Tag Archives: class trips dc

National Museum of African American History and Culture Opens in D.C.

by Howard Clemens

Point of Pines Slave Cabin Prior to the Dismantling Process
Point of Pines Slave Cabin Prior to the Dismantling Process

A brand new Smithsonian Museum will be a desirable attraction for student travel groups. It is situated prominently on the Mall in Washington D.C. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will open on September 24, 2016 to much fanfare, and includes a welcoming speech by President Barack Obama. An outdoor music festival will accompany the opening on September 23, 24 & 25. The new museum has a contemporary and memorable architecture, created by David Adjaye, an internationally known architect from Ghana, Africa.

Student travel companies will want to schedule student trips headed for Washington D.C. a timed group entry to the museum well ahead of time. After the official opening, it is sure to become a popular item on the itinerary for student group travel. The NMAAHC provides special tours and education programs for school groups of various ages.

Period slave photograph
Period slave photograph

There are plenty of reasons to add the National Museum of African American History and Culture to a student travel itinerary. First, the museum’s collection crosses curriculums, appealing to the art, history and social studies student. Second, the Museum draws an accurate picture of the long and tormented history of the African-American, highlighting the most famous figures. From enslavement to freedom to the civil rights movement and the reclamation movement, the unique challenges of the African-American are covered. Many famous leading African Americans are celebrated, giving students an opportunity to learn more about the specifics of the fight for freedom.

The architect, David Adjaye, conceived of the bronze webbed design. The outer form that he evokes is a common motif seen on top of ceremonial and sacred places in West and Central Africa. When light strikes the building, it filters through the webbed design to the interior spaces, giving the visitor a unique display. Adjaye made sure that the windows inside the Museum would offer a view of the major monuments on the Mall, including the Washington Monument.

student trips washington dc
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography

While researching the history of the building, Adjaye found the very center of the NMAAHC gallery used to be a slave market. So he designed a large circular window overlooking the floor where slave owners viewed the men and women below. Several galleries are housed in the basement levels, giving student travelers a glimpse deep into African Americans beginnings – in a cryptic and darkened environment. As the student groups ascend to different floors, history marches onward to the present.

This Museum has been in the works since 2003. Lonnie G. Bunch, III was the original founding director. Bunch had amassed a significant collection of African-American artifacts and wanted a place to display them and educate Americans about a painful part of U.S. history. Some of his signature artifacts are photographed and available online. Teachers may want to introduce students to the NMAAHC by viewing some of these.

The galleries are separated according to themes and topics of interest to all Americans. A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond offers a window into the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Cultural Expressions, Musical Crossroads, Taking the Stage and Visual Arts and the American Experience highlight famous African American artists and performers and will be of interest to the art, music and theater arts student. Sports: Leveling the Playing Field showcases the best African-American athletes and the history of a long struggle to compete with white Americans. Slavery and Freedom, Power of Place and Making a Way Out of No Way are collections that speak to the struggle to unite African heritage and American identity while experiencing the harshness of survival.

For many student travelers an actual visit to the NMAAHC will be an eye opening experience that offers the African-American perspective on many important topics. Clearly a great deal of intelligence, thoughtfulness and expert planning went into the execution of the newest, and 19th of the Smithsonian Museums. Trip leaders and teachers interested in taking a class trip to Washington D.C. and want to include a timed entry pass for their group may contact info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or Request a Quote.

A Class Trip to Harpers Ferry, Historic Armory and Civil War Battlefield Near Washington D.C.

by Howard Clemens

For those interested in studying the Civil War, a visit to Harpers Ferry will easily explain its critical geographical position. The natural boundary between north and south is the Potomac River. The Potomac River joins the Shenandoah River here, at the headwaters of the Shenandoah River Valley. During the Civil War, rail and ship transportation were key to supply chains for both armies. Harpers Ferry had both forms of transportation and was a strategic location between north and south. The Confederates were wooing Maryland residents to take up the Confederate side during the war and Harpers Ferry was a good position for this sort of public relations campaign.

A Short History of Harpers Ferry Before Civil War
The U.S. Armory and Arsenal was opened at Harpers Ferry in 1797. This facility produced over 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols from 1707-1861. Harpers Ferry was also the first place in the U.S. to mechanize the production of weapons.

