in a mask of blue and wearing black, dance and perform wild antics filled with color, sound and light. This high energy, exhilarating show is accompanied by electronic music and special visual effects that make the blue men come alive on stage. Blue Man Group can be seen at venues across the U.S. They are currently housed at the Astor Place Theater in New York City. Student travel groups headed to New York will want to book performances months in advance to make certain they can obtain tickets.

Let’s face it: students these days have access to the latest technology and they love to use it. New and updated exhibits are being designed with interactive features so audiences can feel like they are part of the exhibit – not just onlookers. The U.S.S. Intrepid Museum and Bodies the Exhibition utilize the latest technologies in unique and exciting ways. Experimental theater has made many creative attempts to bring the audience closer to the actors and actresses and the action on stage. Blue Man Group does this through props, electronic music, and surprises for the audience. All of these destinations promise and deliver exciting opportunities for the student traveler.

To learn more about educational tours to New York City and to view sample itineraries, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.