John Brown’s Raid
John Brown was an abolitionist with radical ideas about freeing slaves. He set out on the evening of October 16, 1859 to raid the U.S. Armory and Arsenal with the objective of seizing 100,000 weapons. These he planned to distribute to slaves to fight a guerilla war against slavery in the Shenandoah Valley. About a day and a half later, with Brown’s men killed or wounded, he was captured by the U.S. Marines. For his crimes of sedition against the country, he was hanged on December 2, 1859. John Brown’s Fort stands today as a memory of the raid, and the place where he was captured. It would take less than two years from the time of John Brown’s raid, and the country would be in a state of civil warfare.

Harpers Ferry During the Civil War
Confederate and Union soldiers passed through Harpers Ferry, making it a vulnerable location. Less than one day from the time Virginia seceded, Federal soldiers burned the armory n April 18, 1861. Yet only 15,000 weapons were burned, and Confederates were able to take the weapon making machinery into the South. The Confederates held Harpers Ferry until the Battle of Antietam concluded in 1862 then the Union reoccupied it . All together the town changed hands eight times between 1861 & 1865 – which illustrates its significance.

Harpers Ferry Jeopardy – Easy to Download and Play
To make it fun for students to prepare for a trip to Washington D.C. and Harpers Ferry, the National Park Service has a game (designed in Powerpoint) called Harpers Ferry Jeopardy. Another useful classroom teaching tool, The War for Freedom is designed for the student to gain a better understanding of slavery and emancipation. The War for Freedom includes intro text, teacher pages, learning activities and additional resources. Students can learn about slavery from the viewpoint of a slave and trace his or her journey to emancipation. Also documented in this section are actual stories of African American soldiers who fought hard for their freedom on different battlefields of the Civil War.

Middle School Lessons Plans for Social Studies Students
The National Park Service has designed a lesson geared towards 5th-8th graders that focuses specifically on Harpers Ferry. The Battle for Harpers Ferry, 1862: Harpers Ferry is the Key! includes four lesson plans that take 30-40 minutes to cover in the classroom. Students gain a better understanding of the strategic importance of Harpers Ferry for the Union and learn more about the life of a Civil War soldier.

With so many great classroom tools to work with, teachers will find it easier to help students understand the importance of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War era. They will also be able to tie this lesson into another about the Battle for Antietam. A real visit to Harpers Ferry will enable students to understand the geographic position of Harpers Ferry today and to view some of the historic sites where armies were situated. Harpers Ferry has sites and trails in three different states: West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

To plan a student tour of Harpers Ferry with a student travel company, Request a Quote or email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Resources for Teachers:

The Battle for Harpers Ferry
http://www.nps.gov/hafe/learn/education/classrooms/battle-of-hf-2.htm
War for Freedom
http://www.nps.gov/hafe/learn/education/war-for-freedom.htm
Harpers Ferry Jeopardy
http://www.nps.gov/hafe/learn/education/classrooms/curriculummaterials.htm

Antietam: A Civil War Battle to Defend the Capital and Gateway to the North

by Howard Clemens

Student groups studying the Civil War Battle of Antietam will find a visit to this historic place to be a beneficial learning experience. Named after a creek in Maryland near Sharpsburg, Antietam Creek once ran through farmland and forests. It was in this remote section of Maryland that General Robert E. Lee made his first incursion into the North and took a firm stand against the Union Army.

The fated day of the battle of Antietam was on September 17, 1862. This first battle in Maryland was traumatic, with 100,000 soldiers clashing. Over 23,000 soldiers were lost during the 12-hour battle of Antietam with casualties the heaviest on the Confederate side, around 15,000 soldiers. Although most people believe Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, in fact it was the Battle of Antietam.

Antietam was part of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s overall strategy of advancing his Army of Northern Virginia into the North. This would bring the Civil War to the Union territories. He hoped to inspire some to rethink their position on the Civil War altogether. In Maryland, the populace was divided as to allegiance to North or South. Lee sought to convince the slaveholders and propertied landowners of Maryland to join the Confederate cause.

Not far away, Washington D.C., the Union Capital city, needed to be defended. Lee’s first attempt to bring the battleground North was also seen as a mighty force being brought upon the nation’s capital. His invasion was answered with the full force of the Union Army.

General Robert E. Lee gathered his army on the western banks of Antietam Creek. Meanwhile, Stonewall Jackson’s troops held the left flank and General James Longstreet’s army held the center position for the Confederates. Human losses at Antietam were devastatingly large because the battle lasted over 12 hours. There were huge casualties on both sides. On September 18th, both armies carried the wounded away and buried their dead.

Lee and the Confederate Army took leave of Sharpsburg and Maryland altogether. They crossed the Potomac River back into Virginia, much to the relief of the Union soldiers and citizens of the North. This first decisive battle would leave its mark on Confederate and Union troops. It surely was a bold move by a General whose strategy was unique and took chances.

antietam-large1
The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

For the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland this battle of the Civil War was a devastating blow. Properties were destroyed and crops were burned. Much was lost, including livestock and other food sources. Now the people of the North knew what it was like to live amongst battle torn countryside and ruins.

Students Travel to Battle Site to Learn More About Antietam
Prior to a planned class trip to Antietam National Battlefield, students will want to study this year in the Civil War that included other decisive battles. One such battle was for Harpers Ferry, which took place in tandem with Antietam. While Lee positioned troops on the northern front, Stonewall Jackson’s army took Harpers Ferry, a town that possessed a strategic railway station and a large munitions cache.

Another focus area of study may include an investigation into Lee’s strategy to bring the Confederate Army – and Civil War – North. By visiting Antietam, students can participate in the Parks as Classroom program and learn more about the background of the land, its people and the soldiers who fought there. At the Antietam National Battlefield Visitor Center students can review historical photographs, sketches and paintings of the battlefields during Revolutionary times and tour the battlefields today to learn more about pivotal skirmishes during the battle.

When considering a class trip Antietam, teachers and trip leaders may want to schedule a trip to Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia to to visit other key Revolutionary War Sites. Request a Quote or email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com.

National Museum of American History Perfect for Social Studies and History Students

The National Museum of American History is part of the Smithsonian and is a great place for student groups to learn more about American history.

For social studies and history students, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is a place for learning about any era of U.S. History. The ongoing exhibits are numerous and tackle larger topics such as:  The American Presidency:  A Glorious Burden, America on the Move, and American Heroes.  Some exhibits focus on a specific period in American History, such as Changing America: The Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963.

The artifact walls are rotating exhibits that highlight great American achievements in the arts, science, social and political organizations and more.  The quintessential American experience is explored in this museum, filled with interactive exhibits that student travelers enjoy, engaging them more deeply in the study of history.

There are even online exhibitions, such as Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life, that coincide nicely with a study of the Civil War. These online exhibits can be used by teachers to prepare for student tours of Washington D.C. in advance and to augment classroom studies.

For teachers interested in taking a class trip to the National Museum of American History, there are many options to choose from. I will suggest visits to some of the ongoing exhibits. Teachers and trip leaders should also check the National Museum of American History’s website to see which Artifact Walls exhibitions will be on view.   The Artifact Walls series are rotating and cover many topics that may be of interest to student groups.

Students of social studies and history may be studying just one era of history. Most likely, their examination of American history will span long periods of time, such as the Colonial Era, Early American History, the Revolutionary War and Civil War.  Others may be examining the early 20th Century, World War I & World War II and Social and Political Revolutions of the 1960s and 70s.   Modern American history is also of interest to many students. Groups will find it all at this museum.

Some ongoing exhibits students will benefit from include:  The American Presidency:  A Glorious Burden. With artifacts and personal items from 43 presidents in the collection there are sure to be interesting things to learn. Teachers may elect to focus on one or several presidents who governed during the historical period being studied.

Another exhibit that may be of interest to students studying the expansion and development of the American frontier is Conestoga Wagon and Hand-Pumped Fire Engine. Wagons were a necessary component of the American pioneer’s lifestyle and livelihood, enabling them to carry people and goods long distances.  The hand-pumped fire engine was also a necessity. Many were designed for use in urban areas where fires could spread to whole neighborhoods.

Lighting a Revolution is another exhibit that may be of interest to student travelers. Edison’s light bulb changed the everyday life of Americans forever, helping to introduce the use of electric lighting instead of gas or candles and electric appliances and other inventions to the free market.

The Price of Freedom, Americans at War is an exhibit that will enhance studies of many wars from the Revolutionary War period to the present day.  The use of personal narratives to tell the stories of American history is a common educational tool used in these exhibits that has the effect of bringing history closer.

Souvenir Nation:  Relics, Keepsakes and Curios is an ongoing exhibit at the Smithsonian Castle, where students can also have a snack or drink at the café and use the free wifi available.  Trip leaders may want to schedule a morning or afternoon at the National Museum of American History to have time to take it all in.

Request a quote for a history or social studies student trips to Washington, D.C.